The 10 Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations to Explore in 2022

Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations blog cover graphic - Text overlaying an image of the Oregon Coast.

WRITTEN BY: Adam Marland, Native Oregonian.
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Discover some of the Oregon coast photography locations that have landscape photographers worldwide dreaming of a visit to the Pacific Northwest.

The more I’ve traveled over the past decade, the more I’ve come to appreciate how many world-class photography destinations exist on the Oregon Coast! It’s no wonder the entire coastline is considered one of the official “7 Wonders of Oregon” and tops the list for the best things to do in Oregon!

If you are planning a trip along Highway 101, prepare for a never-ending buffet of places to photograph on the Oregon Coast. Whether your interest is seascapes, tide pools, sunsets, or even night sky photography, you will be delighted with the abundance of unique places you will discover.

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Oregon COast Photography Locations Overview

The Oregon Coast is known for its incredible seastacks and beautiful sunsets.
The Oregon Coast is known for its incredible seastacks and beautiful sunsets.

There are a plethora of incredible photography locations on the Oregon Coast to explore, but these destinations are widely considered the best of the best.

  1. Samuel Boardman
  2. Cape Perpetua
  3. Bandon
  4. Cannon Beach
  5. Pistol River
  1. Heceta Head Lighthouse
  2. Harris Beach
  3. Florence
  4. Otter Rock
  5. Newport

1. Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor

Famous For: 10 Miles of the most dramatic coastline on the planet

  • Drone photography of the Thomas Creek Bridge on the Oregon coast.

We travel worldwide full time and have done so for almost a decade now. After exploring the most world-renown landscape photography destinations such as New Zealand, Iceland, and Scotland, I came home to Southern Oregon and finally realized how special the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor truly is.

This 10-mile stretch of savage coastline is a veritable goldmine for Oregon Coast photography, by day or by night! Endless sea stacks, arches, natural bridges, and geologic masterpieces dot the rugged beaches and cliffs.

The best part about Samuel H. Boardman is that many of the most photogenic scenes are somewhat secret. There are seemingly endless unsigned trails that lead to hidden beaches and lookout points. Every time I visit, I discover a new favorite trail.

It will come as no surprise that the Western-facing views are great for sunset. But what really puts Samuel H. Boardman over the top is the incredibly dark night skies. With the small coastal city of Brookings being the only light source for miles, every star seems to shine and the Milky Way sparkles even to the naked eye.

You can find much more information on our favorite compositions and destinations in our guide to Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations.

2. Cape Perpetua

Famous For: Thor’s Well, Cooks Chasm, Devil’s Churn, Forest Walks

  • Dramatic sunset photography of the incredible Thors Well seascape in Oregon.

Cape Perpetua is a savage and perpetually windy section of the Oregon Coast that deserves more attention than it often gets.

Rather than typical beaches and sea stacks, Cape Perpetua has unique geological marvels such as Cook’s Chasm, Spouting Horn, Devil’s Churn, and most notably, Thor’s Well.

Thor’s Well is perhaps the best seascape to photograph in Oregon, perhaps the entire world. Is is technically a collapsed sea cave, but in photos it looks like someone pulled the plug on the Pacific Ocean!

This is an absolute bucket list destination for any aspiring photographers looking for inspiration on the Oregon Coast. However, great caution should be taken as this is a dangerous and challenging place for photoshoots. If you are considering a photography trip to capture Thor’s Well, queue up and bookmark our Ultimate Guide to Thor’s Well.

YOU MAY ALSO ENJOY: Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations

3. Bandon

Famous For: Wizard’s Hat, Devil’s Kitchen, Coquille River Lighthouse, Face Rock

  • Sand art gives this moody photograph an otherworldly feel

Bandon is one of those places that will grab your attention immediately. The shapes and saturation of staggered sea stacks that decorate its beaches are simply phenomenal.

While Wizard’s Hat and Face Rock get most of the attention (and rightfully so!), there is actually a lot to discover along the coastline here. The pristine sand textures at Devil’s Kitchen, for example, look like something nature created with the finest brush. The ridges and dunes are simply special at sunset.

The city of Bandon casts a lot of light pollution on the beach, making night photography an interesting proposition here. While the light can be nice for providing detail for your foreground, it does make it more difficult to pick up the stars and Milky Way. If you want to avoid this, the Face Rock stretch of beach will be much darker than the Wizard’s Hat region.

4. Cannon Beach

Famous For: Haystack Rock

  • Golden hour at Cannon Beach in Northern Oregon

Haystack Rock is by far the most popular place for Oregon coast photography in terms of visitors. But much of this has to do with the proximity of Cannon Beach to Portland.

City mice looking to get some salt air in their lungs frequently set their GPS for Cannon Beach as an easy weekend getaway. This popularity is great for local commerce but unappealing for landscape and seascape photographers.

Despite the large crowd magnetics of Haystack Rock, this is still one of the best places to photograph the Oregon coast. While much of the Northern beaches are flat, the sea stacks that pop up here provide an interesting subject for your foreground.

Aspiring astrophotographers and stargazers have taken to Cannon Beach as well. There is a lot of light pollution to contend with, but the fact that you can see stars and Milky Way makes it one of the best options within driving distance of the city.

FIND MORE OREGON INSPIRATION: Best Places to Visit in Oregon

5. Pistol River

Famous For: Seastacks

I always love driving by Pistol River on my way South to Samuel H Boardman but I could never bring myself to spend the day here. It is absolutely one of the most interesting landscapes for photographing the Oregon coast. However, the tides greatly impact your ability to get creative.

When the tide is out, the massive sea stacks monolith allow you to get in and get creative with your compositions. Because this stretch of beach is so flat, be warned that the time can rise and fall very rapidly.

While sunset is quite spectacular here, it has always been night photography opportunities that I have found so appealing at Pistol River. The silhouetted shapes of the Herculean sea stacks create an impressive scene, especially when decorated by Southern Oregon’s famously dark skies!

READ MORE: Best Camera Gear for Travel Photography

6. Heceta Head Lighthouse

Famous For: Heceta Head Lighthouse, Sea Caves

Most photographers will have a natural affinity for seascapes and lighthouses. The Oregon coast is a treasure trove for both, and few places “shine brighter” than Heceta Head Lighthouse and the companion beach.

This is a spectacular place to photograph in the evening. The sun sets almost directly behind the lighthouse from any one of the numerous roadside lookout points.

Strap on a nice telephoto lens and fill your frame with golden light and this treasured lighthouse for a photograph that will inevitably find its way to the top shelf!

I also found myself enjoying the sea caves which can be accessed during low tides. These provided an interesting frame for some night photography and Milky Way chasing.

7. Harris Beach State Park

Famous For: Seastacks, Camping

  • Vibrant sunset at Lone Ranch in Harris Beach on the coast of Oregon.

Just outside the city of Brookings is the impressive Harris Beach State Park and picnic area. This is not only a great place to camp, but to photograph the impressive sea stacks and coastline that make Southern Oregon so unique.

Those of you who have never explored the Southern Oregon coast will undoubtedly fall in love with Harris Beach. While I recommend spending plenty of time there, you should know that things only get better as you head North!

8. Florence

Famous For: Oregon Sand Dunes

  • Drone photography of the Oregon Sand Dunes on the Oregon Coast

Florence has become a major destination for motor-sport enthusiasts and other hobbyists who flock to this region to enjoy the incredible Oregon sand dunes.

While the sand dunes of Florence offer plenty in terms of experience, I have personally found photography opportunities somewhat limited. Nevertheless, the interesting textures and color pallet that exist here make it an interesting, unique place to score some one-of-a-kind photos.

In particular, Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park has some nice hiking and dune access.

9. Otter Rock

Famous For: Devil’s Punchbowl

Otter Rock is home to one of the most interesting and photogenic landscapes on the Oregon coast, known as Devil’s Punchbowl. What remains of this collapsed sea cave is a visual delight for any coastal photographer.

During the low tide, you are able to access the inside of Devil’s Punchbowl. Take great care if you do, however, as there will be no escaping if you take too long photographing and get caught in a rising tide. This is unlikely, but should be considered.

10. Newport

Famous For: Yaquina Head Lighthouse

I have seen a ton of amazing photos of Yaquina Head Lighthouse, most of which were taken at sunset. However, I have never had the fortune of actually seeing it myself! Of the times I have attempted to photograph here, a thick marine layer has spoiled the party each time.

Still, when conditions allow, it is hard to understate the photogenic setting in which Yaquina Head Lighthouse shines!

Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon boasts some interesting shapes and textures in its sand dunes.
Nye Beach boasts some interesting shapes and textures in its sand dunes.

Check out Nye Beach as not only does it provide a good angle on the lighthouse, but the sand dunes that form here are of photographic interest in their own right!

Camera Gear for Photographing the Oregon Coast

While it is possible to capture some great photos nowadays with smartphones, for the best possible photos you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:

  • Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
  • Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle.
  • Tripod: A tripod is essential if you are shooting in low light, at night or for any other long exposure photography. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when we require something more stable, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
  • Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter (CPL) or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on reflective surfaces, helping to bring out the colors. The best CPL and ND filters we have found are the Quartzline from Polar Pro.

Other Oregon & Regional Travel Guides

If your visit to the Oregon Coast is part of an extended trip to the region, you may find some of our other travel guides useful in planning future adventures!

Oregon Guides

Northern California Guides

Washington & PNW Guides

Finally, feel free to browse ourΒ Oregon professional photography galleryΒ for prints and inspiration.

Final Thoughts on the Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations

A secret sea cave on the Souther Oregon coast featuring the Milky Way at night.
A secret sea cave on the Souther Oregon coast featuring the Milky Way at night.

This list could easily be expanded to a Top 20 list, especially if we broke down that Top 5 into specific locations. The fact is, the Oregon Coast photography opportunities are legitimately infinite.

We are also trying something new with the “slideshow” style of displaying our images to keep the page clean and load times down; what did you think?

Have a favorite place you insist must make the list? Let us know! We welcome and actively invite all comments, feedback, and constructive criticism in the comments below!

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18 thoughts on “The 10 Best Oregon Coast Photography Locations to Explore in 2022”

  1. Last thanksgiving we drove from Cape Disappointment to Redwood NP, and stopped at several places along the way. But after reading your post, looks like we missed many beautiful ones. Oh well! next time πŸ™‚ beautiful photos.

    Reply
  2. Your photography is stunning. I wish I’d read your post before visiting Oregon last year, I would have seen more. Still, we loved what we did see, and although it was on the list, we couldn’t fit in Thor’s Well. So will definitely need to come back.

    Reply
    • Oh Lori that is wonderful!! I will be sending you a personal thank you today:)

      To answer your question, I have simply not home often enough in the past for the most part. We did run one workshop but without living in one place, it was too hard to get everything arranged. Once the lockdowns are no longer a concern, I do want to begin offering free workshops in the Rogue Valley but I am still undecided as to being a guide… most of the places I go are either very well known or are secret but require some level of physical ability that many potential students would not have. It is something I will consider once we are allowed to be in groups again πŸ™‚

      Reply
  3. Just wondering what the coast is like in December. I have read that winter is the best time for dramatic skies, however I know December is also the wettest month. Any thoughts or insight on whether it is really worth a trip in December and if so where I should go in particular? Thanks so much

    Reply
    • Hi Nicole! It really depends on timing; you’ll often get 3-7 day periods of cement-like overcast, but also will get spells of fantastic skies. There are also more dramatic tides and waves, particularly during the king tides. Of course, there will be no milky way opportunities and the days are very short. I would say that some weekends in December are incredible while others are wet and grey. Some of my favorite photos were taken in December but I have also spent entire weekends stuck indoors. And, of course, this all varies based on whether you mean north/central/south coast as well! Sorry there isnt an easy answer, it really just depends on timing!

      Reply
      • Thanks, I have decide to take a gamble and go the beginning of December. I was wondering if you have taken the loop trail from Thunder Rock Cove. I know the right trail is the longer one you mentioned that leads to Secret beach, where does the left one go and is it dangerous?

        Reply
  4. I’m planning a solo birthday trip to the Oregon coast this spring. Your photos are amazing and your suggestions have been added to my list of places to visit.

    Reply

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