Highway 101 follows the Pacific Ocean for the entire stretch of the Oregon Coast, passing several small towns, state parks, RV campgrounds and resorts. There’s a little something for everyone whether you just want to relax by the beach, browse the local ocean-themed shops, or simply grab some binoculars and watch for gray whales.
Every year, gray whales migrate along the West Coast between Alaska and Mexico. They head south by early winter to breed and then back north by summer to feed. In the summertime, they stay even closer to the shore to find the best shrimp.
There are several parks along the coast where you can watch the whales breaching and blowing. If your budget permits, you can also shell out money for a whale-watching boat tour to get a closer look.
We mapped out the top places to park your RV and watch these massive sea mammals (see our full route below). We recommend planning out your trip on RV Trip Wizard and with our new RV LIFE app to find more great campgrounds and attractions along the way.
Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda (Three Capes Scenic Route)
The Three Capes Scenic Route is a short and sweet route that branches off Highway 101 even closer to the ocean. It takes you past three state parks—Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, all of which have beautiful ocean views and the occasional gray whale sighting. Read more about the scenic drive in our previous article here.
Depoe Bay Whale Watching Center
The little town of Depoe Bay is the whale watching capital of Oregon. They have a historic Whale Watching Center built along a seawall, with binoculars that you can use for free as well as a staff of volunteers who can help answer any questions you might have. The area has lots of cozy hotels and nearby RV parks like Sea & Sand RV Park.
At Yaquina Head you can not only spot the occasional whale, but you’ll also get to see the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. The recreation area additionally has tide pools to explore and trails to hike. Port of Newport RV Park is only a few minutes away and it’s also conveniently within walking distance of Rogue Brewery.
Don Davis City Park
While you’re in the area, swing by Don Davis City Park for more gorgeous ocean views and possible whale sightings. The park has a veteran’s memorial as well as steps that lead down to the sandy beach. It’s also just five minutes away from the RV-friendly campground at South Beach State Park.
Continue south along the coast and you’ll reach Cape Perpetua near Yachats. Their visitor center makes a great place to watch for whales or just to admire the panoramic ocean views. They are open seven days a week for most of the year and offer ranger-led interpretive programs and guided hikes. Whale watching events are also hosted every winter and spring.
Cape Perpetua Campground is only a half-mile from the Visitor Center, located just off Highway 101 in the coastal forest along the banks of Cape Creek. Over 23 miles of hiking trails surround the campground weaving around the old-growth forest. There are lots of scenic overlooks, viewpoints, and points of interest along this stretch of coast, including Thor’s Well and Sprouting Horn at Cook’s Chasm and Devils Churn.
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park
Umpqua Lighthouse State Park is about an hour south of Cape Perpetua. It was originally built in October 1857, making it the oldest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. There is also a whale watching station by the lighthouse where you can get great views of the sea and sand dunes. Bring a pair of binoculars or a few quarters to make use of the viewing machines.
Cape Blanco State Park
The Cape Blanco headland is the westernmost point in Oregon, and the second westernmost point in the lower U.S. (behind Cape Alava in Washington State). The state park is home to a historic lighthouse built in 1870, and eight miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding.
The campground has 52 electric/water RV sites available on a first-come, first-served basis. There are also four cabins that are reservable, two of which are pet-friendly.
Harris Beach State Park
Wrap up your trip (or kick off your trip northbound) at Harris Beach State Park near Brookings. Whales can be spotted here during the winter and spring, but their RV campground is open all year round. The park has full hookup sites, as well as restrooms, showers, a playground, and several trails that will lead you down to the beach.
You can learn more about gray whales and their migration from TheWhaleTrail.org.