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Oregon’s South Coast

Dunes, sand traps and sea lions highlight the Evergreen State’s southern shore

With its quaint shops, beautiful natural scenery, excellent golf courses and towering sand dunes, the southern coast of Oregon is an excellent spot to get away from it all. The southern part of the state is characterized by warm weather patterns ideal for flower cultivation and year-round outdoor fun. As you explore, you’ll find sea lion habitats, beautiful rock formations, and an abundance of lighthouses and wind-swept sand dunes, not to mention excellent opportunities for crabbing, fishing, hiking and kayaking. If you’re planning a trip along the southern half of the Oregon coast, make sure to add these top spots to your itinerary.

Brookings

One of the warmer spots along the Oregon coast, Brookings is a hub for lily cultivation. Flower lovers won’t want to miss a visit to Azalea Park, a 33-acre park full of azaleas (spring is the best time to visit). Other attractions include the Chetco Valley Historical Society Museum, full of 19th-century artifacts that give visitors insight into pioneer life. There’s also plenty to see for outdoorsy folk, including the picturesque Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, with numerous viewpoints and lovely beaches—don’t miss the gorgeous sheltered beach at Thunder Rock Cove. The town itself is also a great place to explore, with lots of excellent restaurants and pretty galleries. And if you have a boat, this is one of the best spots on the coast to launch into the Pacific.

You’ll also discover some of the best fishing in the country here. Take a boat out into the Pacific Ocean or nearby rivers, and reel in an abundance of salmon, snapper, lingcod, halibut and albacore tuna almost year-round. If you’re in town over Labor Day weekend, consider participating in the three-day Slam’n Salmon Ocean Derby, the largest fishing derby on the West Coast.

Discover Brookings’ crafty spirit at Brandy Peak Distillery, the oldest distillery in southern Oregon, where the varietal characteristics of the fruits used in their recipe are retained in these rich and smooth brandies. Don’t forget the Blackberry Liqueur Truffles, custom-made chocolates kissed with a dash of blackberry liqueur.

Looking for panoramic, unobstructed views of the Pacific Ocean? You can’t do much better than Chetco Point Park. The park sits on a hundred-foot-high plateau that’s surrounded on three sides by the Pacific Ocean. This is a great place to whale watch or simply take in awesome views of the ocean horizon.

Drive up the Chetco River to see another photogenic area. Alfred A. Loeb State Park sits on the banks of the Chetco River before it empties into the Pacific Ocean. Nestled in a Myrtlewood forest, the park offers great vistas.

Gold Beach

Located at the confluence of the Rogue River and the Pacific, Gold Beach is characterized by rock formations and tide pools and is a great place to experience the wild and rustic beauty of the southern Oregon coast. Jet boat tours are a popular attraction here, and every August, Gold Beach hosts the Curry County Fair, complete with a Ferris wheel with views of the ocean.

See Mother Nature at her finest by hiking Gold Beach’s picturesque trails. Journey through lush virgin forest and uncover some of the largest hardwoods in the Northwest along the 1-mile Frances Schrader Old Growth Trail. Or, explore the Cape Sebastian Trail for stunning views of the beach and excellent gray whale watching opportunities during migration season. Most Gold Beach trails don’t require difficult climbs to reach breathtaking sights and are short enough so that you can do other activities later in the day.

Your adventures in the wilderness are sure to leave you parched. Quench your thirst at Arch Rock Brewing Company, an award-winning microbrewery that’s won five gold medals at beer competitions around the world. Stop by their tasting room and sip their famous pale ale, lager and porter.

In Gold Beach, Chinook salmon, halibut and Dungeness crab are famous. For a meal prepared just for you, visit Anna’s by the Sea, where the nouvelle Canadian prairie cuisine changes daily, and local salmon and halibut are prepared in delightful ways. Ramp it up at Spinner’s Seafood, Steak & Chop House, with a filet mignon made of locally fresh wild salmon wrapped in leeks.

Port Orford

A must-see along the southern Oregon coast, the charming town of Port Orford is popular with artists due to its abundance of natural beauty. The town has eight art galleries featuring the works of local artists along with restaurants serving fresh seafood, quaint boutiques and plenty of old Victorian houses. Other features include Cape Blanco Lighthouse, Oregon’s oldest, as well as the Victorian Hughes House, a magnificently preserved Victorian mansion that’s open for tours from April through October. Also on the coast just north of town is needle rock, a spire of stone that stands majestically on the shore.

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As the oldest town along the Oregon coast, Port Orford is a place brimming with history. Make a stop at Battle Rock Park to see where Capt. William Tichenor’s men battled the Qua-to-mah Native Americans in 1851. Or, visit Port Orford Lifeboat Station to find a restored Coast Guard station, shipwreck artifacts and more.

When it comes to beachcombing, Port Orford Bay treats visitors to otherworldly views. Take off your shoes and walk the hardpacked sand as amazing seastacks loom before you. These spectacular rock spires, formed by millennia of erosion from waves, make the perfect background for a selfie. Explorers can gather mussels and clams in season. Starfish, limpets, dogwinkles, Oregon tritons, hermit crabs and sea urchins also thrive in this environment.

Truly adventurous types can go body surfing and windboarding in the water. Twice per year, gray whales, some as long as 45 feet, make their annual migrations up and down the coast. Orcas have also been spotted in these waters.

Bandon

A mecca for outdoor activities, Bandon is a great place to explore sand dunes or go crabbing, kayaking, fishing and even horseback riding. Like many Oregon coastal towns, it’s got plenty of art galleries and seafood restaurants, most concentrated in its quaint 10-block Old Town. It’s also a bit of a golfing destination, with Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and Bandon Crossings Golf Course a short drive from the center of town. Bandon Crossings offers a unique golfing experience as the course guides you through open grasslands, scenic ravines and thick forests filled with majestic Douglas firs, while Bandon Dunes offers panoramic views of the ocean on nearly every hole.

Check out the beaches, which are guarded by monolithic sea stacks that pose for sunset photographs. The most famous is Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint; standing on the cliff overlooking the ocean, you can easily pick out what appears to be a face.

Along the wooden boardwalk, you can enjoy fresh seafood from the Bandon Fish Market and many local eateries, or you can catch your own from the crabbing pier. In recent years, the aforementioned Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, with five widely acclaimed courses, has made the tiny Pacific Coast town an international golf destination.

Nicknamed the “Cranberry Capital of the West Coast,” Bandon is also home to plenty of colorful cranberry bogs, which can be seen when driving along Highway 101. The Annual Cranberry Festival takes place during the second week of September and promises visitors a fun-filled weekend full of music, parades and food.

Coos Bay/North Bend

The largest city on the southern Oregon coast, historic Coos Bay—which dates back to the 1850s—offers plenty for visitors and residents alike, including restaurants, coffee shops, boutiques and antique shops. It’s also known as the birthplace of Olympic runner Steve Prefontaine. Highlights include the Coos Art Museum, which features a wide range of exhibitions showcasing the works of artists from across the Pacific Northwest. Nearby North Bend has the only commercial airport on the Oregon coast and has plenty of great beaches, the most popular of which, Horsfall Beach, was used as a training ground for Prefontaine himself.

If you love the great outdoors, take a kayaking tour through the South Slough of the Coos River. Home to the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, this stunning area offers year-round paddling and great wildlife viewing. Be sure to keep your eyes open and camera ready for eagles, pelicans, herons, osprey, seals and more.

Try to time your Coos Bay visit with the annual Clamboree. Held the last Saturday in June, the Clamboree focuses on the history, culture and future of the clam in the Empire District. The day includes historical tours, cultural activities, live music and yummy clam dishes served in Clamboree-specific themes.

During September, the town holds its Music on the Bay concerts every Tuesday evening. Bring your picnic basket, unfurl a blanket and relax on the lawn as top acts play an eclectic choice of music. Rock out like a local.

Winchester Bay

If you’re driving south to north, the Winchester Bay area will mark your entrance into the fantastic Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. Featuring more than 10,000 acres for ATV riding, the Oregon dunes are the ultimate destination for exhilarating off-road fun. If you’re seeking maximum adrenalin, consider checking out DuneFest, an annual summer event featuring freestyle shows, moto activities, night rides and concerts. Other popular activities in this spot include hiking, fishing, camping, bird-watching and relaxing on the beach.

The Umpqua River meets the Pacific here, and the area is celebrated for its excellent Dungeness crabbing and clamming. The Umpqua River Lighthouse, the first lighthouse on the Oregon coast, is also located here and you won’t want to miss a tour of this historic site. Learn how the lighthouse operated a century ago and climb the spiral staircase to the top of the 65-foot lighthouse. Visitors can spot gray whales from November through May. Pick a spot from the lighthouse or Wayfinder’s Point. Look closely for vapor sprays from the whales’ blowholes as they periodically surface during their journey.

Florence

Directly west of the city of Eugene, Florence is a pretty old town full of shops and restaurants aimed at visitors. It’s also home to the Carl G. Washburne Memorial State Park, full of forested trails (one of which leads to a 5-mile stretch of beach). Popular activities include fishing, agate hunting, whale watching, and visiting the art deco Siuslaw River Bridge and the Heceta Head Lighthouse, first lit in 1894. Close to the lighthouse is the Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint, a great destination for picnics and daytrips. Short trails connect the viewpoint to the beach so you can see wildlife refuge islands and watch for sea lions, whales and puffins.

Florence is also best known for its sand dunes, which stretch over 20 miles and can get as high as 500 feet. If you want to get your heart racing, give sandboarding a shot at Sand Master Park, the world’s first sandboard park. With 40 acres of sculpted sand dunes and beginner to advanced slopes, this park is the ideal place to try a sandboarding lesson or thrilling dune buggy ride.

The options for seafood lovers here are amazing. Start with the Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House and Zebra Bar. The name is a mouthful, but so is the food—in a deliciously good way. The cuisine is fresh and plentiful, cooked as ordered. The Waterfront Depot is fine dining embraced in old-world charm with a view of the Siuslaw River. It’s the perfect adult dining experience featuring a seafood menu to tempt and tease: Crab-encrusted Alaskan halibut, wild Alaskan coho salmon and razor clams are just the tip of the iceberg.

Florence is part of Lane County, which is also home to the University of Oregon and the Cascade Mountains. Eugene is the county seat and regional cultural hub. It’s also a great college town with fabulous restaurants, interesting retail stores and fun year-round events. The university town has so many trails and trees that it is hard to distinguish the city from the surrounding national forests (there are three).

Trails through the old-growth forests of the Cascade Mountains send hikers to dozens of waterfalls, including the powerful Salt Creek Falls, the state’s second-highest single-drop fall at 286 feet. The 26-mile McKenzie River Trail has been touted as America’s best hike, and its wonders include the river’s source at the Tamolitch Pool, which boasts crystal-clear topaz-colored water.

Yachats

Yachats is the perfect destination for relaxation, recreation and romance. Nestled between dense forested mountains and lapping waves, this quiet vacation town offers an escape from busy city life, while providing all the typical Oregon coast accouterments including great shops, art galleries and renowned restaurants.

Outside the town lies the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area. This beautiful region features 26 miles of interconnected hiking trails through dazzling vistas, old growth rainforests and pristine beaches. At low tide, you’ll find tide pools bursting with anemones, sea stars, mussels and urchins. There’s even one trail suitable for mountain biking and others that are wheelchair-accessible. Don’t miss Thor’s Well, a tidal rock formation that becomes a thrilling sight as ocean water violently empties into a gaping hole.

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At the end of your journey, stop by the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center for natural and cultural history exhibits, short movies and guided hikes. The visitor center, hiking trails and viewpoints are open to tourists year-round.

Head north to see the Beachside State Recreation Site. This small, exquisite destination sits alongside miles of broad, sandy beach that makes the park perfect for kite flying and beach combing. The park is perfect for watching storms, sunsets and whales.

Yachats is home to the fascinating Cleft of the Rock lighthouse, which sits on a bluff near Cape Perpetua. Attached to the lighthouse is the home of its former keeper, Jim Gibbs, a renowned lighthouse historian. The lighthouse is visible from U.S. Highway 101.

For More Information

Oregon Coast Visitors Association

888-628-2101

www.visittheoregoncoast.com

 

Travel Oregon

800-547-7842

www.traveloregon.com