South Oregon Coast: Beaches, great views and fun small towns
By VALERIE MELLEMA
The south Oregon Coast attracts visitors from around the globe to enjoy its beautiful beaches, spectacular views, fascinating small towns and a uniquely Northwest spirit.
The south Oregon Coast is made up of cities as far north as North Bend, to the most southern Oregon city of Brookings. Many visitors revel in the solitude that comes from looking out on the Pacific Ocean on a gray winter day — or a bright summer day, for that matter — and the south Oregon Coast just seems to have fewer people getting in the way. The fact that this part of Oregon is a little further drive from the metro areas to the north makes it, in many ways, more appealing.
But don’t get us wrong — there are also plenty of population centers along the coast where you can find lodging, restaurants, tourist attractions and everything you need for a coastal getaway. Here are a few of the places visitors enjoy the most.
Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston
The most northern cities in this area are Coos Bay, Charleston and North Bend. They are located right on the bay and, for those coming to the region for the first time, this is a great place to start your journey. These three areas offer a good insight into the history and the culture of the area. You will also find three lighthouses in this area to explore, as well as scenic golf courses that are right off the shore. Moreover, the Oregon state parks in this part of the state are some of the most lush and attractive.
You´ll want to visit Cape Arago to see the Simpson’s Reef where you can experience aquatic life from the ocean, including sea lions that make their home here. Coos Bay is a great location for an annual beach vacation and you´ll want to try out local activities like whale-watching or the local fishing tournaments — it´s all here on the coast.
The next city on the south Oregon coast is Bandon, a quaint town with amazing coastal views. Here, you will find two larger state parks to explore as well as excellent bird-watching. It almost goes without saying that the beach along this section of the coast is pristine and beautiful, but there are many other area attractions as well. Check out the West Coast Game Park Safari where you will see plenty of animals from the local area as well as from around the world. Visit the Bandon Historical Society Museum for a journey back into this region´s past. Go to Bullards State Park and stop at the Coquille River Lighthouse, a tourist’s favorite because of the history and unique look of this lighthouse. You can also go bass fishing in the ocean, horseback riding on the beach, enjoy the two National Wildlife Refuges here called Oregon Islands and Bandon March and still have plenty more to do on your stay.
If you really want to get away from the tourists, visit Port Orford, a quiet oceanfront town that still offers plenty to see and do. You´ll notice right away that there are seemingly endless skies overlooking the Pacific Ocean. There are several quality art galleries here, and you can also visit the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, which is just north of the city. You can learn a lot about the city’s history by visiting any of the circa 1800’s homes and buildings that are well preserved here. Be sure and stop by the Hughes House at Cape Blanco State Park.
Gold Beach is the next area of south Oregon Coast that you´ll want to explore. You will find a number of great places to play in the water here including the Rogue River. The beaches are perhaps some of the best in the area, and the trails throughout the area are excellent. When you walk through the mountainous areas of the city (which is much of it), you are able to step back in time through the old-growth forests that line that area. There are a number of great trails that you can take throughout this region.
From May through October, jet boats offer excursions up into the “Wild and Scenic” sections of the Rogue River giving passengers a close up view of wildlife and river life. The Salmon and steelhead fishing in the area is second to none, and an excellent group of licensed guides are available. There is lots of sightseeing and fishing done on board local ocean charters, so be sure to stop by the local docks.
Brookings is in the most southern part of the south Oregon Coast — in fact, you are located just five to six miles from the California border. The Chetco River flows just south of the city, which makes for an ideal way to spend the day. You will also find great fishing here and in Brookings Harbor. When you come to this region, you have to take advantage of the outdoor beauty, which Brookings definitely offers. There are a number of enchanting parks here including Harris Beach State Park and Clifford Kamph Memorial Park.
For more information on the Oregon Coast, call the Oregon Coast Visitors Association at 888-OCVA-101, or go to www.visittheoregoncoast.com.
Battle Rock in the Port Orford area, photo courtesy of Greg Vaughn.