Ultimate South Coast Road Trip
It’s Oregon Coast road trip time! You may have heard of the rugged cliffs, secret coves and forested sea stacks along the remote stretch of shoreline here on the South Coast, but haven’t been able to swing a visit. Don’t despair — a road trip along these 134 glorious miles from Reedsport to Brookings is easy, with enough inspiration. Here are some of those sites to explore, if you like, on this magical bucket-list adventure.
Day 1: Reedsport to Coos Bay
Start in Reedsport, the gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you can run wild on the sand, take a hike, ride a horse and even rent an all-terrain vehicle if you choose. Just be sure to share the beach with the western snowy plover between March and September, when certain nesting areas are off limits. Acquaint yourself with the town’s cultural roots at the Umpqua Discovery Center and pick up a myrtlewood souvenir at one of the many art galleries in town. Drive 30 minutes south to the little waterfront town of North Bend, where you can support the local arts at the historic Liberty Theater. A few minutes south in Coos Bay, dig into tasty fish-n-chips at Shark Bites Cafe and wander through the expansive exhibits at the Coos Art Museum, the only major art museum on the Coast. Camp at Sunset Bay State Park in Charleston.
Day 2: Coos Bay to Bandon
Rise and shine for more marine exploration at the Charleston Marine Life Center aquarium, where you can stick your hands in a tide pool touch tank, spot sea lions just off the harbor, learn about coastal ecosystems and watch underwater footage from deep reefs and undersea volcanoes. In Bandon, 30 minutes south, meet one of the town’s small-batch artisans at Stillwagon Distillery, indulge in cheese and ice cream at Face Rock Creamery and and explore the famous Circles in the Sand labyrinth art. You can also try fat-tire biking along the Coast during low tide, with routes of various lengths to follow. Visit the Port O’ Call tackle shop in Bandon to catch your own dinner — they provide crabbing rings, buckets and crabbing licenses, as well as pro tips for a great catch. Take your bounty to Tony’s Crab Shack to be cleaned and cooked, and pitch a tent at Bullards Beach State Park in Bandon.
Day 3: Bandon to Port Orford
Take your time winding your way another 30 minutes south to Port Orford — an artsy fishing town with a quirky history. Find the old city jail, lost soldier’s gold mine and lost meteorite while you’re here, if you can. Cruise around the Port of Port Orford and take a fishing expedition or paddling trip of your own through an outfitter such as South Coast Tours. Take a trek through old-growth forest and salty ocean breezes on the trail at Humbug Mountain, the tallest headland on the Oregon Coast. Spend the afternoon at Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, exploring the science behind the all-important work of habitat and species protection. Dine on fresh seafood at Redfish, renowned for its epic oceanfront views. Curl up in your extra-large campsite in the shadow of Camp Blanco Lighthouse at Cape Blanco State Park, the westernmost point in Oregon.
Day 4: Port Orford to Gold Beach
The Wild & Scenic Rogue River pours into the Pacific Ocean here in Gold Beach, where outfitters such as Jerry’s Rogue Jets lead various jet boat excursions that showcase the wildlife, history and ecology of the area. Enjoy a slower pace on the pristine Gold Beach coastline at Otter Point State Recreation Site, and search for the city’s famous painted rocks. Support award-winning local craft beer at Arch Rock Brewing Company’s taproom and fuel up with fresh chowder and a burger at Barnacle Bistro or Spinner’s Steak & Chop House. Rest up for your last day of the trip at a quiet RV park, comfy hotel or vacation rental.
Day 5: Gold Beach to Brookings
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the southernmost stretch of Oregon coastline, arguably one of the most scenic. Truly take time to enjoy the flowers here along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, where you’ll find 12 miles of forested parkland and patches of small, sandy beaches. Brookings is your gateway to the Wild & Scenic Chetco River, where you can go fishing, take a scenic coast kayaking trip or a indulge in a daylong whitewater rafting trip. You can also take a small trek into the Oregon Redwoods Trail, one of two old-growth redwood groves in the state. Cap your last night withupscale pub grub at Oxenfrē Public House or Black Trumpet Bistro, and sleep like a baby at a beachside bed & breakfast, campsite, RV park or hotel.
By Jen Anderson
Photo of Battle Rock Wayside Park by Joey Hamilton