Situated at the mouth of the Chetco River and the foot of the Klamath Mountains, Brookings is Oregon’s most southern coastal town. Its pleasant weather patterns with frequent, unseasonably mild temperatures have earned it the nickname of Oregon’s “Banana Belt.”

April is prime time to enjoy the outdoors and admire blooms at Brookings’ Azalea Park and its 30 acres of native azaleas. Azaleas were growing here when Lewis and Clark wintered on the Oregon Coast in 1805-06. Known as the Jewel of Brookings, it also features a large playground and the several miles of walking trails. The annual Azalea Festival, held each Memorial Day weekend, celebrates this local gem with four days of community-wide events, including an artisan market, parade, live music and more.

Of course the beach is the big draw here. Harris Beach State Park is a sandy expanse that’s home to several off-shore sea stacks, including the largest island on the Oregon Coast, Bird Island, a breeding ground for the tufted puffin. Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a long, narrow park with 12 miles of rugged coastline. Here you’ll find pretty pocket beaches and the dramatic sea-stacks of Arch Rock and Whales Head. The beach at Thunder Rock Cove is one of best sheltered beaches on the coast, and Indian Sands Trail offers views of the coastline and rocky islands. Inland hiking and Chetco River access are available at Alfred A. Loeb State Park; about a mile up the road is the one-mile loop Redwood Nature Trail, where a grove of the world’s northern-most redwoods grow. While relatively small in stature, they still inspire wonder.

Art lovers will enjoy the local galleries and the monthly Second Saturday Art Walk. For a look at Oregon pioneer life, the Chetco Valley Historical Society Museum, housed in the 1857 Blake House, exhibits artifacts from the era. The largest Monterey Cypress in the U.S. towers 130 feet high on the museum grounds. Watch surfers hang 10 at Sporthaven Beach, or hit the links at Salmon Run Golf Course. This 18-hole public course is among the most challenging on the Coast. Those who are up to the challenge are rewarded with beautiful greens, scenic vistas and glimpses of local wildlife.

Fuel up at Oceanside Diner, a breakfast favorite among locals. Try freshly made biscuits and gravy and legendary oyster omelets. After a day in the sand, head to the Vista Pub for big burgers, salads and sandwiches. Craft beer lovers can check out Tight Lines Brewery and Wild River Brewing.

Photo courtesy of Larry Andreasen