Dinner and a movie is nice for Valentine’s Day, but we have a hunch that what your sweetie really wants is a romantic adventure, no planning required. From its wild, secluded beaches to majestic old-growth forests, Oregon’s South Coast is made for dreamy winter road trips. So before you buy that gift card, pack up instead for one of these ready-made escapes.
At Oregon’s southernmost border, the community of Brookings (just over four hours from Eugene) is still recovering from the impact of the Chetco Bar Fire. The fire burned about 200,000 acres in portions of the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest from July to November 2017, keeping visitors away during peak season for hotels, restaurants, shops and outdoor outfitters. Luckily, the Oregon Redwoods are still in tact and as magical as ever. Make sure your vehicle is up for a bumpy 4-mile road to the trailhead (carry a paper map and emergency supplies), and set out on the 1.2-mile loop Oregon Redwoods Trail or the shorter .4-mile leg through your own private mystical forest. Tell stories afterwards over elegant surf and turf at Art Alley Grille in Brookings, where local art adorns the walls and you’ll cherish the intimacy.
If your idea of a perfect day is cruising around Powell’s Books and lingering over coffee and pastries, this place is for you. Gold Beach Books is the largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast, with more than 75,000 new and used books including rare books and first editions. You’ll want to grab a fresh scone and a mocha from the in-house coffee bar and find a nook. See local artists’ works on the walls and come for live music and readings by local poets and authors in the evenings. Then head out to the beach — make sure to stop for a selfie at Kissing Rock — and look for glass floats, which are placed along three miles of coastline for treasure hunters every February through April. Special red floats are hidden during the week of Valentine’s Day. Stop in to the Gold Beach Visitors Center for maps, information and details of prize drawings for float finders.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, the ocean views at Redfish restaurant are reason enough to visit Port Orford. This modern, French-inspired bistro prides itself on its artful dishes, including daily vegetarian and vegan options. Stay at the boutique Redfish Loft, upstairs, and explore Battle Rock Park, one of the most spectacular viewpoints on the Coast. Hike to the top of the rock, which juts out into the ocean, and spot whales on their winter migration. (Check this webcam at the park for daily inspiration.) Browse nearby art galleries for more keepsakes of your trip.
You may have seen images of Bandon’s famous circles in the sand, but it’s another thing to experience it. You can do that on weekends during winter, when labyrinth master artist Denny Dyke creates his walkable art by drawing detailed patterns on the sand with no wrong turns or dead ends. The sessions are subject to cancellation due due to inclement weather, heavy rain and or high winds, so check his website before you go. Then surprise your sweetie with a quintessential Oregon Coast activity: fat-biking along the South Coast and kite-flying at Face Rock, followed by some ice cream goodness at Face Rock Creamery. Gear up at South Coast Bicycles in Old Town Bandon and find maps, tide tables and other tips for your breathtakingly scenic 19-mile route (or part of it).
Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast (population 16,000), but you’ll still have access to the forest and the ocean just outside your door. Take a leisurely drive to Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area, less than an hour’s drive northeast, to enjoy off-the-beaten-path waterfalls after a short hike through old-growth forest. Nothing says romance like trekking through scenic canyons to reach cascading waterfalls that plunge into pools a hundred feet below. Back in Coos Bay, celebrate with a hearty dinner at Blue Heron Bistro, which has served authentic German fare since 1976. A full seafood menu and innovative weekend brunch complement the menu beyond schnitzel, goulash and roast duck.
By Jen Anderson
Photo courtesy of Travel Oregon