With a trio of playful towns, scenic state parks and an amazing network of trails, the Coos Bay area is an ideal destination for family spring break adventures. Here are just a few great ideas for exploring the towns of North Bend, Charleston and Coos Bay, which have been rightfully dubbed “Oregon’s Adventure Coast.”
Hikes & Walks
Explore one or all three state parks, which are connected by a network of trails passing through coastal forests and offering spectacular ocean views. Shore Acres State Park is a jewel of the South Coast. The former estate of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson, it’s planted with trees, shrubs and flowering plants that he gathered from around the world. Impressive formal gardens include a rose garden and a Japanese-style garden built around a 100-foot lily pond. The park’s observation building offers knockout views of waves crashing onto cliffs below. Cape Arago State Park is a scenic headland jutting into the Pacific; it too is a great spot to spy migrating whales, or watch fishing boats traverse Coos Bay. Steep trails down the cliffs will bring you to a secluded cove, where tide pooling and fossils can be found. The expansive Sunset Bay State Park has a protected, wide sandy beach that’s also perfect for beachcombing and tide pooling.
Another favorite destination of local hikers is Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area. Located 25-miles off Highway 101, it’s a bit of a trek, but the reward is a scenic canyon hike to 100-foot waterfalls plunging over sheer cliffs. The top of Golden Falls offers a bird’s-eye view of the cascading waterfall framed by old-growth conifers and cedars.
Paddle a canoe or kayak through South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, 4,800 acres of open water channels, tidal and freshwater wetlands, riparian areas and forested uplands. Or launch a paddleboard at Lighthouse Beach. You can even paddle across Coos Bay. (Be sure to consult tide charts and wave conditions before setting out.) If you want to get in the water with a local expert, South Coast Tours leads kayaking and paddleboard tours in the area. Slip into a drysuit and conquer waves on a surfboard. Waxer’s Surf Skate Shop in Coos Bay offers lessons for those of all skill levels and provides all the gear you’ll need.
If the weather is uncooperative, head to the local museums and explore the region’s rich heritage. Coos Art Museum is regionally renowned and housed in a beautiful Art Deco building. You’ll find contemporary American prints and Northwest art, while sports buffs will appreciate the museum’s Prefontaine Room, dedicated to Coos Bay’s native son and track legend Steve Prefontaine. The Coos History Museum & Maritime Collection opened a new facility in 2015 — part of a $10 million waterfront revitalization in Coos Bay — with updated exhibits on how local waterways have shaped life on the South Coast. Learn about early industry at the Coos County Logging Museum.
Photo by Justin Bailie