Port Orford lays claim to being the western-most city in the continental U.S., with Cape Blanco State Park (just north of town), even further west. There you’ll find spectacular views, massive windswept Sitka spruce, and the 1870 Cape Blanco Lighthouse; it’s the oldest working lighthouse on the Coast, and its light is visible 23 nautical miles out to sea. Here Oregon’s first female lighthouse keeper, Mabel Bretherton, assumed her duties in 1903. The lighthouse and the nearby Hughes House, a restored Victorian, are both open for tours from April through October.
For more maritime history, explore the Port Orford Lifeboat Station in Port Orford Heads State Park. Built in 1934 by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide lifesaving services to the southern Coast, it also served as a watch station during WWII. The former crew quarters is now a museum where you can learn about shipwrecks and rescues, the 1942 Japanese submarine attacks off the south Oregon Coast, and even have your own GI dog tag made on a vintage machine. From the museum you can access several hiking trails that skirt the headlands and provide impressive coastal views to the north and south.
Another pleasant trail, weaving through a forest of towering rhododendrons and lush ferns, takes you to the top of Humbug Mountain. Head to Battle Rock Park for beachcombing —agates and shells are plentiful here — and to explore the tide pools teeming with anemones and starfish. The Elk and the Sixes rivers offer kayaking, rafting, camping and fishing. South Coast Tours leads freshwater and ocean kayaking, fishing and stand-up paddleboard outings in the waterways around Port Orford.
One of Port Orford’s most renowned attractions is its dolly dock. An open, unprotected harbor necessitates hoisting the commercial fishing fleet in and out of the water daily with a crane. Grab an ice cream cone, find a bench and watch the spectacle unfold as boats return with their catches.
Families will also enjoy the kitschy, mid-century vibe at Prehistoric Gardens just a short drive south of town marked by the 25-foot T-Rex at the entrance. E.V. Nelson, a sculptor and self-taught paleontologist, constructed the quirky park in the 1950s. Brightly painted, life-sized replicas of dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures lurk in a coastal rainforest.
Eat, drink and sleep
Sate your appetite at The Crazy Norwegian’s Fish and Chips, a rough and ready roadside diner that serves up what “Sunset Magazine” has decreed some of best fish and chips on the West Coast; be sure to save room for a slice of berry pie. Tasty Kate’s is the place to go for fresh-baked pastries, coffee drinks and light fare. With jaw-dropping views and standout fare highlighting fresh local ingredients, Redfish is one of Port Orford’s most popular restaurants.
Rest your head at WildSpring Guest Habitat, a luxurious, eco-friendly resort that feels more like a private estate than a hotel. Elegant cabins, nestled into five peaceful and secluded acres, are filled with art and antiques, and feature panoramic ocean views—the perfect setting to enjoy a good book, board game or in-suite massage.
Photo by Dennis Frates