Photo courtesy of Denis LeBlanc
Coos Bay, Oregon, is home to small beach-town living at its finest. Given a generous three-day weekend to explore the natural beauty around this little community, you might just start considering making the escape to southern Oregon a permanent one! From sweet surf breaks, to classic boardwalks, crashing waterfalls, and white sand beaches, Coos Bay is a tiny slice of heaven. Pack your bags, make the drive, and come see for yourself. We’ve made it easy to explore with our ultimate itinerary. There’s enough to do down here that you may need a second trip just to see it all!
The view south toward Cape Arago State Park on the John Dellenback Trail. Photo by Halvor Tweto.
- John Dellenback Trail is an excellent place to start your exploration of the Coos Bay area. With the largest area of coastal dunes in the country, stretching 40 miles along the Oregon coast, there’s plenty to see. On the John Dellenback, it’s non-motorized access only, so the giant dunes will be free of the ATV use common in other parts of the recreation area. Bring your way-finding skills; with frequent heavy fog and trackless sands, it’s easy to get a little off route here.
- On hot summer days, move inland to explore Golden + Silver Falls, an ideal place to chill out. The road may be closed 1 mile before the park entrance, but don’t let this deter you from spectacular crashing waterfalls and refreshing spray from the 200-foot falls. The road walk into the trailhead is quite pleasant, closed to cars, and you can make this a long or short visit depending on whether you hike to the top of Golden Falls.
- Coos Bay itself makes a pleasant stop for refueling, lunch, and a leisurely stroll along the classic waterfront boardwalk. Brush up on your history by reading the numerous exhibits about the maritime and logging history of the town. The “Koos 2” tugboat is a bit of nostalgia right at eye level and makes for colorful photography opportunities as well. With plenty of shopping, restaurants, and coffee to fuel you, Coos Bay has plenty to offer the coastal explorer. History buffs will be keen to check out the Egyptian Theater, home to Oregon’s last remaining original theater pipe organ.
- Looking for the perfect base camp for all these adventures? Bastendorf Beach County Park Campground is one excellent option. Managed by Coos County Parks, reservations are recommended here. With easy close access to Bastendorff Beach, the after-dinner stroll to watch the sunset is made simple. The only downside is that some of the tent sites can be rather close together. Take a look at our recommended site photos before you reserve in order to snag the most secluded spots.
- Sunset Bay State Park is aptly named. With a stunning white sand crescent beach snugly ensconced in a well-protected bay, this is one picture-perfect spot for watching the sun set over the Pacific. Frequently calm waters in the bay offer protection for even the smaller paddlers that venture out onto the water. For first time boaters or kids on floaties, this is a nice spot to enjoy the ocean on a smaller scale. A non-beach day area just down the road offers horseshoe pits, volleyball nets, and picnic areas for less sandy outings. Sunset Bay State Park Campground is an inviting spot to park your RV or set up your tent as well.
The botanical gardens in Shore Acres State Park. Photo by Halvor Tweto.
- Originally the seat of Louis Simpson’s massive family estate, Shore Acres State Park has enough variety to satisfy the most diverse tastes. Geology buffs will gape at the steeply angled sandstone blocks just off the coast. The former Simpson mansion allows great protected views of the waves crashing into these beautiful pillars. After a short hike to Sunset Bay, wander the meticulously manicured English garden filled with dahlias, roses, and rhododendrons. In the winter season, a lighting display is worth the visit when blooms are scarce. If more hiking is desired, check out the Shore Acres Loop Trail.
- Technically within Cape Arago State Park, the Simpson Reef Overlook offers one of the best views of Shell Island and Simpson Reef. Both are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, protecting thousands of sea mammals and birds along the entire length of the Oregon coast. Cormorants, murres, and puffins fill the skies and cover the rocks, while seals and sea lions fill the air with noisy barks. Binoculars or a telephoto lens are recommended for optimum viewing here.
- Cape Arago State Park is a perfect place for lunch if Simpson Reef Overlook didn’t already tempt you. There are many first-come, first-serve picnic tables throughout the park. Expansive views to the north from a rocky observation point let you soak in miles of coastline. A brief (but steep) hike down into South Cove off of Drake Point offers tide pools to explore and a bit of history to contemplate. Sir Francis Drake is rumored to have anchored here in 1579.
- If coastal winds are getting a bit much, drive inland a short ways for hiking and birdwatching on the South Slough Loop. Rarely ever crowded, South Slough was one of the first estuaries set aside for protection and research under the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Covering over 4,000 acres and at least a dozen creeks, a wide variety of habitats and wildlife can be found. Black bear, bobcats, salmon, and numerous birds call this estuary home. For a better understanding of this unique ecosystem, the Interpretive Center is a great place to start.
Coquille River Lighthouse. Photo by Denis LeBlanc.
- For solitude, Seven Devils State Recreation Area may be your best bet on this list. With extremely low visitor count, the miles of open sandy beach make this a great getaway from the typically crowded beaches on the Oregon coast. Formerly the homesite of the Merchant family farm, there is plenty room to walk here. Amenities are sparse, so make your bathroom breaks before arrival.
- Bullards Beach State Park is a family-friendly destination. With numerous educational signs describing the history of tsunamis along the Oregon coast, there’s plenty to learn here. Four miles of beach provide ample room for picnics, beach-combing, splashing in the waves, and sand castle building. Numerous seabirds and mammals can often be spotted in the surf as well.
- For a day on the water, the boat ramp at Bullards Beach State Park offers entry into a 2.60-mile paddle to explore the Coquille River. Attention to tides is a must as water flow is significantly impacted. At low or outgoing tides, the Port of Bandon is an easy low-effort destination. On higher or incoming tides, turning inland and heading toward Rocky Point boat ramp is your best option. Here you’ll be witness to highly successful restoration efforts made to Bandon Marsh. Both can be done as round trip paddles for the more determined boater; otherwise, a shuttle car is recommended.
- One of 11 lighthouses along the Oregon coast, the beauty of Coquille River Lighthouse is hard to deny. Built in 1895, this 40-foot lighthouse helped mariners across the dangerous bar at the entrance of the Coquille River. From mid-May to mid-October you can tours the inside with docents who are ready to share more details about the unique history of this structure. After your tour, walk out onto the jetty to view pelicans, cormorants, and maybe even a harbor seal peeking out from under the waves. Once out at the far end of the jetty, turn back to view shore and appreciate the ruggedness of this coastline.
- Coquille Point and Kronenberg County Park offer expansive views of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. With an ADA-accessible loop, this park offers opportunity to visitors of all abilities. Depending on tides, beach access may be limited. Check local tide charts to better plan your visit. From the southerly access point, the walk to Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint is a must. The wide variety of sea stacks on display here is impressive, so bring your camera.