Photo courtesy of Halvor Tweto
Originally the seat of Louis Simpson’s vast estate that extended along this stretch of coast, Shore Acres State Park is now an incredible resource for the public. This state park will astound you. Be prepared for close perspectives on the cape’s geology, as gigantic chunks of sandstone sit pitched at a 45-degree angle just off shore, miming the striations that are visible in the surrounding cliffs. The black pocks on these masses are erosion resistant deposits that the ocean continues to abrade. If you happen to be present during a winter storm, the observation building (formerly the site of the Simpson mansion) allows for a privileged and protected view of enormous waves as they crash into the sea cliffs. After enjoying the view form the cliffs, take the short hike down to Simpson Beach and see all the beauty of Sunset Bay repeated on a slightly grander scale. Like Sunset Bay, this beach is a calm, protected place that is perfect for families looking to enjoy the sand or a more placid spot on the edge of the Pacific Ocean.
When you’ve had your fill of nature’s artistry, turn your appreciation toward a more constructed landscape with a tour through the park’s remarkable botanical garden. Once the private garden for the Simpson estate, this public resource takes full advantage of the area’s temperate climate. Dahlias, roses, rhododendrons, and tulips explode with color, a pond frames a more subdued experience, and an English garden landscape style organizes it all into a unified whole. From Thanksgiving through New Years, when blooms are scarce, an extensive lighting display takes over.
Finally, take a moment to appreciate the extraordinary background of the site, which is inexorably linked to the area’s historical economy and identity. Consider that, at one time, Shore Acres was the center of a single private estate that included both Sunset Bay and Cape Arago, not to mention Simpson Reef. When you stop to appreciate that all of these facets are present in one stop just a few minutes from Coos Bay, Shore Acres State Park seems more and more like an unusually special place.
Note that, unfortunately, dogs are not allowed outside of vehicles, and this policy is strictly enforced.