Photo courtesy of Halvor Tweto

Sunset Bay is nearly its own lagoon, and only a relatively small gap in an otherwise erosion-resistant band of sandstone connects the bay to the ocean. This leads to an exaggerated crescent shape that, combined with the large, family-friendly white sand beach and the mellow calm of the water, has the sense of a gigantic, ear-to-ear smile. Because the area is so shielded from the Pacific, the bay is an ideal place to launch small watercraft, and anyone choosing to stay on the shore can easily keep an eye on those exploring the water.

A non-beach oriented day use area is just down the road, and really this is a small park that can stand on its own as a destination apart from the bay. Here you’ll find volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, a basketball court, a shaded and large grassy area with several picnic tables, and an enclosed group space available by reservation. Big Creek meanders through the park, allowing for a small bridge beneath the Douglas firs to complete the rustic setting. Oddly enough, this day use area was the point of origin when, in 1973, the adventuresome and wealthy Malcolm Forbes became the first person to cross the continent in a hot air balloon. With his aerial perspective, surely Mr. Forbes appreciated the bay’s Cheshire Cat-like grin sending him off.

Both the bay and inland day use areas are equipped with plenty of day use staples: picnic tables, an amphitheater, large restrooms with changing spaces, showers, flush toilets, and readily available potable water. Sunset Bay State Park Campground is just a short walk from both spots, making the park a great option for a weekend retreat, and hiking trails lead farther south down the coast to Shore Acres State Park and to Cape Arago State Park.