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For real coastal fun, head south to the Southern Oregon Coast

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By Oregonian Media Group

(Photo By Steven Michael)

For out-of-state tourists, the Oregon destinations that always seem to top the list are Portland, nearby Multnomah Falls, wine country and the northern coastal communities of Astoria, and Cannon Beach.

Even many of Portland’s day trippers think the same way (albeit they’ll likely skip a trip to the falls, which are especially crowded on summer weekends).

However, there’s a region that deserves the attention of tourists and locals alike: the sometimes overlooked but by no means less spectacular Southern Oregon Coast, anchored by the city of Coos Bay.

While Cannon Beach and Astoria surely charm with smooth beaches and quaint cabin rentals, Coos Bay on the southern coast boasts equally smooth beaches, but with rockier, more rugged shorelines, where commercial and residential development are nearly non-existent. And, with 40 miles of coastal sand dunes that soar up to 500 feet above sea level, the southern coast offers a year-round action adventure playground.

Plus there’s always something to do, especially in the spring and summer, no matter what the month.


Storm watching is a prime winter coastal activity, but generally there are still a few storms to catch in April, too. Stake your claim near the Shore Acres Garden in Shore Acres State Park, where, perched atop an 80-foot cliff, you can watch 20-foot ocean swells erupt into 120-foot splashes that crash on the rocky shores.

The overlook area is also a prime viewing point for whale watching, too.

And if you really want to tap into the local experience, go clamming along the bay. Spring tides are favorable for clamming Empire Clams, so if you put in the necessary work, you’re guaranteed success.


Every year, tall ships set sail for Coos Bay during the city’s annual ‘Festival of Sails’ event. (If you’re wondering what tall ships look like, think Pirates of the Caribbean.) From May 5 to 17, in recognition of Coos Bay’s rich history as a tall ship port, the ships will take tourists on a tour of the bay, culminating in mock naval battles featuring booming cannons. Of course, you don’t need to board the tall ships to watch the battle play out—you can view the entire spectacle from North Bend or Mill Casino boardwalks.

And for the fifth straight May, The Mill Casino Hotel & RV Park will host BBQ Blues & Brews on the Bay, a three-day outdoor Memorial Day weekend party that draws, regional craft brewers and as many as 50 pitmasters from across the Pacific Northwest who will compete in KCBS (Kansas City BBQ Society) sanctioned competition to determine who makes the best barbecue.

June and July

When the tourists season hits its stride during the temperate peak summer months, it’s the perfect time to travel to the bay to take advantage of the RV Sites, campsites and the hundreds of miles of hiking trails that connect Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago state parks. The area also boasts two days of waterfront fireworks on July 3rd and July 4th.

June and July are also the prime months to play in the dunes at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where you can hike, go off-roading, horseback ride or fish. But if you’re looking for something a little more edgy, visit Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rental, and take an armada of buggies out for a spin.

At Any Time

Of course, there are always activities tourists can take part in, no matter what time of year. The Southern Oregon Coast is home to the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, a sprawling athletic compound where tourists can mingle with serious golfers on six different courses. And should those golfers feel the desire to play some table games, The Mill Casino will fetch—and return—them via the casino’s shuttle bus.

The Coos History Museum offers a great starting point for first-time visitors to gain familiarity with the area’s rich heritage – especially its tribal and maritime history – thoughtfully preserved in more than 50,000 objects and 250,000 images.

Lastly, for those who just want to get away from all of it—even for only an hour—there are always sunset strolls along Horsfall Beach. The locals know this spot well: It’s one of the few local beaches where they can let their dogs off leash, and, if one travels there at just the right time, they just might find that they have the entire beach all to themselves.

Travel Writer’s View

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Not Run of the Mill

Mill Casino offers fantastic dining, accommodations and gaming

By Adam Sawyer

Two years ago, my girlfriend, Paula, and I pulled into the Mill Casino in Coos Bay, Oregon on a Tuesday afternoon. We were in the midst of a three-week whirlwind Oregon vacation. Alternating between campgrounds and the occasional stay at a roofed lodging facility, we were feeling a bit rundown, and most certainly dirty. The Mill Casino was one of the places we had targeted as a home that would no doubt provide a hot shower and anything else would be gravy.

Beautiful Bay Setting
The Mill Hotel and Casino is set right on the Coos Bay waterfront. Thanks to the fact that we were arriving on a weekday, the price was too good to pass up. I’ll be honest. I wasn’t expecting to sample their wares much beyond the bed and the shower. We hadn’t come to gamble, so I figured we would just take advantage of the chance to get clean, relax and walk along the water.

Checking in was easy and I was quite impressed with the look of the place. It’s classy without being overly opulent, with fitting tributes to the region’s First Nation heritage and culture woven throughout. The combination of modern design elements and fixtures with Native art, crafts and historical photos produced an elegantly cozy feeling.

Tower Balcony Suite

Comfortable and luxurious
When we opened the door to our room, our jaws dropped. Our room was gorgeous! The feeling from the lobby carried over into our private quarters, with the added benefit of an amazingly comfortable bed and a widescreen, high-definition television. Hot showers and a little relaxation were our first priority.

Once we were all shined up, it was time for dinner. While we had initially planned on checking out what the town of Coos Bay had to offer, Mill Casino had made such a good impression on us, between check-in and the walk to our room, we were curious about the dining options. So, we went to give the Plank House a look. Paula liked the menu and I needed little cajoling as I was starved.

Delicious on-site dining
It turned out to be a fantastic choice. I was delighted by the caliber of food offered by the Plank House, with locally sourced, seasonal offerings and classic Northwest-style cuisine. The Dungeness crab was perfectly prepared: fresh, slightly sweet, and lightly seasoned. Plank House took a legendary local ingredient and skillfully curated it to the plate.

Being full in addition to clean, we now had some pep in our steps and felt like checking out the casino floor. Paula had never played blackjack and the night was young.

An evening of blackjack
Being more familiar with gaming, I explained my code to Paula. We signed up for the excellent player rewards program, pulled out $40 specifically for gambling and set a time limit. Now I won’t tell you this is the way it’s necessarily going to go for you, but in an hour we doubled our money! Then, we left the gaming area and headed to Warehouse 101 for a nightcap. The onsite bar is the perfect place for dancing and drinks. I went to bed beaming.

RV Park

Perks we hadn’t considered
The next day we woke refreshed having enjoyed the soundest sleep of the trip and got a satisfying breakfast once more at the Plank House. Then we proceeded to do laundry. That’s right, laundry. We hadn’t even considered this before checking in, but one of the amenities offered by the Mill is a laundry center in the RV park. We were elated. When we left the Mill, not only would we be clean but our clothes would be, too. We never dreamed life could be so sweet.

Shortly thereafter, we extended the stay one more night. Thanks to the previous evening’s boon, we decided that our budget could handle another night. Plus we could spend some time checking out the town.

The next morning we packed up, checked out, and continued up the coast. All of our needs had been tended to, and even some that we didn’t know needed tending.

Worth a return trip
When we planned our trip, we chose the Mill because of location and cost. But the list of reasons why we keep coming back since our first visit has become rather extensive. When we arrived at the Mill the first time two years ago I was beat—emotionally and physically. The road is a wonderful place, but it was time for a little break. Now I know that every time I stay at the Mill I can count on a recharged battery, without fail. When you tally up great food, great service, gaming, amenities, location, price and the wonderful rooms, you get an experience greater than the sum of its parts. When Paula and I check out of the Mill, we both feel great, every time.

Take advantage of Mill Casino’s great package deals.

The Mill Casino Hotel “a top-ranked property” on TripAdvisor

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We recently received a welcome email from TripAdvisor® reminding us why our guests frequently return:

“Great news: The Mill Casino Hotel is one of the top-ranked Specialty Lodging in North Bend on TripAdvisor! Your dedication to customer care is reflected in your top ranking.”

It never fails to bring a smile to our staff to read your reviews and experiences on Facebook, Twitter and review sites like TripAdvisor®, one of the top trusted travel sites that features consumer reviews and advice on hotels, resorts, flights, vacation rentals, vacation packages, travel guides, and more.

Here are a handful reviews posted on TripAdvisor® that demonstrate why we are considered one of the top-ranked Specialty Lodging in North Bend:

“Extraordinarily friendly staff” Reviewed November 5, 2012
The hotel is among the best available in the area, if not the best. Comfortable, spacious rooms, great views of the bay, excellent restaurant. What really sets the hotel apart though is the friendliness of the staff–from the valet to the concierge. They were uniformly friendly and knowledgeable

“Wonderful place to stay a few days!” Reviewed October 24, 2012
Really enjoyed staying here a couple of years ago, will go back when possible. Nice size, food wonderful, staff so nice and helpful. Very clean and lovely cosy atmosphere. Was lovely to be able to choose a senior meal from the menu and avoid being charged and fed too much…perfect size, excellent price. Casino lots of fun, poker room excellent I’m told too! Wonderful area for ex-ploring the coast, inland, so much to see and do…a delightful mix of the old and the new…loved it!

“Fabulous accommodations!” Reviewed September 28, 2012
This great hotel is just north of Coos Bay, Oregon. We arrived without reservations and were absolutely delighted with this casino hotel. The room was wonderful and absolutely spotless. The staff was cordial and friendly. The hotel’s restaurant had a great menu and the food was beautifully prepared and presented. What a terrific “find”, since we just stumbled upon it by accident. We highly recommend this place.

We wish to extend our thanks to these travelers for sharing their experiences and we invite you to share your experiences as well! Your feedback helps us to serve our guests even better!

Another Glowing Testimonial from a Happy Guest

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The Mill Casino staff takes pride in providing our guests the very best experience possible and we do our best to exceed expectations. Our goal is provide top notch service and amenities to everyone we encounter, so you can imagine how thrilled we were to receive this glowing letter from a very gracious guest who mentions nearly every department in her rave reviews.

The letter below was sent last month to Suzann Anaya, Director of Hotel Operations at the Mill Casino.  We are so proud of our staff, we wanted to share it with everyone!

Dear Suzann,

I am writing to thank you and your fellow employees for creating the amazing ambiance that exists at the Mill Casino & Hotel. My husband and I live 50 miles south of the Bay Area in Port Orford. In the past two months, it was necessary to make a series of trips to Coos Bay/North Bend because of unexpected health problems. We made our first reservation and after that stay, we liked it so much that we have returned four times. I was so relieved that it was not necessary to drive the long 100 miles round trip all in one day, when I was not feeling well.

The beauty of the Mill Casino Hotel, its design, decor and location on the Bay is remarkable, but that is not all I want to thank you for. It is the friendliness and caring attitude of your staff. This applies to so many of your employees: Amy in reservations to Sean and the friendly crew at the hotel front desk.

Your security people are incredible. They do the security job they are meant to do, but at the same time are friendly and helpful, like the nice man who gave me a tour of the pool area, to the guard who just happened to be walking down the hallway in the hotel when I stepped out of my room. I asked him if the casino might have a blood pressure cuff and he offered to walk me to your Security Office where, he said, you have two trained E.M.T.’s on duty 24-hours a day!

When I walked into their office, Justin and Michele were very professional, and helped me as well as in any hospital emergency room. Michele even walked me back to my room and explained to my husband and myself that we could just push a button on the phone and they would be there immediately, if needed. When I made my next reservation, I was still not completely recovered, but I felt secure knowing that while staying at the Mill, someone would be available if I needed help (If you are from Port Orford – the idea that medical help is just a few minutes away is like a miracle!).

I also want to thank the ladies in the gift shop who have such an incredible variety of quality items for sale and keep such long hours and also the bartenders named Matt & Nick working in the 101 Warehouse. They have a fine wine list, good food and wonderful service and my husband was thrilled that he was allowed to smoke at the bar.

I was very touched with the kindness of the lady from your Plank House Restaurant, who went out of her way to bring me a crème Brule, without a crisp top, because she knew I could chew only soft things. The friendly folks in your convenient 24-hour snack shop are helpful and are well supplied by your great bakery chefs.

All in all, you have an outstanding group of people working at the Mill. I tell all my friends to be sure to stay with you, since you have the nicest lodging, restaurants, food, and leisure activities, not to mention, one of the most unique opportunities for taking photos of sunrises on the south coast of Oregon. Please know that your customers appreciate the outstanding way you run the Mill Casino and Hotel. We are looking forward to our next visit.

Now is the Time to Book Your Holiday Event at The Mill Casino

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The holidays are around the corner and we hope you will give us the opportunity to make your event an affair to remember. The event planning staff at The Mill Casino has the knowledge and the experience to arrange every detail to make your holiday event special. We take a great deal of pride in our focus on providing you the best service.

When a guest wants to organize an event here, they simply have to call our facility and we will take care of the event from start to finish. We customize everything because we want people to have a memorable experience at our facility and once they come here they continue to return- Lucinda DiNovo Sales Manager

The Mill has over 14,000 sq. ft. of comfortable and open space, gourmet catering, luxurious hotel accommodations, and sweeping bay views. The Mill Casino guests enjoy our luxurious guest rooms, a work out facility, heated indoor pool, and non stop casino entertainment and fun.  Just read some of these testimonials from happy guests and learn more about our events in this video:

Ready to get started? Just fill out our Request for Proposal with your requirements. You’ll soon be discussing your plans with a representative who knows how to make them a reality. See our Meetings page for more layouts and information.

Memories From May 27th Taylor Hicks Concert: A Tale of Two Fans

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Angela posed with American Idol winner Taylor Hicks at The Mill Casino

When Angela and Terry-Jo, two avid Taylor Hicks fans, entered for a chance to win a prize package that included tickets to the May 27th concert and accommodations at the Red Lion Inn Coos Bay, little did they know what was in store for them!

Angela’s Story

Angela was randomly selected as the winner of our Taylor Hicks Concert package last month. She is a busy mom who works long hours so we were thrilled to give her a much deserved night out with her favorite American Idol.

She made the trip from Roseburg, Oregon with her friend Jan to enjoy a one night stay at The Red Lion Inn Coos Bay, dinner at the Mill Casino, tickets to the show- and as a special surprise, backstage passes! The pair watched the sound check and and describes meeting Taylor Hicks as “one of the wonderful highlights of my life”.

“We felt like school girls again, all flustered and giggly, as each one of us got a turn to greet Taylor and take a picture.” says Angela. “And then Taylor took the stage..We were awestruck! I clapped, I whistled, I yelled out Taylors Name, I cheered!! Taylor and his band were exceptional!! SOUL PATROL RULES!!! I did not want the concert to end.” Angela says Taylor was very polite and gracious as he signed T-shirts, CDs and “was such a gentleman”!

Terry-Jo’s Story

Terry-Jo meets Taylor Hicks after the May 27 Concert!

When Terry-Jo left this comment on our blog, we knew we had to do something to help her celebrate a very special anniversary: May 27th marks my 3-year “cancer-versary” (3 years to the day of the completion of chemo & radiation treatments)! I cannot think of a better celebration than a stay in beautiful Coos Bay Oregon with the beatufiful soul, Taylor Hicks! I really appreciate your consideration.

We decided to contact Terry-Jo and invited her and a guest to come down and stay at the Red Lion Inn and enjoy a meal here at The Mill Casino along with tickets to the show on us.

Terry-Jo, thrilled to receive our email, made long drive from Seattle with her best friend.  “It was the first road trip I have taken with her in over 20 years” she says.

After the long drive, the ladies managed to find  time trying out their luck in the casino before the concert (which did not disappoint this long time fan)! Afterwards, she was able to meet Taylor Hicks in person!  Here is what she had to say:

“He is one of the kindest celebrities I’ve met and makes sure you know how much he appreciates you…. He put on a stellar performance and I found myself, not surprisingly, smiling the entire time. He makes my heart happy! He engages the audience, including them in his performance and taking them on his ride. He stayed after and met the fans, signed autographs, took pictures, and visited with you while he was at it. It’s not ‘all business’ with Taylor Hicks, he seems to truly care.”

“I cannot begin to express to you how much I appreciate your kindness and generosity. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about the day I received your email saying that my story of being a 3-year cancer survivor touched you enough to offer me tickets to Taylor’s sold out show! I have to say, cancer sucks…..but, if it bought me a night with Taylor Hicks at the Mill Casino……..”

You are welcome Terry-Jo and Angela!  Thanks for sharing your stories with us!

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