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.