Best Stops on the Oregon Coast Between the Oregon Dunes and Brookings
By Gary Hayes
Published: 09/15/2013  Updated: 08/15/2019
Photo by Gary Hayes

From the Oregon Dunes to spectacular stretches of coastline within the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, the Southern Oregon Coast packs a powerful punch of stunning landscapes for visitors.

(US 101 MP 193.1)
A large campground with extensive day-use areas including dune access, freshwater lakes and pretty picnic areas. Hiking trails pass through woodlands, past wetlands and lakes and through dunes. In late spring, lanky native Rhododendrons display pink blooms in the forest understory.

(US 101 MP 200.7)
The overlook makes an easy stop to experience the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area with viewpoints of Oregon's dune country, dune access and hiking. Pathways and viewpoints near the parking area feature scenic picnic areas overlooking dunes with beach and ocean in the distance. A hiking trail leads one mile through dunes to the beach. The overlook area offers wheelchair access to viewpoints.

Reedsport is the home of the headquarters for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area offering interpretive displays on the Oregon Dunes, maps and information. Old Town Reedsport is just east of the highway and nearby is the Umpqua Discovery Center, an engaging experience for all ages with exhibits on the natural and cultural history of the region. Less than three miles east, along SR 38, is the Dean Creek Elk Viewing area, a dependable location for spotting Roosevelt Elk year round.

(Southbound: US 101 MP 216.7; Northbound: US 101 MP 217)
A small loop road leads to the Umpqua River Lighthouse and a viewpoint overlooking the mouth of the Umpqua River, dunes and ocean. This is a great whale watching location during migrations and it's not uncommon for whales to frequent the waters during summer and fall. North of the lighthouse sits the former Coast Guard barracks and offices, now housing historical exhibits. The loop road also passes a campground and day use picnic area at Lake Marie with a one-mile nature trail circling the lake.

The cities of North Bend and Coos Bay sit side-by-side south of the bay that wraps around the two. Coos Bay is the Oregon Coast's largest city and is an active port and the region is busy with ship traffic, commercial and recreational fishing, crabbing and clamming. The communities are the gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area for northbound travelers and to the spectacular coastline and State Parks on Cape Arago, one of the top side trips off US 101 on the Oregon Coast. The Conde B. McCullough Memorial Bridge that crosses Coos Bay as you enter North Bend from the north is the largest of the designer's five classic bridges built in 1936 stretching 5,305 feet and offering expansive views of the bay and ship traffic on the busy waterway to pedestrians. Dune buggy tours and ATV rentals are available just north of town. North Bend is also home to Mill Casino and the Coos County Historical Society Museum while Coos Bay boasts the notable Coos Art Museum and the Oregon Coast Historical Railway Museum on the waterfront.

RECOMMENDED SIDE TRIP: Cape Arago & the Charleston to Bandon Tour Route
(Southbound: US 101 MP 236.2; Northbound: US 101 MP 252.7)
A side trip off the Coast Highway between North Bend/Coos Bay and Bandon leads travelers to three beautiful State Parks on Cape Arago. Other attractions along the route include the picturesque small fishing town of Charleston offering charter fishing and crabbing. The main attractions are the three State Parks on Cape Arago: Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago State Parks. Hiking trails connect the three State Parks offering views of cliff side, coves and the Cape Arago Lighthouse. Sunset Bay features a scenic cove beach framed by dramatic sea cliffs with beach access, picnic areas and a campground. The sheer sandstone cliffs at Shore Acres make for dramatic views of crashing surf from viewpoints, paved walkways and hiking trails. The park is the former estate of pioneer timber baron Louis Simpson and the estate's formal gardens are maintained and are open to visitors. Cape Arago State Park is located at the end of the cape with scenic viewpoints, picnic areas, pathways and access to beach and stunning intertidal areas. Viewpoints offer observation of seals and sea lions on Simpson Reef and Shell Island.

The beach at Bandon offers other-worldly views of rock formations and small islands along the scenic shoreline adjacent to this beach town. Beach Loop Drive offers viewpoints and beach access, most notably the Face Rock Viewpoint and Coquille Point. The rocky shore makes this a great place for exploring tide pools and bird watching. A charming Old Town area is adjacent to Bandon's waterfront boardwalk and public dock, popular with recreational crabbers. A short trip north of Bandon offers access to the Coquille River Lighthouse in Bullards Beach State Park. About seven miles south of Bandon is West Coast Game Park Safari, a petting zoo with live exotic animal exhibits and shows.

(US 101 MP 296.4)
Just a five mile side trip off the Coast Highway, the beautiful Cape Blanco Lighthouse is set in a commanding position on Oregon's westernmost point of land. The Park features a campground and over eight miles of hiking trails along the headland, through forests and beaches.

The attractions of this small fishing community include Port Orford Heads State Park with short hiking trails extending along the headland from the Port Orford Lifeboat Station, a Coast Guard facility built in 1934 now serving as a museum. Battle Rock Park offers beach access and interpretive signs about historic Battle Rock at the edge of the shoreline. About 13 miles south of Port Orford is Prehistoric Gardens, a long-time roadside attraction featuring life size dinosaur sculptures along a rainforest trail.

(Day use area: US 101 MP 307.7)
Humbug Mountain rises 1,756 feet from the edge of the shoreline and the Park features a campground, a forested day use picnic area, beach access and hiking trails including a three mile trail to the summit (Trailhead: US 101 MP 306.6).

It was the gold rush that originally attracted fortune hunters to Gold Beach, but today the riches include the wild and scenic Rogue River, miles of sandy beach and nearby access to some of the Coast's most beautiful natural areas. Among the top attractions is Jerry's Rogue Jets offering scenic jet boat tours up the Rogue River revealing wildlife and some whitewater thrills. Fishing charters and guided river fishing trips are popular activities and nearby hiking and sightseeing options include a trail to Oregon's largest Myrtle Tree, the Francis Schrader Old Growth Trail and some of the most scenic sections of the coast along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor just 20 miles south.

(Southbound: US 101 MP 343; Northbound US 101 MP 353.8)
This 12-mile stretch of coast offers easy stops at stunning scenic viewpoints, access to beaches and tide pool areas and hiking trails including one of the most beautiful stretches of the Oregon Coast Trail. You can spend a day or a lifetime enjoying the views and trails. Some of the top stops include (north to south) the Arch Rock Viewpoint, Natural Bridges Cove Viewpoint, Whaleshead Beach State Park, House Rock Viewpoint, Cape Ferrelo Viewpoint, Lone Ranch State Park and Rainbow Rock Viewpoint.

(US 101 MP 355.7)
Wide sandy beaches, rocky outcroppings and the Oregon Coast's largest island just offshore make this a great place for bird and marine life watching or exploring tide pools. The intertidal area is protected as one of Oregon's seven Marine Gardens. The Park features a large campground and day use areas for beach access and picnicking.

The City of Brookings and its unincorporated neighbor, Harbor, offer visitors access to beach, river and port. Harris Beach State Park lies in the north end of Brookings and Harbor lies southwest along the lower Chetco River offering a full service marina. Just eight miles east of Brookings up the Chetco River, Alfred A. Loeb State Park offers access to a Myrtlewood forest and a one-mile hike to the largest stand of Redwoods in Oregon.

Find the Top Attractions on the North Oregon Coast (HERE)
Find the Top Attractions on the Central Oregon Coast (HERE)

Best Stops on the Oregon Coast Between the Oregon Dunes and Brookings