The Most Spectacular Coastal Sights Between Gold Beach and Brookings
By Gary Hayes
Published: 07/18/2019  Updated: 08/06/2019
Photos by Gary Hayes

A 30-mile stretch of highway between two of the Oregon Coast's southernmost towns packs a powerful punch of scenic attractions that shouldn't be missed.

One of the most beautifully rugged and secluded portions of the Oregon Coast lies between two of the coast's southern-most towns. Driving between Gold Beach and Brookings only takes about 30 minutes, but this 30-mile stretch of coastline is jam-packed with scenic wonders that are worth a full day's exploring or a week of hiking. There are easily accessible dramatic overlooks with rock formations and small islands, magically picturesque coves, rainforest-covered capes and hikes to secluded beaches.

The scenic wonders begin as soon as you start the drive south from Gold Beach. Consider the following stops as you explore this stretch of Oregon's South Coast.

Turtle Rock

Just south of downtown Gold Beach, the highway crosses the Hunter Creek Bridge where Turtle Rock can be seen just west of the highway. Pull over at the small parking area just to the south where beach access offers a short walk to the edge of the creek where you'll find the best view of the turtle shaped rock. Before you continue the drive, get a good look at Cape Sebastian looming to the south.

Cape Sebastian

In a short distance, the highway begins to climb the cape. Watch for the entrance to Cape Sebastian State Park, a good stop whether you want to just take in the expansive views or devote part of your day to a hike. From the south parking lot you have views of up to 50 miles of coastline to the south dominated by Hunters Island just offshore and multiple rock formations on the beach. Even if you're not hiking, just a few steps down the trail to the west offers expansive views to the north with Humbug Mountain looming on the horizon nearly 30 miles away. If you take the time to hike this trail, it will lead you through thick Sitka Spruce rainforest to the edge of the rocky cape, then around to the beach at Hunters Cove, approximately a three-mile down and back.

Meyers Beach

Just a five-minute drive to the south, you'll find Meyers Beach with its scenic intertidal rock formations and easy beach access points from roadside pullouts. The beach makes for great walking, especially at low tide. This is one of the top spots for windsurfing on the Oregon Coast, so you're likely to catch some of the action if winds are right. As you continue the drive south, you'll pass and cross the winding Pistol River and within 10 minutes enter the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, a stunning 12-mile stretch of coastline with several great viewpoints and trailheads.

Arch Rock & Spruce Islands Viewpoint

The first must-stop within the Boardman corridor is the Arch Rock Picnic Area where a short loop trail leads around this promontory with captivating views north, south and west. Arch Rock can be seen from the western end of the loop trail just offshore, while north and south vantage points offer views of rocks and small islands some of which manage to support Sitka Spruce trees before the sheer rock walls plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

Thunder Rock Cove

Hiking trails connect all of the viewpoints along the Boardman corridor so you can choose just about any length of hike you'd like to take, or you can just car hop between some of the best viewpoints. One of the best short hikes, to Thunder Rock Cove, is just a mile from the Arch Rock viewpoint. Look for the trailhead on the west side of the highway at mile marker 345.8. A short walk down the trail rewards visitors with views of a picturesque cove with arched openings in rocks and access to a small promontory with nice ocean views. Continuing further north on this trail leads about three-quarters of a mile to Miner Creek and secluded Secret Beach.

Natural Bridges

Approximately a quarter-mile further south, another non-descript highway-side parking area offers access to the Natural Bridges viewpoint. It's just a few steps from the parking area and offers views of a fairytale-like cove framed by a basalt rock wall with two arches opening to the ocean creating natural bridges. You can hike south from here or find additional trailheads just south on the highway that lead to secluded China Beach; a viewpoint of the 345-foot tall Thomas Creek Bridge and Indian Sands, a unique geological phenomenon of rolling dunes perched on a bluff high above the ocean.

Whaleshead Beach

At mile-marker 349.1, you'll find the entrance to the Whaleshead Beach Picnic Area. It's a steep and bumpy drive down a gravel road to the parking area, but it offers easy beach access and views of offshore rocks including its namesake that looks like a whale's head popping out of the water for a view.

House Rock Viewpoint

The House Rock Viewpoint (mile marker 351.2) offers ocean views and access to trails that will lead you north to Whaleshead Beach or south to Cape Ferrelo. You can also drive to Cape Ferrelo for ocean views and trail access including a nice one-mile loop trail that circles the cape, offering great views as it passes through meadows of wildflowers in spring.

Lone Ranch

The southernmost stop in the Boardman corridor is the Lone Ranch Picnic Area (mile-marker 352.6), one of the most accessible stops along this stretch of coastline. A paved trail leads to the beach with views of many offshore and intertidal rock formations. Plan your visit for a low tide to explore tidepools or walk the extended beach north toward Cape Ferrelo or south toward Black Point. A trailhead to the north climbs Cape Ferrelo where you can connect with its loop trail.

Harris Beach State Park

Just north of downtown Brookings, Harris Beach State Park offers sandy beaches, scenic rock formations, colorful tide pools and outstanding bird watching. The large day-use area features a paved path to the beach. At the south end of this beach is Arch Rock that shelters an intertidal area designated one of Oregon's seven Marine Garden protected areas. Just offshore from Harris Beach is Goat Island, also known as Bird Island, a nod to the massive seabird population it hosts during the nesting season estimated at more than 100,000 birds.
The Most Spectacular Coastal Sights Between Gold Beach and Brookings