Escaping the Heat: Tour Tips for a Coastal Cooldown

It’s hot and humid, and you can’t park downtown, because there’s a game. Fortunately, Oregon has a ton of coastal parks spanning the length of the state, so it can be hard to decide where to go first. To help narrow your choices, The Advocate has come up with a short list of five jaw-droppers to get you on the road and off to the coast. If you think we left one off that is the absolute bestest, let us know on Facebook and maybe, just maybe, we will include it next time.

Shore Acres State Park
This place is unique in that it was formerly the estate of timber baron, Louis J. Simpson. Shore Acres sits atop sandstone cliffs affording fantastic views of the wave-carved shoreline. Grey whales are not an uncommon sight and can be witnessed during any weather from the observation building.

During the warm season, multiple rose gardens and a Japanese-themed garden offer blooms and contain plants from all over the world. After walking the paths, smelling the flowers, and getting plenty of info from volunteers, take a relaxing stroll down the path to Simpson Beach.

Located on Cape Arago Highway, 13 miles south of Coos Bay. There is a parking fee, but camping receipts from other state parks will suffice as well as an Oregon Pacific Coast Passport.

Bob Straub State Park and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge
Bob Straub is a great park because you get an amazing beach and ocean experience with a coastal marsh and woodland thrown in for good measure. After parking, one climbs over a large sand dune to find a clean beach and enormous rock formation out among the waves. After running your dog along this dog-friendly beach, make your way down to the Nestucca River where it kisses the sea.

From there, enjoy a network of trails winding through a natural area of marshes and woodlands. Much of the hiking is riverside, so keep your eyes open for the fabled 50-pound Nestucca River Chinook salmon. If salmon really catch your fancy, bring a rod because this place is fishing friendly.

Located a little over 1 hour from Salem, Highway 101 cuts right through the Wildlife Refuge offering a number of entry points to this awesome coastal wonderland. Parking is free.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
Oregon Dunes has it all – from OHV access and horseback riding to canoeing and fishing, this 40-mile stretch of coast boasts one of the largest coastal sand dune ranges in North America. Sand dunes tower up to 500 feet above sea level and harbor over 30 lakes and multiple rivers within the recreation area.

Numerous hiking trails exist within the forested reaches of the area with fishing opportunities abound. Coastal wetlands offer the opportunity to view interesting amphibian, bird, and plant life not found further inland. If you want to stay the night, there are a number of camping sites and cabins available to rent.

Located just north of Coos Bay, Highway 101 offers easy access to the numerous drop in point along the 40-mile park. Because Oregon Dunes is so large, dropping by the office is recommended to grab a map.

Harris Beach State Park
If you seek seclusion and solitude, this may not be your first choice with 155 camp and yurt sites. However, if you accept that lots of people love this place, you may realize why there are so many places to stay. Offering Oregon’s largest coastal island, Bird Island, there are droves of avian buddies, some like the tufted puffin which are quite rare these days.

The shore has many a rocky outcropping containing tide pools rife with interesting sea life. Migrating grey whales can be seen in spring and winter along with seals and sea lions throughout the year. With multiple hiking and biking trails, one can fish the evening away after a day full of activity.

Located on the north end of Brookings, Harris Beach is close to the OR/CA boarder right off of Highway 101.

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Awe-inspiring is the best cliché to describe this amazing park. Snaking up the coast are numerous rock formations including Arch Rock, a point of reference for Native American tribes since time immemorial, and Natural Bridges, a collection of seven arched rocks and blowholes. If this wasn’t enough, the park is home to 300-year-old Sitka spruce trees.

All of these wondrous features can be witnessed as one hikes along 27 miles of Oregon Coast Trail. Between forests and rock features, the trail dips down to cove beaches where spectators can enjoy the birds perched on sea stacks standing among the waves. If it is a lazy day you are seeking, grab the old fishing rod and drop a line.

Located just north of Harris Beach the Corridor is directly adjacent to Highway 101 and offers numerous drop-in points.

By Anthony Vitale