Three for One
This is the time of year when I refuse to let the grass grow under my feet because there is simply so much to see and do across Oregon. That’s especially true along a unique section of the Oregon coastline where you’ll find three glorious Oregon State Parks called Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago.
I am thrilled with each visit to this region. You actually get three state parks for the price of one vacation and each is within two miles of each other and connected by road, bike trail, and hiking path. Each park is distinct, easy to reach and offers unique perspectives on the coastal Oregon’s recreation experience.
Sunset Bay is a small overnight campground, with seventy-two tent sites and sixty-three trailer sites. The park also features a hiker/biker camp, plus ten group tent camps. Hot showers and flush toilets are available to all campers and provide a welcome comfort zone. Legend has it Sunset Bay was also used by pirates, and a glance toward the ocean suggests the reason: The small bay is set inside steep sandstone bluffs and has a narrow passage to the sea that’s difficult to discern from the ocean.
A mile away, a much different environment waits for you at Shore Acres State Park. Here, the wildness is tamed at a park land that puts a smile on your face. You see, Shore Acres is the state park system’s only botanical garden. Shore Acres, built in 1906, was once a private estate famed for gardens of flowering trees, plants, and shrubs brought from around the world aboard the sailing ships of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis B. Simpson, as well as a one-acre pond and shimmering waterfall. Simpson developed the summer home into a showplace capped by the towering presence of a three-story mansion. The grounds originally contained five acres of formal gardens, but fire destroyed the mansion in 1921.
A short but easy one-mile hike south takes you to Cape Arago, famous as a resort for Steller sea lions. Well, perhaps “resort” is a bit of a stretch, but the fact is that Shell Island (adjacent to the cape) is the largest Steller haul-out and calving site along the entire West Coast. Any time is a fine time to visit the many viewpoints along Cape Arago’s main hiking path overlooking Shell Island, but keep in mind that the offshore rocks, islands, and reefs are part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge system, which is closed to public access. So here’s a tip: Bring binoculars or a spotting scope so you’ll have a front-row seat into the refuge proper and a chance to view fascinating wildlife behaviors.
I try to make this collection of wonderful parks a three- or four-day stay–I like to linger and just loaf around the trails, viewpoints, and colorful gardens that this unique Oregon destination offers.
About the Author: Grant McOmie
Grant McOmie is a Pacific Northwest broadcast journalist, teacher and author who writes and produces stories and special programs about the people, places, outdoor activities and environmental issues of the Pacific Northwest. A fifth generation Oregon native, Grant’s roots run deepest in the central Oregon region near Prineville and Redmond where his family continues to live.
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