Explore Harris Beach State Park

November 6, 2015 (Updated November 6, 2015)
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Shoreline and intertidal rocks between the park’s north beach and south beach
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It’s famous for sandy beaches, scenic rock formations, colorful tide pools, outstanding bird watching and frequently seen marine life. A visit to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings offers up the best of the breathtaking Oregon Coast with a wide variety of recreational and touring options nearby. Whether you have a weekend or a week, the attractions around Harris Beach will offer plenty to keep you busy and will leave you wanting to come back for more.

Scenic Beaches: Miles of sandy beach provide the perfect playground for family activities and offer an inspiring setting for a stroll or a nature-lovers retreat at Harris Beach State Park. Its clusters of near-shore and offshore rock formations make this stretch of coast a dream destination for outdoor photographers at sunset. The park offers access to north and south beaches separated by one of Oregon’s most accessible and vibrant rocky intertidal areas. The main day-use parking area just north of the park’s campground offers access to about a half-mile of sandy beach with numerous near-shore rock formations. A trail from the small parking area near the park’s entrance leads to South Beach, a nearly mile long stretch of sandy shoreline.

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Tntertidal rocks and coastline looking north from Harris Beach

Bird Watching: Just offshore from Harris Beach is Goat Island, also known as Bird Island, a nod to the massive seabird population it supports. It’s actually the largest island along the Oregon Coast and is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, as are many of the smaller rocks along this stretch of beach. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 seabirds nest on Goat Island, representing 11 species, including nearly a quarter of the state’s population of Leach’s Storm Petrels. Tufted Puffins are also among the seabirds that can be spotted here. While even casual beach goers can enjoy wildlife encounters, a pair of binoculars will give you an eye-opening glimpse of this remarkable natural area, while serious bird watchers tote spotting scopes in hopes of sighting species to check off their list.

Tide Pool Exploring: A stunning intertidal area, one of Oregon’s seven designated Marine Gardens, is just a short walk along a trail near the Harris Beach campground entrance. The beautiful rocky cove features Arch Rock, where waves rush through an arched opening in the rock. Visit at low tide and tread carefully to observe sea stars, green anemones, hermit crabs and many other fascinating creatures, but remember this is a protected area and no creature or material may be removed.

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Ochre Sea Star in Harris Beach State Park intertidal area, one of Oregon’s seven Marine Garden protected areas.

Walking and Hiking: Scenic walking paths, sensational viewpoints and spectacular hiking trails are easily accessed at Harris Beach and just minutes from the park. For casual strolls, the Park’s Sunset Point Trail follows much of this scenic coastline, connecting viewpoint overlooks, the South Beach Trail and a walking/biking trail that leads 1.2 miles to downtown Brookings.  A rocky peninsula just over two miles to the south of Harris Beach comprises Chetco Point Park that features easy trails, great views and access to beach and intertidal areas. Look for seals and birdlife among the numerous rocky outcroppings. More serious hikers should not miss the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor that lies just north of Harris Beach. This 12-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail is one of the most scenic in the state. You can hike the entire 12-mile stretch or pick a portion of the trail from several of the viewpoint stops. Whaleshead Beach to the Thomas Creek Bridge is a moderate three-mile hike (six miles out and back) that rewards hikers with scenic views and a variety of landscapes including the intriguing Indian Sands. Boardman Corridor stops such as Natural Bridges, Thunder Rock Cove and the Arch Rock Viewpoint offer impressive views just steps or short walks from parking areas. Hikers can traverse a strikingly fragrant Myrtle grove, then connect to a one-mile loop trail to explore Oregon’s largest stand of Redwoods in Loeb State Park, a 20-minute drive from Harris Beach up the north side of the Chetco River. Myrtle trees, some over 200 years old, shade the three-quarter-mile Riverview Trail. It’s a full sensory experience as aromas reminiscent of eucalyptus and camphor wood fill the air as you walk along the Chetco River.

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Arch Rock

Paddle Trips: Watery adventures await paddlers who can uniquely explore this ravishingly diverse and dazzlingly scenic stretch of the South Oregon Coast. Even beginning paddlers can experience these unique seascapes and natural areas by participating in an expedition guided by South Coast Tours, a paddle tour company. In two-hour or four-hour tours, you can paddle the seacoast of Brookings and Chetco Point. More experienced paddlers can join longer tours of the captivating arches and coves of the Samuel H. Boardman Corridor. Kayak fishing tours, overnight expeditions and paddleboard tours are also offered.

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Dining: Superfly Martini Bar & Grill is a popular spot to grab a meal between your Brookings-area explorations. The restaurant offers a nice menu of well thought out preparations at surprisingly affordable prices in a pub atmosphere. Pepper-crusted and seared rare Yellowfin Tuna is served over sweet and mildly spicy yakisoba noodles for $12. A Superfly signature is Chicken Bacon Taters, a warm flour tortilla filled with grilled chicken, bacon and fries with a house-made chipotle sauce. At $7, it’s a filling, flavorful meal and like the menu says, “don’t knock it till you try it!” Superfly also features their own house-distilled vodka in a wide variety of traditional and fanciful cocktails. For those looking for fine dining, The Black Trumpet Bistro offers an Italian-centered menu in the heart of downtown Brookings. Other choices range from sushi at Pacific Sushi & Grill to pizza at Zola’s Pizzeria or, for a gastro-pub setting, Oxenfre Public House offers happy hour specials 4-6pm weekdays and a late night snack menu after 9pm.

Imbibing: Craft brewing fans will also want to consider Chetco Brewing Company in Brookings. A short drive northeast of downtown Brookings leads you to Brandy Peak Distillery that has been creating award-winning pear brandy and other spirits for the past 20 years.

Where to stay: The Harris Beach State Park campground accommodates RVs or tent camping and also offers six yurt rentals, while nearby Brookings’ hotels put this recreational gem of a park just minutes away. For beachfront accommodations, the Best Western Plus Oceanfront Inn offers views and beach access north of the Chetco River. Nearby is the Ocean Suites Motel. Just one mile from Harris Beach State Park is Spindrift Motor Inn in north Brookings.

About The
Author

Gary Hayes
Gary Hayes is publisher of Coast Explorer Magazine and founder of Explorer Media Group, a travel media and marketing company based in Seaside. Gary is a native Oregonian whose earliest memories include working on his grandfather’s fishing boat on the Oregon Coast. Now living in Cannon Beach, Gary is an extensively published photographer and writer focusing on the Oregon Coast and the Northwest's food and wine culture. He also serves as Executive Director of the SavorNW Wine Awards.

Featured in this story

Harris Beach State Park
Brookings, Oregon Coast
Superfly Distillery and Restaurant
Brookings, Oregon Coast
Chetco Brewing Company
Brookings, Oregon Coast
Best Western Plus Beachfront Inn
Brookings, Oregon Coast
Spindrift Motor Inn
Brookings, Oregon Coast