Rocky spires reach skyward along the beach in Bandon. Sheer cliffs meet surging waves with explosive results at Cape Arago. An otherworldly landscape of seemingly endless sand dunes, some as tall as 500 feet, spread out over two miles inland from the ocean in the Oregon Dunes. The Oregon Coast offers many amazing views of these and other spectacular natural areas that can be enjoyed by even the most casual sightseer.
While the stunning viewpoints are infinite, I’ve selected five favorite, easy-to-reach viewpoints on the Southern Oregon Coast that no traveler should miss. All of these offer inspiring views just steps from parking areas and most are wheelchair accessible too.
The Oregon Dunes
They stretch for approximately 40 miles of the coast from Florence to North Bend. The Oregon Dunes are the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America, and this unique landscape is accented by golden beach grasses waving in the wind, sapphire blue freshwater lakes and emerald oases of trees. The easiest viewpoint to survey the Oregon Dunes can be found just south of Florence at the Oregon Dunes Overlook day use area on Coast Highway 101. Viewing platforms, a half-mile of paved walkways and picnic areas overlook the landscape with the ocean in the distance. Viewpoints are wheelchair accessible, but hikers will find dune access and the trailhead to the three-mile Oregon Dunes Loop Trail to the beach and back. The Oregon Dunes Day Use Area requires a US Forest Service day-use pass, annual Northwest Forest Pass or Oregon Pacific Coast Passport.
Shore Acres State Park
Stand on the edge of a sheer cliff at the edge of the Pacific and watch the waves pound this stunningly sculpted sandstone shoreline. Paved walking paths follow the edge of Cape Arago with one amazing scene after another around each bend in the trail. Interesting rock formations and reefs tilt to and fro, revealing an active and fascinating geological history. Shore Acres was once the estate of timber baron Louis Simpson and an observation building on the site of the former mansion offers an escape from stormy weather and includes interpretive panels describing the history of the property. Not far away are the formal gardens of the estate, now meticulously maintained and open to the public. Shore Acres is the middle of three State Parks along this stretch of the Cape Arago Highway and an easy 2.4-mile hiking trail connects them. Hike the entire route between Sunset Bay State Park and Cape Arago State Park to discover each amazing viewpoint along the way. A stop at the Simpson Reef Overlook is also a must. It’s one of the best places on the Oregon Coast to see sea lions, whose barking usually echoes throughout the area. Shore Acres State Park requires a day-use fee, an annual Oregon State Parks pass or Oregon Pacific Coast Passport.
It’s one of Oregon’s most spectacular beaches adjacent to any coastal town, and Bandon’s Coquille Point surveys the entire scene of sea stack spires, small islands and rock formations at the edge of the shore. A paved walking trail winds over this promontory that overlooking the beach and prime seabird habitat that is protected as part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Bring your binoculars to spot Tufted Puffins, Common Murres, Pigeon Guillemots and other seabirds and scan the rocky shore for seals. Interpretive panels describe the area’s wildlife and Native American history. Watch the waves as they surge through the arches of Elephant Rock just to the west and crash on prominent Face Rock to the south or Table Rock to the north. Coquille Point is located at Kronenberg County Park at the west end of 11th St. NW.
Drive five miles west of Coast Highway 101 near the Sixes River and you reach the westernmost point in the State of Oregon. Cape Blanco juts a mile and a half into the Pacific and at its point, it’s crowned with Oregon’s oldest lighthouse, a classic white-washed, red-domed beauty that stands nearly 250 feet above the sea. Views to the south stretch out from the cove beach below the cape to the offshore Gull Rock and Castle Rock near the mouth of the Sixes River. The expansive view south includes nearby Needle Rock to Port Orford Heads with Humbug Mountain rising up in the distance. Trails from the lighthouse lead down to the beach to the south and north to the Cape Blanco State Park campground. You can drive to parking near the lighthouse when gates are up, but times are limited and seasonal, open between April and October with gates closing at 3:30 p.m. (closed Tuesdays).
Arch Rock & Spruce Islands
The Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor encompasses many stunning viewpoints, but none as accessible and few as rewarding as the Arch Rock and Spruce Islands viewpoint. Visitors can enjoy amazing views just steps from the parking area along easy walking paths. To the north and south are picturesque Spruce Islands; towering rock formations and islands at the edge of the shore sprouting Sitka Spruce trees. To the west is Arch Rock just offshore. This is a great spot for catching a glimpse of whales or watching crashing waves. The color of the waters here can be entrancing with shallows of emerald greens and deep blue to the west. Several picnic tables make this a nice stop to linger. Paths are mostly paved, though somewhat irregular from tree root intrusion.