: Oregon State Parks

Accessible Adventures to the Oregon Dunes and Beyond

Enjoy the sand, shore and campgrounds on a disability-friendly three-day trip along the Oregon Coast.
August 31, 2023

From wheel-ready trails to viewing platforms, everyone can enjoy the rugged and rural beauty of the Oregon Dunes, an adventure-lover’s wonderland of soft, sandy hills that hug the Central Oregon Coast’s middle. The dynamic and ever-changing dunescape stretches 40 miles from just south of Florence to the Coos Bay area. Here’s a three-day itinerary — and a handy map — for hanging out in the dunes and enjoying outdoor and indoor fun.

Woman in wheelchair faces bridge over bay
Enjoy the accessible viewpoint overlooking the Siuslaw River Bridge at the Siuslaw River Bridge Interpretive Site in Historic Old Town Florence. Meg Trendle / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Day 1: Gateway to the Dunes

Start out 11 miles south of Florence at the Oregon Dunes Overlook and Day-Use Area, a lively spot to watch riders on all-terrain vehicles and take in the salty breezes of the Pacific Ocean. Buy a day-use pass online and cruise a half-mile paved trail to wheelchair-accessible viewing platforms. Bring a picnic to dine alfresco at the roll-under picnic tables under towering spruce trees. 

Want to join in the sandy fun? Several dune-buggy outfitters can accommodate wheelchair users in a variety of ways, including helping you into the vehicle or installing hand controls you provide. Some of the vehicles even come with harness restraints rather than simple seat belts. Call ahead to ask about your particular needs. 

If the weather is cooperating, take out your own kayak — or rent one for drop-off from Coastal Kayaks and SUP Rentals — at the accessible Eel Lake boat launch at William M. Tugman State Park. You can also try for trout and bass from the accessible fishing dock.

Keep in mind, this region is vibrant and verdant because of its precipitation. Fear not— there are many indoor options to balance your outdoor excursions. The Umpqua Discovery Center in Reedsport offers accessible exhibits on the region’s natural and cultural history. Roll down the ramp behind the center to The Schooner Inn Cafe, which offers indoor and outdoor river views. 

For accommodation, consider the warmth and comfort of the ADA-compliant yurt at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. The park features an adjacent cafe and gift shop — you can purchase your favorite bottles after sampling local vintages at the wine bar, too.

Overlook on a bluff next to trees and a bay
Jacob Pace / Eugene, Cascades & Coast

Day 2:  Ships, Gardens and History in Coos Bay

Continue your journey by heading southward to Coos Bay, the largest city on the Oregon Coast and one of its most historic ports. Begin the day with a leisurely stroll on the accessible paths of the Coos Bay Boardwalk, a bustling marine hub dotted with recreational boats and industrial ships — as well as home to cormorants, herons and more. Stop for tacos or waffles at nearby zero-entry Front Street Food Trucks, where there’s no barrier like a threshold or stairs to enter.

Next take in the lush beauty of Mingus Park’s lake loop through vibrant Japanese gardens along an easy-to-navigate paved path that meanders through an arboretum and along the water. If you’re feeling more adventurous, try out the new accessible kayak launch at nearby John Topits Park, where no gas-powered boats are allowed. 

On a cool day, you might head to the Coos History Museum — which offers free kids’ activities every second Saturday — for an entertaining and educational experience. Across the parking lot is the new waterfront district, with its own boardwalk, boutiques and eateries. Don’t miss a sweet treat at the ice cream counter at Face Rock Creamery.

Nightfall brings with it the inviting comfort of The Mill Casino’s accessible rooms for a good night’s rest in nearby North Bend; ask for a room with a water view to enjoy the sight of the bay.

People look at ocean on wooden overlook deck with signage
Mason Vranish / Alamy Stock Photo

Day 3: Coastal Vistas and Marine Life in Charleston and Beyond

On the third day of your journey, experience the breathtaking views of the coastal cliffs west of Coos Bay. Wander along scenic Cape Arago Highway 540, a 12-mile drive with arresting coastal vistas. The Simpson Reef Overlook’s accessible trail is a pathway to some of the most stunning coastal panoramas the region offers. Loop back around to Shore Acres State Park, a former timber baron’s mansion that features year-round fun with holiday lights, whale watching and 5 acres of gorgeous formal gardens. Park for a small fee and take the accessible trail overlooking the windswept cliffs. Basic wheelchairs are available to use for free from the gift shop. 

Don’t miss the hands-on Charleston Marine Life Center (open Wednesdays through Saturdays) in the fishing town of Charleston on the way back to Coos Bay. Kids love the giant whale and other marine mammal skeletons, and all the aquatic species on display. For a fun dining spot, check out The Boat Fish & Chips in Coos Bay. The restaurant — on a real boat — overlooks a historic rail yard and has an ADA-compliant ramp and barrier-free access to the patio. 

Ease into bed at Edgewater Inn & Suites in Coos Bay, which has smooth flooring, grab bars and free turning space. The waterfront hotel is listed with Wheel the World, a disability-travel site that will soon be rolling out details on more Oregon accommodations as part of a recent grant project.

If you’re planning to extend your trip — highly recommended — and venture farther along Oregon’s 363-mile coastline, check out these listings for even more accessibility options on the Oregon Coast, and one family’s experience with accessibility fun on the South Coast.

About The

Shasta Kearns Moore
Shasta Kearns Moore lives in a Portland suburb with her husband, twin boys and backyard menagerie. Her family loves to travel and has been all over the world. Kearns Moore publishes a weekly newsletter and podcast on issues affecting those raising disabled and neurodivergent children at MedicalMotherhood.com.

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