: Erik Urdahl

Sand, Seafood and Surf in Coos Bay

October 23, 2012 (Updated August 19, 2019)

The towns of Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston, located on or not far from Highway 101 in the southern part of the state, are called Oregon’s Adventure Coast for a reason. Surrounded by thick forests and perched on an ocean bay, Coos Bay is the gateway to some of the Oregon Coast’s best outdoor fun. Here are some of the highlights.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area by Justin Myers

Do the Dunes. Just to the north, you’ll find the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area Visitor Center, in Reedsport. The enormous wind-sculpted dunes, some as high as 500 feet, sprawl along a 40-mile stretch of coast. Explore the sandy terrain along hiking trails or fat bike routes. For some thrills, take to the sand on a dune buggy ride or rented ATV. There are plenty of ways to explore the dunes like a local. Shake the sand from your shoes for a visit to the Umpqua River Lighthouse, just a few miles south, where you can learn more about this section of coastline and its maritime history. May through October, you can book a tour and climb the spiral staircase to the top of the 65-foot tower.

Crabbing by Justin Myers

Feeling Crabby? Get a taste of Oregon’s official state crustacean — Dungeness crab —  the DIY way. Most local fishing shops supply the necessary licenses and equipment. Toss your pot in at one of the designated crabbing areas, or see the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s guidelines on where to crab and how to crab in Oregon, including regulations, current conditions and gear. You can also buy fresh seafood from the boats at the bustling Charleston Marina Complex, home to one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in the state.

Stand up paddling by Justin Myers

Surf’s up! Brave the Oregon waves on a surfboard. Waxer’s Surf Shop in Coos Bay offers lessons for all levels and provides everything you need — wetsuit, booties, gloves, hood, board and, most importantly, enthusiastic encouragement. You can book a lesson too. Locals love Bastendorff Beach outside of Charleston. Three state parks within minutes of Coos Bay — Sunset Beach, Cape Arago and Shore Acres — are also favorites for surfing, boogie boarding and even some adventurous stand-up paddleboarders.

Fish & chips by Justin Myers

Taste and Sip the Coast. Here on the South Coast, ocean-to-table isn’t just a phrase — it’s the best way to enjoy your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Try Shark Bites Café for tasty tacos, burgers and seafood sandwiches. Hilltop House Restaurant & Lounge offers beautiful views of the Haynes Inlet and a menu rich in fresh fish. Try the award-winning chowder at High Tide Cafe in Charleston, with views of the estuary on the outdoor deck. Order up a white clam Neapolitan-style pizza on the patio at Front Street Provisioners, a cafe and wine shop on the historic waterfront in Coos Bay. Craft brew lovers will enjoy the laid-back vibe at 7 Devils Brewing Company. And for super-fresh fish and chips, your top bets are Fisherman’s Grotto in Charleston and Fishermen’s Seafood Market in Coos Bay. Find other tasty inspirations along the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail.

Holiday Lights at Shore Acres by Nickie Bournias

Don’t Miss These Events. Held at the Mill Casino in mid-September, the Mill-Luck Salmon Celebration is an annual celebration of Native American and Coquille Tribal culture, with free access to Native vendors, canoe races, canoe exhibitions and rides, Native drummers and dancers and more. Late September brings the annual Prefontaine Run (10K and 2-mile routes), in honor of hometown track icon Steve Prefontaine. (You can take a selfie at the Pre mural and learn more about the legend along the Tour De Pre.) Live Culture Coast in October is a newer event featuring the best of the food, drink, outdoor adventures and arts activities in the region, through fermentation workshops, pairings, discussions and performances. Coos Bay’s largest and longest-standing event is their holiday lights display at Shore Acres State Park, held Thanksgiving through New Years. 


If you go: 

Coos Bay is a little over two hours southwest of Eugene. If a road trip isn’t in the cards, consider flying into the Southwest Oregon Regional Airport in North Bend, the only commercial airport on the Oregon Coast. Plan your trip around any of the year-round events — farmers markets, crab feeds, wine walks and more — on this part of the South Coast year-round. 


About The

Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.

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