No matter the season, Brookings is a fun little town to visit (though honestly I don’t know anywhere on the Oregon Coast that isn’t awesome, because every town has its own personality with fun offerings). Brookings is the first beach town you hit as you cross the southern Oregon border. If you live inland like we do in the Rogue Valley, we can hardly wait to get out of the car when we see the coastline!
Brookings is beautiful all year long. Sometimes it’s even warmer in Brookings than it is in Medford — which could be connected to its location in Oregon’s famed “Banana Belt.” Rain or shine, there is always something for the family to do in Brookings. So we gathered some of our favorite family-friendly things to do in Brookings. Check out our list below.
Harris Beach State Park
Harris Beach is an amazing spot to view the sunsets. Technically you don’t even have to get out of your car since you can see the horizon right from the parking lot. Along with the beautiful, clean beach you can explore the tide pools where you can see crabs, sea anemones and lots of other sea creatures. There are two areas to view sea life: on the south side of the parking lot, before you go down the hill there is a trail that takes you down into the first tide pool; the second area is located on the north side of the parking lot where there is a trail to take you to the other side of the beach. You just walk over the waterway coming out of the side of the bluff and out to the rocky intertidal to the Harris Beach Marine Garden. And then of course there is the obligatory sand castle building and playing in the water. Remember to always practice beach safety at the Oregon Coast and never turn your back to the ocean.
Harris Beach State Park Campground
This campground is so great, it deserves its own spotlight. We are often on a budget when we visit the Oregon Coast so we stay at the Harris Beach State Park campground, where you get the best of Brookings. The beautiful campground is near a bluff overlooking Harris Beach. Make your reservation early enough so you can get one of the coveted camp sites that have an amazing view of the beach. If you want to visit during the cooler months, the park has inexpensive yurts to rent, with power and heaters. Ilias loves the fact that each yurt has a bunk bed. At the campground they often have the Oregon State Parks Junior Ranger Program in full force —we’ve done it all: drummed with tribespeople; learned about owls, whales and other native birds; made crafts; and listened to some great music. The program is always fun and always educational. The campground also has a big playground and, of course, the vicinity to the beach just tops it off for a great family vacation.
Known as the crown jewel Brookings’ city parks, Azalea Park features gorgeous gardens, athletic fields, a disc golf course, horseshoe pits and so much more. The kids love the playground, much like the structure at Bear Creek Park in Medford. During the spring the flowers are in full bloom, culminating in the annual Azalea Festival on Memorial Day Weekend, which includes a parade, car show, live music and lots of fun events on the Port of Brookings marina. In the summer more live music can be found during the American Music Festival (AMF) summer concert series every other Sunday in Azalea Park. The holiday season is a great time to visit too, with Nature’s Coastal Holiday Festival of Lights Holiday hosting a beautiful walk-through light display run by volunteers in the community.
Port of Brookings Harbor Boardwalk
The Port of Brookings marina has cute storefronts and a coffee shop where you can easily wile away the day. It’s also a good idea to eat fish and chips at The Hungry Clam or Sporthaven Marina and ice cream and fudge at Slugs ‘n Stones. On the weekend they have Saturday Market at the Port with live music and local artists and vendors, every Saturday from the last weekend of May to the second weekend of October; it’s always one of our favorite things to do.
Glass Floats in Gold Beach
From February through April, Gold Beach has their beach treasure hunt, where volunteers hid 125 colorful glass floats along the beach every week. (As if just playing on the South Coast beaches wasn’t fun enough!) There are special float drops during Valentine’s Day, Halloween and the holidays. We have yet to find a float, but that won’t stop us from looking. Plus it’s a wonderful excuse to explore Gold Beach, located less than 30 miles north of Brookings.
Prehistoric Gardens in Port Orford
Less than an hour’s drive north of Brookings is another fun and unique place to visit: the Prehistoric Gardens in Port Orford. Take the self-guided tour through a coastal rainforest, where there are 23 life-size prehistoric dinosaurs ready for photo opps.
You can’t miss the giant Tyrannosaurus rex in the parking lot off Highway 101, the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway. We can’t wait to go back to see the expressions on the face of our youngest, Olivia, because she has never been.
Jerry’s Rogue Jets in Gold Beach
If you haven’t experienced a jet boat cruise, then you need to take an excursion on Jerry’s Rogue Jets! You get a huge adrenaline rush, taking a high-speed jet boat up the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River. Jerry’s is the only commercial jet boat trip operating along the designated Wild and Scenic section of the Rogue River, with tours featuring nature education, historical context and adventure. Choose from 64-, 80-, and 104-mile round-trip tours. Fun fact: Jerry’s Rogue Jets also act as mail boats for the riverside town of Agness, and you can witness the deliveries on a special Historic Mail Route tour. It is a lot of fun and a memory you all won’t forget.
There’s no shortage of fun festivals in Brookings throughout the year. Come for music, crab races and the chowder cook-off at Port of Brookings Harbor Crab Festival in January; a street fair, kids carnival and parade at Azalea Festival in May; the brilliant airborne displays at Southern Oregon Kite Festival in July; reenactments and vendors at the Pirates of the Pacific Festival in August; a fishing competition at Slam’n Salmon Derby in September; Nature’s Coastal Holiday in December; and more. There is something fun and exciting going on every month — all of them kid-friendly!
While grey whales can be seen along the Oregon Coast all year long, there are two official Whale Watch Weeks in winter and spring. During the weeks, you can talk to ‘Whale Spoken Here’ volunteers at 24 designated locations and learn how to spot the sea creatures from far away. The weeks correlate to the migration patterns, taking place the last week of December and the last week in March. Harris Beach State Park and Cape Ferrelo are the official Whale Watch Week locations near Brookings; both are great spots to look for gray whales year-round. For more details, visit Oregon State Parks.
The 12-mile Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor is a gem of the South Coast, particularly the secluded cove called Secret Beach. There are two ways to get to Secret Beach. The shorter trail starts at a small parking spot on the side of the highway at the end of the guardrail north of the Natural Bridges viewpoint; take the right of two trails for a short hike down to the beach. Alternatively, you can hike from the Thunder Cove Trail. Plan to go at low tide and you can reach all three beaches, plus waterfalls, sea stacks and just stunning views.
Editor’s Note: For travel guides and personal trip recommendations, visit the Oregon State Welcome Center in Brookings, open year-round at Crissey Field State Recreation Site.