No matter the season, Oregon’s pristine coastline draws visitors from all around the world. One of the most unsung, uncrowded and unspoiled areas is the small town of Port Orford, a bustling fishing harbor that’s recently become a playground for outdoor enthusiasts. From the westernmost point of Oregon, you can dabble in all kinds of outdoor adventuring — from birding, biking and hiking along quiet coastal trails to kiteboarding, horseback riding and fishing the region’s lakes, bay and ocean. Your biggest challenge will be curating your to-do list to fit into one long weekend. Here’s how to do it.
Day 1: Walks, whales and a killer dinner
Upon your arrival in Port Orford — about five hours south of Portland along Highway 101, midway between Coos Bay and Brookings — get the literal lay of the land by hiking the 3.5-mile loop at Cape Blanco, where you can enjoy 360-degree views of the ocean and coastline. If you’re lucky and plan your trip between spring and summer or late fall, you can marvel at the hundreds of gray whales as they migrate between Alaska and Mexico. Whale-watching is especially great in late August and September at Port Orford Bay and Battle Rock Park, due to unusually rich kelp and algae beds.
Other nearby hikes include the family-friendly Port Orford Heads (1 mile, easy), where you’ll find turquoise ocean views and a large population of blacktail deer — make sure to keep distance and keep local wildlife healthy by packing out everything you bring in. Experienced hikers may plan a trek to the top of Humbug Mountain (six miles, difficult with 1,700 feet of elevation), which affords more views of unspoiled coastline. When you’ve walked yourself out, check into your private cabin at Port Orford’s WildSpring Guest Habitat, a rustically charming bed-and-breakfast and eco-resort tucked away on five acres of residential forest. Once you’re unpacked, trek into town and treat yourself to dinner at Redfish, an upscale restaurant with ocean views that are nearly as dramatic as those from Cape Blanco. For an inspired nightcap, kick of your shoes and stroll the hard-packed mocha-colored beaches of Port Orford’s bay as you watch a magical sunset.
Day 2: Road trips, water sports and world-famous links
Wake early and carb-load on WildSpring’s morning breakfast bar, because you’re going to need the energy. Hop in the car for a short 15-minute drive north to the town of Langlois, where you can windsurf, kite-board or kayak the pleasant waters of Floras Lake. If you’re a novice, the professionals at Floras Lake Kite & Windsurf have knowledgeable instructors on hand to rent you equipment or get you started with lessons. Likewise, Port Orford-based South Coast Tours offers guided kayak, stand-up paddleboard and kayak fishing tours of the nearby Rogue River, as well as surf lessons and van tours of the area. Taking a tour is a great worry-free option, since all instruction and gear are included, and expert guides will take you to their favorite spots.
If you’ve been craving a few quiet hours on the links, you’re rich with options because the Port Orford region has five golf courses all within an hour’s drive, including the incomparable Scotch-like Bandon Dunes, an 18-hole course that hugs the ocean. Or perhaps group activities are more your thing, in which case a 30-minute trip south to Jerry’s Rogue Jets in Gold Beach for a guided group whitewater jet-boat tour up the Rogue River is a must-do. On your return to Port Orford, swing by for a pizza and a beer at The Salty Dawg, a treasure just off Highway 101 — and if you still have the energy, stick around and belt out your favorite karaoke number with your fellow weekenders and the town’s locals.
Day 3: Bikes, brunch and birds
Start your final day by early exploring the Wild Rivers Scenic Bikeway, a 60-mile cycling route that can be digested into short customizable routes that take you to the historic Cape Blanco Lighthouse and the Redfish Rocks Marine Reserve, or provide you with views of the waves as they crash along the region’s rocky shores. When your well-earned hunger comes for you, bike over to TJ’s Cafe and Diner and settle into one of the sparkly red naugahyde booths for a bloody Mary and a proper eggs Benedict. But before you say goodbye to your three-day Port Orford stay, head back to WildSpring one last time to explore the grounds and its forest of 100-foot trees. This farewell stroll is also a must if you’re a birder, as the resort is one of eight official sites on the Oregon Coast Birding Trail. See if you can’t spot yourself an orange-crowned warbler, a dark-eyed junco or even a wild turkey.
If you go:
Find more lodging options, from RV parks and campgrounds to cozy bed and breakfasts.
Solid dining options include Tasty Kate’s (pastries, pot pies and tamales), Golden Harvest Herban Farm and Bakery (sandwiches, soups and ice cream with plenty of vegan options) and Mr. Ed’s Espresso (coffee, pastries and live weekend music).