A Cool Winter Trip to the Southern Oregon Coast

KC Badger,  Photographer
March 12, 2020

The Oregon Coast doesn’t get any less fun in the winter — some may argue it’s even better. During the cooler seasons, there are less crowds and plenty of opportunities for adventure. At the Southern Oregon Coast, nicknamed “Oregon’s Banana Belt” for its mild weather year-round, outdoor recreation abounds with hiking, fishing and dune riding.

Kayla Lockhart here with a compilation of some of my favorite moments on my trip to the Southern Oregon Coast. I’m an avid fly fishing angler and this area did not disappoint. I spent three days traveling and adventuring around Brookings, Port Orford, Bandon and Coos Bay. Check out how fun the Oregon Coast can be during the winter.

A view from Redfish patio shows the blue Pacific Ocean.
Redfish serves fresh coastal cuisine with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.

Day 1: Fat Biking

On day one, after traveling from Portland to Port Orford, we came with an appetite. At Redfish, we enjoyed some incredible views of Battle Rock Wayside Park paired with some delicious fresh seafood — lobster risotto and the best oyster shooters I’ve ever had. As we soaked in the warm sunshine on the patio of Redfish, we asked ourselves, who would have thought this was a winter day?

A fat-tire bike sits at the coastline.
The full Cape Blanco to Port Orford ride is an 8-mile route. (Photo by Dylan VanWeelden)

Next stop after lunch was Pineapple Express Adventure Rides, where we geared up for an afternoon of riding fat-tire bikes along the coastline. Weaving in and out of the giant rocks protruding out from the sandy beach was so much fun!

Then it was time to check into our hotel, Pacific Reef Hotel in Gold Beach. Our room featured breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean, which we caught right at sunset. We ended the night watching the hotel’s Adventure Theater light show from our balcony.

Kayla swings her fishing line from the raft.
In winter steelhead migrate from the ocean to the rivers of the Oregon Coast.

Day 2: Fishing

Early bird gets the worm, they say, so we set out at sunrise to hunt for the elusive steelhead. My favorite rivers to fish for winter steelhead are Oregon’s beautiful coastal rivers. Since I was fishing new waters on the Elk River, we joined local guide Kenton Bansemer of Bansemer Fishing. (Get yourself a guide that can do it all, like Kenton.)

That day the river was low and clear. Fish started to chill right next to our boat as we set up to swing for steelhead. Soon enough we took a break from fishing to enjoy a nice riverside lunch before going back on the hunt for chrome. Patience and persistence paid off, because we caught one at last. We soaked in a few special seconds to admire the catch — a close look in the eye will entice you to spend winters on the river — then back into the river she went. It was an incredible second day.

A view from Secret Beach behind a cape.
The Southern Oregon Coast is filled with dramatic capes, secluded coves and magical vistas.

Day 3: Hiking and Dune Riding

Our last day was bittersweet — we were sad that it was all coming to an end but also excited for some sand dune exploration. First we traveled south to hike around the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor, where there are many stunning pull-offs worth exploring like Natural Bridges and Secret Beach. The rock formations contrasting off the emerald sea were captivating throughout each hike.

Afterwards we stopped at Chetco Brewing in Brookings to enjoy the sunshine and craft beers before heading north for our last activity of the day.

In Reedsport it was time to get our adrenaline pumping. Ridin’ Dirty ATV Rentals set us up with motorbikes and side-by-side RZRs. Exploring the endless hills of the Oregon Dunes was a great way to end the trip.

A RZR slides down a sandy dune.
Every year Winchester Bay’s DuneFest showcases professional powersports athletes.
Kayla rides a motorbike up a sand dune.
The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in North America.

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