The land where the Pacific Ocean meets Oregon teems with life. Summer is the busiest time, with festivals, live music and parades. But with one-of-a-kind shops, breathtaking views, whale watching and fresh seafood, the coast offers plenty of activities year-round.
REEDSPORT and WINCHESTER BAY, Oregon
Whale watchers and anglers will find what they’re looking for in Reedsport and Winchester Bay, which are home to the Umpqua River, many lakes and the Pacific Ocean.
Reedsport serves as the headquarters for the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a 47-mile stretch of sand dunes from Florence to North Bend that boasts 30 lakes, 14 hiking trails and numerous campgrounds and day-use areas. The visitors information center is located at the junction of Highways 38 and 101.
If you’re interested in fishing for salmon, bottom fish, sturgeon, bass, trout and many other varieties, catch a charter boat in Winchester Bay. Clamming and crabbing are popular, too.
Umpqua Aquaculture is famous for the Umpqua Triangle oysters it raises between the southern jetties at Winchester Bay. Look for the “Shucking Oysters Today” sign outside 723 Ork Rock Road. A video at the retail shop explains the process on other days. Information: 541-271-5684.
The Umpqua Discovery Center in Reedsport provides interactive exhibits showing how land, water and people have shaped each other over time. The center has a weather exhibit in addition to its “Pathways to Discovery” and “Tidewaters and Time” exhibits. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children 5 through 16. Children younger than 5 get in free. From June 1 to Sept. 30, hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. the rest of the year. Sunday hours are noon to 4 p.m. year-round.
The center’s waterfront area plays host to Riverfront Rhythms, a free concert series offered from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays from June through August. It’s also a prime spot to watch whales in the winter and spring. Information: 541-271-4816, umpquadiscoverycenter.com.
The center is in its 21st year.
• The Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area is a worthwhile stop on the way to Reedsport. Three miles east of town on Highway 38, it features specimens of Oregon’s largest land mammal and other wildlife that can be watched in their natural habitat.
• Memorial Day Weekend is packed with patriotic celebrations in both Reedsport, Gardiner and Winchester Bay. Each event includes a fireworks display.
• The 13th annual Oregon Divisional Chainsaw Sculpting Championships features artists from all over the world, with daily timed quick-carve events June 13 to 16 in Reedsport’s Rainbow Plaza.
• The three-day Oceanfest includes live music, a children’s parade, Coast Guard rescue demonstrations, kayak races on the Umpqua River and a seafood barbecue July 18 to 20 in Winchester Bay.
• Dunefest attracts thousands of ATV enthusiasts to Winchester Bay July 30 to Aug. 3 for drag races, challenges, music, exhibitions and more. Information: 541-271-3495, dunefest.com.
• In September, crabbing in Winchester can be rewarding during the Crab Bounty Hunt, when catching a crab with a numbered metal tag can mean a $1,000 cash prize. Information: 541-271-4471.
• Kool Coastal Nights is for those who like loud cars and lots of smoke, plus a ’50s cruise, street dance and seafood barbecue Aug. 22 and 23.
For more information on events and attractions, call 541-271-3495 or visit reedsportcc.org.
UMPQUA RIVER LIGHTHOUSE
Located off Highway 101 south of Winchester Bay, this scenic lighthouse overlooks the mouth of the Umpqua River and the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.
The lighthouse opened in 1894 and is one of five still operating on the Oregon Coast.
The 65-foot conical tower stands 165 feet above the water. The hollow lens is 6 1/2 feet in diameter, 9 1/2 feet tall and weighs 2 tons. Its 616 prisms were hand-cut in Paris and assembled in 1890. Today, the lens revolves around a stationary 1,000-watt lamp.
The Douglas County Parks Department has renovated the former Coast Guard Station Umpqua River building north of the lighthouse into a museum. Guided lighthouse tours begin at the museum, which has information about the first Umpqua River Lighthouse and the timber industry.
The platform near the lighthouse provides a prime location to watch the whale migration twice a year, usually during spring break. Call for dates.
Admission to the museum, which is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer and fall, is free. Lighthouse tours are offered 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through the end of October. The fee is $5 per person for adults, $3 for students and seniors, and children under 5 get in free. Payment is by cash or check only.
COOS BAY, CHARLESTON, NORTH BEND, Oregon
Coos Bay, Charleston and North Bend, which are located south of Reedsport on Highway 101, offer beautiful scenery and a variety of activities. The area boasts many festivals, fun runs, walks and relays.
The South Slough is a paradise for birds, seals and other wildlife, and Shore Acres State Park features a seven-acre botanical garden and spectacular views of waves crashing against the rocks.
The 10K Prefontaine Memorial Run Sept. 20 is one of the highlights of the annual Bay Area Fun Festival on Sept. 19, 20 and 21. The event also includes a car show, parade, arts and crafts venders and more.
Information from the Bay Area Chamber of Commerce: 541-269-0215, 800-824-8486, oregonsbayareachamber.com.
A drive south from Coos Bay takes visitors to the rock formations along Bandon’s beaches, which give the area a rugged quality unique on the Oregon coast. Add some of the best agate and fossil hunting in the state, along with golf courses, opportunities for camping, fishing, crabbing and horseback riding, and you have one of the south coast’s most popular destinations.
Bandon-by-the-Sea features quaint shops and art galleries throughout its Historic Old Town district located on the waterfront.
Don’t miss the Cranberry Festival, a celebration of the harvest in the cranberry capital of the West Coast, slated for Sept. 12 through 14. It features a grand parade, barbecue, golf challenge, music, arts and crafts, the Cranberry Bowl high school football game, a food fair and a street fair marketplace in Old Town.
Information: 541-347-9616, bandon.com.