“The coast of yesteryear” is what Mile-by-Mile accurately calls the South Coast. Along it there are fewer towns about 30 miles apart with little human development between them. That’s not to say that the journey lacks interest. In many ways this is the best part of the entire OC with several excellent attractions.
Travelers going south on Highway 101 toward California often don’t make it past the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. They rent dune buggies, hike, sand board, etc. The less active just stop for an appreciative view at the Dunes Overlook about 11 miles south of Florence.
The big attraction near Reedsport is the Dean Creek Elk Viewing area. That’s about it. However, 4 miles south of it is Winchester Bay, a fishing village that is home to tiny, terrific Unger’s Bay Fish-n-Chips. It’s on a boat at T Dock just off Salmon Harbor Drive.
The biggest population center on the South Coast, North Bend-Coos Bay, is a strip mall, industry-driven combo without a single worthwhile tourist attraction. However, if travelers take the Cape Arago Highway (go west on Newmark Street across from the Mill Casino), they will delight in 2 stellar attractions. The Cape Arago Lighthouse is not one of them because it was returned to Coquille Native Americans and is not opened to the public; but Shore Acres, a superb botanical garden that was once part of a now defunct estate, is sublime. Only the caretaker’s home, the formal gardens, and an excellent gift shop remain. Ruth and I have been there 3 times. On our 2nd visit, we took all of her cousins there from the State of Washington just to see it. What we didn’t know until our 3rd is that Shore Acres has a local-color themed Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve light display like no other. Right down the road from Shore Acres is Cape Arago State Park where those with good binoculars are likely to see migrating whales, wild California Sea Lions, rock-inhabiting Northern Elephant Seals, etc.
Bandon is Oregon’s golf heaven. The quietly elegant Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has 5 courses and is considered by pros to be one of the best in the U.S. Face Rock, the most westerly course in the continental U.S., is the cheapest in the area to play. Bandon’s business district was completely consumed by a 1936 fire and rebuilt, it appears, for 21st century tourism.
The next town is the most interesting one on the entire Oregon Coast in my opinion. Port Orford is the only open-water port in Oregon and, as a result, has a unique dolly dock. Take the time to eat at Griff’s On the Dock and watch fishing boats being literally lifted into and out of the water. The Cape Blanco lighthouse north of Port Orford will be covered separately as will this novel town.
Gold Beach is at the mouth of the Rogue River, which is crossed by yet another magnificent Conde McCullough bridge. Gold Beach’s big tourist activity is seasonal jet-boating up a wild river (May through October usually). We did it several years ago and vividly remember picking blackberries at the settlement of Agness that has no way into it other than the Rogue.
Brookings has a state-of-the-art double-basin marina and the best weather in Oregon. Five miles past it travelers cross the California State Line.
The South Coast has several things that make it singular–cranberry bogs around Bandon, myrtlewood shops everywhere, an open-road, people-free vibe not experienced up North and Central, etc. Enjoy the trip.