Coos Bay (previously known as Marshfield) has a history with lumber and shipbuilding and is the largest city on the Oregon coast with a population of over 16,000. There are a variety of activities and state parks in the area that kept us busy for days and days!
Coos City Boardwalk
The boardwalk is smack dab in downtown Coos Bay and offers a wooden plank pier, interpretive signs detailing the history of Coos Bay, a small fish market, and a display of a tugboat. There are several stores and restaurants in the areas and it is a nice place to stroll around and soak up the atmosphere of the town.
Cape Arago State Park
Cape Arago is a small state park at the end of the road right on the coast. On the way there is a turnout for viewing the Cape Arago Lighthouse which sits on an island off the coast. The state park offers viewpoints from up on the cliffs, a picnic area, and trails leading down to the beach and tidepools. We enjoyed a nice picnic lunch with great views. We hiked a trail a short distance to the edge of the cliff where we could see the seals and sea lions on Shell Island. There is a better viewing area for the seals and sea lions a bit further north at Simpson Reef (see below).
Simpson Reef Overlook
Simpson Reef Overlook, which is part of Cape Arago State Park, provides a great viewing platform for seeing thousands of marine mammals. The number of seals and sea lions is incredible. They are perched in rocks, on the beaches, and swimming around fighting for space. We could have stayed all day watching them.
Shore Acres State Park
Shore Acres was once the home of a timber baron Louis J. Simpson and now features not only great viewpoints of the ocean and the crashing waves and trails to the beach, but also a beautiful garden. There is a Japanese style lily pond, a few rose gardens, and various other flower gardens. The gardens have something in bloom almost every day of the year. This is one of our favorite state parks in Oregon.
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area
The Oregon Dunes lies on the Oregon coast between Florence and Coos Bay and is about 40 miles long and offers thirty lakes, lots of sand dunes, campgrounds, Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) riding, paddling, and hiking trails. The dunes are one of the largest expanses of temperate coastal sand dunes in the world. It is a very unique area to explore.
John Dellenback Dunes Trail
The John Dellenback Dunes trailhead is about a 30 minute drive north from our campground (Bay Point Landing) and was not only one of the closest trailheads of the Oregon Dunes from where we were camping but also provided some great hiking without any OHV traffic. Most of the dunes are open to OHV traffic so it is ideal to find a trail which is hiker only.
The trail is a 5.5 mile loop trail (approximately – depends on where you hike as there is no real designated trail) that leads through the conifer forest and then out into the dunes as you continue on for a few miles to another forest (with an approximately one third of a mile boardwalk) and out to an isolated beach. The return trail is however you want to do it.
You need to watch out for coastal fog as it would be easy to get turned around and get lost, again since there is no designated trail, just wide open sand. These dunes are known as the widest stretch of dunes along the Oregon coast. It can be hot and dry and the sand can be loose and deep. There is a warning at the trailhead about how the extensive loose sand can make the trail challenging and slow going. AND you don’t want to go on a windy day as the sand will be swirling around and in your eyes/nose/mouth/etc.
We lucked out and had a cool, still overcast day with much of the sand somewhat hard packed as it must have rained recently. There were still spots of loose sand but we managed our way through it and had a few sore muscles to prove it but it still wasn’t the worst soft sand we have hiked on. We have hiked the Oregon Dunes before but absolutely loved this hike. It was very surreal and the landscape felt like you were on a different planet. Pictures cannot capture the mood and the feeling.
PS – I called the trail “The Hans Delbruck trail” after “Young Frankenstein”! I guess that’s better than calling it “The Abbey Normal Trail”!