Family fun on Oregon’s otherworldly southern coast

Like with my Petit Jean State Park trip, I’m going to break this trip up into this travel blog post and another geology post (or posts!).


The last time I got to play in tide pools with my mom I was blond and about 3 feet tall. Twenty years later, it was a wonderful treat to be able to catch hermit crabs with her again! In honor of my sister and my shared birthday as well as our parents’ milestone anniversary, my family flew out to the west coast and stayed in a lodge near Gold Beach, Oregon. From there we explored the Dr. Seuss-ish landscape of the Samuel Boardman Scenic Corridor – a coast full of hidden beaches, huge arches over the crashing waves, and trail-side berry feasts.

We saw so many phenomenal rocky landscapes! I’ve mostly noodled around the headlands of the northern coast – Yaquina Head, Cascade Head, Cape Perpetua, and Cape Lookout – where isolated chunks of basalt form prominent highlands that more successfully resist erosion. There’s no basalt here but the rock formations are phenomenal! I’m looking forward to researching them for future posts.

Shore Acres Park near Coos Bay was a beautiful start to the trip – botanical gardens to keep my mom happy and views that wowed all of us. The hike down to the beach was worth it for the cool spherical features within the sandstone – I’ll definitely have to look up what created them! The park is one of three along a short rugged section of coastline – Cape Arago, Shore Acres, and Sunset Cove would make a wonderful weekend trip. We were just passing through on the way from Florence to Gold beach, so we picked one.


Fantastic sandstone formations


Checking out the mysterious “eggs” in the sandstone at the beach…


My mom loved the dozens of types of dahlias at the Shore Acres gardens

The next day we headed out to Myers Beach south of Gold Beach. My dad felt very much at home – the 55 degree beach weather is pretty similar to what he grew up with in Holland. The views however, were far from it! It’s a nice place for a walk and we found lots of hermit crabs in the tide pools about 1/2 mile north of the parking pull-out. The geology was pretty cool too, and I’ll definitely touch on that in following posts!



The tide pools here were shallow and wave-tossed – good for crabs, but we didn’t see many anemones or snails. The lack of snails seemed to be a bit of a problem for the hermit crabs. Many were stuck in shells a few sizes too small! We were able to catch a few who were too involved in duking it out with a shell competitor to notice the humans crouched above them.

Cape Sebastian features a 3.2 mile round-trip hike from the top of the promontory down to dramatically tilted slabs of sandstone at its base.  However the tide pool creatures were worth it! We saw two chitons – molluscs that look like armored sea slugs and have been around for the past 400 million years. Some of the slabs of rock had tumbled down, creating hidden pools filled with anemones, sea urchins, starfish, and shy purple shore crabs. The downside was that there was an awful lot of “up” on the way back to the parking lot, but it wasn’t too bad since we were fueled by the bounty of ripe huckleberries, salal berries, and thimbleberries along the trail.



Heather’s first thimbleberry


finding chitons!


One of the most diverse tide pools we saw on the trip – 2 types of anemones, sea urchins, starfish, purple shore crabs, and several varieties of sponges.



Clambering up the tilted sandstone slabs at the base of Cape Sebastian

In order to experience the magic of Secret Beach, you have to get your timing just right. It’s only accessible when the tide is below the “zero” of the chart, but it’s definitely worth the hassle. A one mile trail leads you down to a rocky spit overlooking an otherworldly bay full of towering sea stacks topped by battered pine trees and flocks of cormorants. During the lowest tide you can access a string of small beaches and phenomenal arches. We saw whole constellations of star fish here too. Caution is needed though- if you get too engrossed in the sights and the tide comes in you’re stuck until the next day.


We also pulled over at two viewpoints near Secret Beach – unfortunately my photos didn’t turn out though. Arches Rock is the opposite of Secret Beach – it’s an island that you can see it from a short paved trail any time you please. It would make a great photo op when huge waves are breaking on it. I’d recommend bringing binoculars to scope out the birds nesting on top. The Natural Bridges are a beautiful, convoluted set of three arches. Brave souls can take the sketchy unofficial trail from the official lookout that takes you over the narrow top of the bridges. You would have to risk wind, poison ivy, and eroded paths… not something I felt like making my mom watch me do.

After a few days we headed back north towards Corvallis. Along the way we stopped to see the Hecata Head lighthouse:


had an early dinner at Local Ocean in Newport, which was amazing:


Poor Heather, we were all snitching from her monumental seafood stew


My parents in Newport’s harbor. So many beautiful boats!

And after dinner we headed to Yaquina Head to hang out with the seals and a couple thousand murres.


The lighthouse, with the cliffs full of sea birds


Spying on the seals and their adorable babies


Once in Corvallis we were pretty ‘boring’ as far as travel photos go. Mostly just eating good food and enjoying each others’ company, but our last touristy excursion was to Willamette Valley Vineyards. We had a wonderful guide who let me pepper her with questions about the soil and then gave us samples from different terroirs owned by the company.



After a marvelous week, it was so hard saying goodbye to my parents. At least I got to hang onto Heather for a few more days. The mountains were calling, and it was time for our annual twin camping trip. More on that later!





2 thoughts on “Family fun on Oregon’s otherworldly southern coast

  1. Lise van Stolk wrote me to look at this great review of your visit.
    I loved the pictures (beautiful) and the story behind them.
    Nice to read you all had such a great time.
    Did the knees still hold, in climbing these rocks on the shore?
    Nature still looks clean and untouched overthere!
    Thanks and see you soon.
    Love, Hans and Joyce


    • Thanks for reading, Hans and Joyce! My dad was having a blast exploring the coast with his new knee. I’m so happy that he can finally adventure again without pain. Next time we’re all out here I need to find a way to get him in a boat. 🙂


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