Coos Bay Getaway – Oregon

Photo by Adam Sawyer

Taking nothing away from Oregon’s northern and central coasts, the state’s southern chunk of shoreline more closely fits the definition of a “getaway.” Considering that roughly 60 percent of Oregonians live in the Portland metro area, it’s understandable that the lion’s share of coastal exploration is going to be proximal. And while there are many wonderful things to experience near or above the 45th parallel, the farther south you go, the truer your getaway becomes.

The Coos Bay area is a treasure trove of Oregon Coast bounty. But it’s an area for which Highway 101 isn’t doing many favors. Unlike some towns that are essentially showcased by the highway, you have to get off it to really discover Coos Bay. However, dig around a bit and you’ll be happy you did. Here’s some of what you can find.

The phrases “under-the-radar” and “hidden-gem” are somewhat overused, and often less than accurate. That is not the case with what locals simply refer to as the “South Slough.” A mix of traditional trails and boardwalks visit a wildly diverse landscape with surprises around every corner. There are a handful of trailheads located around the Reserve, but perhaps the best place to start is at the Interpretive Center. All the trails are good for the family, and some paths are also dog-friendly.

Admittedly, it’s about an hour east of town, but the combination of two distinctive waterfalls and a historic trail makes Golden and Silver Falls a true destination hike. While the bulbous cliff drop of Silver Falls produces perhaps the most photogenic aspect of the outing, there’s a more engrossing path to explore. The trail that leads to the top of Golden Falls was once a harrowing road that connected a settlement above the cascade with the valley below. What was surely at one point a white-knuckle journey via automobile now affords luxury-box views of the falls as well as an encompassing view of the drainage that the creek carves.

The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area stretches from the Coos River in North Bend, to the Siuslaw River in Florence. Within those bookends resides one of the most fascinating and explorable ecoregions in the West. There are a handful of hikes that visit some of the many lakes and forest patches that reside within the recreation area, but the 40-mile long expanse of shifting sand is also home to the best dune-riding area in the Northwest. The go-to outfitter for more than 34 years is the family owned and operated Spinreel Dune Buggy and ATV Rentals.

The jutting sandstone rocks along Cape Arago spawn perhaps the largest, most intimidating wave breaks in the Northwest. Storm chasers from around the world come here in winter to take in one of Mother Nature’s feature presentations. However, the dramatically beautiful coastline is picture perfect in milder months, plus you won’t get soaked. In addition, remains of the old Louis J. Simpson mansion are easily explored via trail and the neighboring Shore Acres State Park displays a gorgeous formal garden area and visitor center and gift shop.

It would stand to reason that the coast would be an ideal spot to find great sushi. Tokyo Bistro makes that assertion an essential truth—essential for sushi lovers, anyway. Home to some of the best sushi found anywhere on the coast, they are also one of the few places around that cultivates and produces its own wasabi—real, fresh wasabi. Seekers of ultimate sushi bliss have made Tokyo Bistro a pilgrimage destination.

7 Devils Brewing is far more than your standard brewpub. With a community-driven business model based on social, ethical and environmental responsibility, they are working on far more than IPAs and pub grub. But thankfully, they excel in those arenas as well. They also host many events and live music acts, making them one of the Bay’s true community hubs.

As you can ascertain by the name, the vistas afforded from the dining room at North Bend’s Hilltop House are exquisite. But it is the steak and seafood menu of chef Joseph Zamora that powers this engine. The Tornedos Oscar is sublime—filet mignon medallions topped with asparagus spears, Dungeness crab and a Béarnaise sauce. It’s old-school, but in the best possible way. To drive the point home, the lounge in the back looks like the sort of place where you might have run into a member of the Rat Pack in bygone days.

If you have designs on procuring your own oceanic bounty, The Charleston Marina is where you want to go. In the summer, rockfish and perch are among the most popular catches. And of course, crabbing is a viable option all year-round. Stop in at Basin Tackle to get advised, outfitted and entertained.

The rooms are bright, clean and stylish, which is great. But it’s the playful, retro vibe that makes the Itty Bitty Inn irresistible for a cozy, intimate stay. To give you a sense of what to expect, this is a place that openly invites you to “do the robot” with them. At the lovingly restored 1950s roadside inn you can rent an Atari 2600 for $10 a night or a record player for $5. They are super bike-friendly and have an assortment of artisanal, locally made products on site.

In general, you know what you can typically expect at a Casino Hotel: well-appointed rooms, gaming, entertainment and lots of dining choices. The Mill is no exception, but a visit to any one of their restaurants makes it clear that they are working hard to raise the Casino culinary bar. A thoughtful revamping of all the restaurant menus by executive chef Chris Foltz leads the charge and has produced some very pleasant surprises. Building from there, the Mill now hosts a number of food and drink festivals and events throughout the warmer months, including BBQ, Brews, and Blues over Memorial Day Weekend and Food Truck Off the first weekend in August.