CoosBayBeachThe Oregon Coast isn’t known for warm waters or beach reclining activities. In fact you’ll need a windbreaker or light jacket even in the warmest months!

But you honestly can’t beat the jagged beaches of the Central Oregon Coastline for photographic wonder and family fun!

We recently traveled to the Central Oregon Coast when our daughter was in a District Swim Meet there. Heck yes! We happily tagged along for the weekend. The adjoining towns of Coos Bay and North Bend sit on the northern peninsula of the Coos River (where the river makes a bend.. hence the name – North Bend ).

CoosBayMapIt’s a great little area packed with beaches, restaurants and the Coos Bay Boardwalk was not like any other boardwalk I’ve been to. It’s on the bay side of the town and instead of kitschy stores and tourist traps, it’s simply a beautiful boardwalk with coastal and shipping museums and picturesque flags flying. Go for a WALK!

Coos Bay is located about 4 hours drive from Portland, and 3 hours from Medford. If you drive up the coast from California, it’s about a 10 hour drive along Highway 101.

Where to Eat in Coos Bay

I love asking the locals where THEY eat. We started out with breakfast at The Pancake Mill. (Good luck deciding which type of pancake to have!) My husband had the buckwheat pancakes and my daughter tried out the banana pancakes. – Huge smiley faces for both. Another recommendation was to eat at Benettis, a nicer Italian restaurant, with plenty of seafood on the menu. We are saving this one for a ‘sans kids’ trip back to the Coast, because it didn’t seem all that kid-friendly (plus it was more expensive that we were looking for). We opted for a little café just up the street called Shark Bites. And it was perfect for the kids AND the grown ups! We tried fried oysters for the first time (parents = thumbs up, kids = thumbs down). And you can’t go wrong with fish n chips while on the coast. The kid menu had seafood-free options making a couple of my pickier eaters happy. The Fisherman’s Seafood Market is a floating hole-in-the-wall gritty boardwalk eatery. And it claimed to have the best clam chowder in town. But with very little sit down eating room (there was a covered eating area on the boardwalk outside) it was too cold to eat outside. (Saving this one for the next trip too!)

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Where to Stay

We were surprised at how few medium to nicer hotels there were in the area? By far the nicest hotel accommodations are at the local Casino (which admittedly is strange) but we went ahead and booked a room there on the recommendation of a fellow swim parent. Let me say: I dislike Casinos, and was very nervous about the rooms being smoke filled. I’m happy to report the hotel part of the operation was very clean and decidedly SMOKE-FREE. Of course the Casino is NOT. I did venture into the casino late one night to order some late-night munchies for our crew. And other than I had to LEAVE the Casino while waiting for my order to finish, it was yummy food and surprise(!) they gave out free sodas. One last kudo… the indoor pool was fabulous, and there were 2 outdoor hot tubs looking out on the river part of the bay.

Other lodging options in the area are the Best Western Plus (where the swim team stayed), the Quality Inn, the Red Lion and several budget hotels.

Central Oregon Beaches to Visit

There are several Beaches along the southern Coos Bay Area. The 3 we loved the most were:

  1. Bastendorff County Beach Park – Free but not a ton of parking but a lovely sandy beach and flat easy walk out to the ocean.
  2. Sunset Beach State Beach Park – Free & plentiful parking with an amazing circular bay inlet that will take your breath away. TIP: Trees along the steep cliffs surrounding the bay make for FABULOUS family photography shots!
  3. Shore Acres & Gardens State Beach Park — $5 to park. Holiday lights in the winter, gorgeous gardens (especially in the spring and mid-summer) and magnificent views of crashing waves and ship-destroying rocks. There basically isn’t shore/water access at this beach but go for the views!

BONUS!!

You don’t have a choice. Go to the Cranberry Sweets store right on Newmark (one of the main roads). I dare you to come away from the chocolate and fruit filled candy wonder of a store without buying a thing! They have over 50 samples sitting out waiting for you to… SAMPLE them!

Carissa and her family were not compensated in any way for this article.