OREGON!!!!! Did I say it loud enough? Can you hear me in the back? Just in case you missed it, we are in OREGON! Why so much shouting? Because we love it here. We love the towering trees, jagged volcanic mountains, and plethora of natural lakes. We love the small towns infused with the perfect mix of touristy charm and real-life grit. We love the wild and undeveloped coast filled with sandy beaches and river inlets for exploring. And we really love those Oregon state parks. I’m sure I’ve said it before, and I’m sure I’ll say it again, but Oregon has the BEST state parks.
I mean, is there anywhere else where you can get a site with full hook-ups, a paved parking pad, generous spacing from the neighbors, and this view for only $32/night? Oregon, you rock.
The last time we visited the Oregon coast was way back in the fall of 2012. We were only about four months into our full-timing lifestyle and traveling at a fairly fast pace. It was late September and with very little planning and no reservations, we were able to make our way down the coast stopping for numerous short stays at various state parks.
Well, times have changed, both for us and the general state of campsite availability. This year, we’re planning, reserving, and searching for cancelations to ensure that we can get into these very popular parks. So far, it hasn’t been overly busy anywhere – at least not during the week. I think May is still considered the early season at most of the coastal Oregon State Parks.
Both Harris And Bullards Beach offer a selection of sites on a first-come-first-serve basis until the end of the month. While we were hesitant to arrive without a reservation, both campgrounds had open, walk-in sites that would have worked for us at the times of our visits. Of course, the best sites, like the ones with ocean views at Harris Beach, are reservation only.
Visiting the Oregon coast in early May is a bit risky in terms of weather. We came early in hopes of avoiding crowds, but we knew that the trade-off would be cool, cloudy, and rainy weather. What we didn’t expect was the wind. So far it’s been not as rainy as expected with only occasional short rain showers, but the wind has been a constant companion. Our site at Harris Beach SP was particularly windy with a biting cold breeze coming off the water right at us. I guess these views come with a price.
Despite the cold wind and fog that often blanketed us for hours at a time, we thoroughly enjoyed our week at Harris Beach. We walked the beach and watched the waves, searched tidepools for ocean life, and saw our first sunset over the ocean in years.
Just north of Harris Beach lies the Samuel L Boardman Scenic Corridor. This 12-mile stretch of coast features rocky outcroppings and hidden beaches. We found a pamphlet in the information booth at the state park containing a map and description of points of interest. According to the map, there appeared to a trail that ran the entire length of the scenic corridor. Immediately, I began planning hiking routes.
We ended up hiking sections of the SLB corridor twice during the week and managed to cover almost all of 12 miles. Most of the designated viewpoints and connecting trails are high on a cliff overlooking the ocean, offering some pretty amazing views.
The trail bounced along the strip of forest between Hwy 101 and the sheer cliffs that plunge into the ocean below. Sometimes we found ourselves hiking deep in the tres, and other times out in the open on a windswept cliff.
Occasionally, there were narrow, twisting tracks the took us down to the shore. Once to Whaleshead Beach where had the entire beach to ourselves on a very windy, cold afternoon.
And another time, to “Secret Beach” where we discovered a protected sandy cove perfect for beach lounging at low tide.
At the end of the week, we moved about an hour and a half north to Bullards Beach SP. We were a bit early for check-in so stopped in the tiny town of Bandon first. Our goal was to find lunch, specifically some fresh fish and chips. If you’re looking for fresh seafood, Bandon has got it covered. We had our pick of options but based on our hunger level and lack of desire to wait in the cold wind, we choose the least busy option – Bandon Bait. More than just a place to buy bait for fishing and crabbing, they serve up some good eats including a delicious platter of perfectly battered fresh fish and chips.
Our site at Bullards Beach SP was in the A loop where all the sites have full hook-ups. Yeah I know, we’re getting spoiled.
The campground at Bullards Beach is about a mile from the beach with a stretch of forested dunes and marshland between the campground and beach serving as a barrier of sorts for the near-constant wind. Good thing because the wind was out in full force for the entire week. As a result, we skipped the beach most days in favor of walking around the campground trails and site loops.
We did brave the wind late one afternoon so we could see the Coville lighthouse. Bundled up in all our layers with hats and hoods, we even managed a 4-mile beach walk.
On the day before we were due to leave, we had planned an Adventure Saturday that involved a morning beach walk followed by afternoon kayaking in the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, this plan was foiled by – you guessed it- the wind. While the kayaking portion of the day was a bust, the beach walk was fantastic despite the crazy wind.
Up next: A tiny campground in the forest, giant mounds of sand, lake paddling, and beers on the patio!
Beautiful! Adding Oregon to my wishlist.
Yes! Above and beyond the coastal region, all of Oregon has something to offer.
Oregon is my favorite state and I hope to live there one day! One year, prepandemic, we went up the coast in the summer and even though we booked many months in advance we found we had to do state parks on the week days and private parks on the weekends. It w as worth it though, the OR coast is the best! I’m loving returning there through your posts!
I go back and forth between claiming Colorado and Oregon as my favorite state. It usually depends on which one I have visited most recently. Right now, Oregon is in the lead :) Yeah, those state parks are busy on the weekends. May wasn’t too hard to book, but June is a whole different story! Happy to have you come along on our journey this spring.
We’ve been having unusually high winds here for a week (30+ mph constantly) and what I’ve noticed most is that you can’t tell in any photos unless it’s a selfie with blowing hair. Your photos of the Oregon Coast are beautiful — with no wind visible — and a good reminder of how much we loved that area. We agree that Oregon has one of the top 5 best park systems of all the state. Other favorites of ours are Arizona, Texas, and Florida (if you can get reservations!).
Haha! You’re right, wind on the beach is hard to capture in a photo. I tried to take some pics of the blowing sand, but even those didn’t show the reality of the situation. I totally agree with your assessment of state parks and would add Colorado to the list as well. Again, if you can get into any of them, they are really nice parks!
You are really good at cooking pizza on your Ooni. The pizza looks great. We have the same oven but not the skill. Mine are always burnt on the edges and not well done in the middle. Is there a secret trick?
Thanks Dan! We got our Ooni about a year ago and have had A LOT of practice making pies since then. The key for us is heating the oven on high and then cooking the pizza on medium or low. Between pies, we turn it back up to high to get the stone good and hot. Also, Tim (who cooks most of the pizzas) is a huge fan of the turning pizza peel. It’s basically a smaller size peel that allows you to turn the pizza while it’s still in the oven. Frequent turning seems to help with even cooking and preventing those burnt edges. We do love our Ooni!
I love this, Amanda! Oregon is SO beautiful! We have been there 3 times, but NOT in our full time travels. We had wanted to travel up the west coast this spring, but Covid closures thwarted our plans. Hopefully next spring we will travel down the west coast. I always enjoy your blogs and pictures. Thank you!
Oregon really is a beautiful place. Happy to share it with you this year!
Go ahead and shout! The Oregon Coast is special!
Wonderful photos really capturing the spirit of this special place. We have only stayed at a few OR State Parks and they have all been awesome experiences. Oregon treats their guests right!
I will be vicariously enjoying your visit, while planning our next :)
Growing up in the east and vacationing on the east coast where the beaches are mostly private and lined with high-rise hotels or expensive vacation homes, I was simply blown away the first time we visited the Oregon coast. The prevalence of public land is amazing and so special. I feel lucky to be able to “live” here even just for a month or two!
Totally agree: Oregon State Parks are wonderful. We especially appreciated that several of them that only had water/electric hook-ups had public receptacles for gray water – so we could wash our dishes over a bin and then dump the bin in the receptacles and save gray tank space. It was great. Somehow we missed Harris Beach. Looks beautiful and definitely will be on our list next time we travel through the area. Sorry about the wind. It really does make things difficult. Still looks like you made the most of it. Beautiful photos!
Oh yes! Those grey water disposal things are great! I can’t figure out why more state parks don’t have them. Definitely put Harris Beach on your list. But be aware that the sites near the back of the park get a lot of noise from Hwy 101.
You scored one of the prime spots here at Harris Beach! It’s still beautiful , and sadly the wind is continuing. Beautiful photos that capture this special place so well. Love your hikes along the scenic corridor. We’re missing our usual stay in or near Bullards this trip so I love seeing your pics of a special place.
We feel so lucky that we got that spot! It came up as a cancellation and I grabbed it right away before even looking to see where it was in the park. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to have such an amazing view! Bummer about the wind. 2021 has been windy all around so far.