72 Hours on the Southern Oregon Coast, Escape Campervan Review
Updated: Feb 12
There is something magical about the Southern Oregon Coast. It's the transition between the smooth, sandy beaches of the California coastline and the rocky cliff sides of the Pacific Northwest. Just a few hundred feet off the sand takes you to the lush, green forests of the Siskiyou National Forest; and there's something about the sleepy coastal towns in the winter that make you feel like you've stepped into an entirely different world.
When Andrew and I first moved to the Pacific Northwest we spent several weeks living with a friend in Bandon while we waited for them to finish building our apartment in Vancouver. Since then we've held a special place in our hearts for the people of this community and the beauty of the coast. As time progressed we noticed that our trips south had become few and far between and knowing that I tend to overbook myself (and that I go a little over the top with holiday parties and baking) we decided that I relaxing trip down the Southern Oregon Coast would be the perfect way to start 2020.
So, at the beginning of the month we booked an Escape Campervan, packed our bags, and headed out for a long weekend at the coast.
In order to make sure we had two full days on the coast we left early Thursday afternoon. This way we avoided Portland rush hour traffic and had time to stop in Corvallis to fill another page in our McMenamins passport. We stopped at both the Corvallis Pub and McMenamins on Monroe. I was surprised by both. The Corvallis Pub was small, dark, and the perfect spot to cozy up with a craft brew on a rainy day; while McMenamins on Monroe was bustling with students, faculty, and visitors to nearby Oregon State University. We continued driving west until we got to Newport. We spent the night at Beverly Beach State Park. This campground is impeccable, but it was already dark when we arrived so we parked, cooked rice and curried vegetables for dinner, and cozied up in the van to read and watch Shameless on Netflix.
The next morning we woke up early to watch the start of the storm at Beverly Beach. I was still in leggings & slippers and the wind was whipping the rain pretty darn hard so we didn't stay long. We officially started the first day of our trip from Newport to Bandon.
[Disclaimer: The weekend that we went ended up being a) a particularly stormy on Friday and b) a weekend that the Pacific coast experienced King Tides, making it both difficult and dangerous to visit/see some of what was planned for our trip].
Newport, OR to Bandon, OR
Travel Time: 2 hours, 30 minutes; 120 Miles
Travel Time with Stops: 7 hours
The first stop on the trip was Devil's Churn. I highly recommend stopping to watch the waves crash into the inlet. Even without the high tides and storms this spot is dangerous so visitors need to be careful when hiking down the trail close to the water's edge. However, the view is well worth the stop. The strength of the waves always reminds me of the power the ocean possesses. If you are traveling this stretch mid day I recommend stopping in Yachats for Fish at Luna Sea Fish House. I always enjoy stopping here because it is one of few places that actually offers Manhattan Clam Chowder.
Devil's churn is located just north of Cape Perpetua. Cape Perpetua has several short hikes that can be completed when the weather is nicer. I recommend stopping at the Visitor Center first. You can take a short hike from there or explore other options for viewing the area. If you drive up to the Cape Perpetua Lookout you can get an amazing view of the ocean and twisting road below. We took the drive up, but a thick fog rolled in just as we reached the top. We've stopped in this portion of the coast during the summer and recommend taking the time to also visit Cook's Chasm and Thor's well. Again, always check the tides before exploring too closely. These waters are dangerous and sneaker waves are always a possibility.
The next two big stops we made were at Cape Arago State Park and Shore Acres State Park. Both are located just outside of Coos Bay. Cape Arago is at the end of the road so we stopped in the parking lot for lunch. I pre-made a Muffaletta for our trip so we cut of slices and enjoyed the wind and rain of the storm from the warmth of the van. Again, the fog was thick and the rain was heavy at this stop so our experience was short, but this is normally a great spot for whale watching, hiking, and exploring tide pools. Shore Acres charges a fee, but is a fantastic spot for watching winter storms. Because the edge of the park is on a cliff's edge it overs amazing views of the waves crashing along the shore.
Our final stop on this stretch was Bandon. I highly recommend planning to spend a considerable amount of time in here. It's a great spot to stop and recharge if you've been traveling by van or camping for an extended period of time. We parked at the new(ish) Bandon Wayside Motel and RV. I could not recommend them more highly. They reached out prior to our arrival to confirm when we planned to arrive and were ready to greet us and give us a tour of the property. They offer 2 separate smoke shacks (tobacco and 420 friendly), 2 well maintained restroom/shower/laundry facilities for van and RV campers, and a cozy, tree covered space to park for the night. During multiple points in our stay I remarked on just how many twinkly lights they had hung around the space.
Bandon is also home to our favorite spot for Fish, Tony's Crab Shack. You can also get local, craft brews and pizza at Bandon Brewing Company, and fresh cheese and wine from Face Rock Creamery. For more on what to do in Bandon, as well as why we love Bandon so much, look for my upcoming post specifically on 10 Reasons to Visit Bandon, OR.
Bandon, OR to Brookings, OR
Travel Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes (80 miles)
Travel Time with Stops: 7 hours
Before leaving Bandon I highly recommend stopping at Bandon Coffee Cafe. We spent a bit of extra time in Bandon at Face Rock watching the King Tide while we enjoyed our coffees and breakfast sandwiches. Driving south you'll pass through Langlois and past several cranberry bogs. Growing up with an agricultural background this is always incredibly fascinating to us. Our first major stop was in Port Orford at Battle Rock Wayside Park. This wasn't an originally planned stop, I just really needed a bathroom break after downing a quad shot latte.
A majority of the day ended up being warm and sunny. This allowed us to hike more than expected on the trails well above sea level, but while the King Tides were an amazing site, we avoided some stops that took us closer to the water's edge. Sea Lion Caves is a great spot to pull over for a quick break from driving and a great view of the water without having to venture too far off Hwy 101.
Arch Rock was the first chance we took to really get out and stretch. The forest around Arch Rock includes picnic tables, restrooms, and a small loop trail that takes you to the edge of the cliff and provides an amazing view of Arch Rock. Just down the road is Natural Bridges and Secret Beach. This was my favorite stop of the trip. I immediately felt like I had been transported to a mystical world. There is a short 0.5 mile hike to the cliff's edge that gave me a view of (what I felt was) the entire pacific coast. Taking the other path at the trail head will lead you toward secret beach. We hiked a half mile down toward sea level, but with the high tide the beach was gone and we decided it was best to just turn around.
After returning to the van we finished the Muffaletta for a late lunch. We made a few more stops at China Beach and along the coast trail. Our last stop before Brookings, and Andrew's favorite, was Indian Sands. The parking lot is large so expect to run into other travelers on this trail. The trailhead is marked clearly, but the actual trail was hard to follow and we ended up just doing an out and back hike instead of a loop. Indian Sands provided several vantage points of the coastline so we spent quite a bit of time casually exploring here.
I reserved a spot at Harris Beach State Park for the second night. We arrived earlier than expected because of the limits to actually hiking due to the weather the first day and the tides the second. We watched the sunset here, but then decided to just make the long drive back to Vancouver so we could spend Sunday unpacking. We grabbed another coffee at an Oregon favorite and drove through California, back to I-5, and home to Vancouver, but not before we stopped for one more McMenamins stamp and dinner at McMenamins Roseburg Station.
I've linked the map of our trip and key stops along the way below! I've got several more trips down the coast planned for our future, what are your favorite camping spots, trails, and eats along the way?