Coastal Oregon is one of the nation's top vacation destinations. All up and down the Pacific shore are beautiful scenic locales, historic sites, exciting activities, tempting shops and restaurants, peaceful fields and forests and a wealth of other Oregon coast attractions.
With a population of 15,374, Coos Bay is Oregon's largest coastal city. It is located about two thirds of the way down the Oregon coast at the mouth of the Coos River, which empties into the bay for which the city is named. The name is derived from one of the area's Native American tribes and has two meanings - "lake" and "place of pines." The nearby cities of North Bend and Charleston are often included when speaking of Coos Bay, and the three cities together are referred to as Oregon's Bay Area.
Coos Bay Oregon History
Coos Bay, originally known as Marshfield, was founded in the 1850's and incorporated in 1874. From the beginning of the city's history, the large bay and related industries have dominated the area's economic development and made the city the focal point for commerce and trade for the entire region.
The forests surrounding the coastal Oregon area provided another prominent source of industry that continues today. Until the recent lumber shortages, Coos Bay Oregon was the largest timber shipping port in the world. Charleston, located on the Cape Arago Highway, is a historic fishing village. It is also a premier sports fishing harbor and one of the state's busiest commercial fishing ports.
Two interesting historic attractions in the Coos Bay area to visit on your Oregon coast vacation are:
- Coos Bay Iron Works, a producer of logging equipment, dates back to 1882 and is still in business on Front Street.
- The city's Egyptian Revival style theater, built in 1925, is the only Oregon movie house that still has its original theater organ installation. The theater closed in 2006 but has since been reopened by a nonprofit group.
Get Wild in Coos Bay
With three state parks close by, Coos Bay is one of coastal Oregon's most popular destinations for wildlife and outdoor enthusiasts and others hoping to enjoy nature on their Oregon coast vacation.
- Sunset Bay: Located 12 miles southwest of Coos Bay, Sunset Bay State Park features beautiful sandy beaches protected by towering sea cliffs. It has day use facilities as well as a campground. Activities include beachcombing, fishing, swimming, boating and hiking.
- Shore Acres: Originally the home of pioneer lumberman and shipbuilder Louis J. Simpson, Shore Acres State Park sits atop a rugged sandstone cliff 13 miles south of Coos Bay. In addition to breathtaking views of the Pacific coastline, the park offers beautifully landscaped gardens including a formal garden, an oriental-style pond and two rose gardens. It is open year round for day use.
- Cape Arago: At the end of Cape Arago Highway about 15 miles southwest of Coos Bay, you'll find Cape Arago State Park. Unlike much of the Oregon coast, the bay at this park is protected from the open sea and is usually safe for swimming. Shell Island, a National Wildlife Refuge that is home to colonies of seals and sea lions, can be viewed from the hiking trails. Year-round camping is also available.
Sunset Bay, Shore Acres and Cape Arago State Parks are connected by a series of hiking trails, providing endless exploration along this area of coastal Oregon. In addition, Gold and Silver Falls State Natural Area, located in the Coast Range 25 miles northeast of Coos Bay, boasts two beautiful waterfalls, each over 100 feet high, as well as a variety of plants and wildlife.
Coos Bay Oregon - Southern Gateway to the Oregon Dunes
The Oregon Dunes, located in the Siuslaw National Forest are one of the most popular Oregon coast attractions. Stretching 40 miles along the coast from Florence to Coos Bay, the dunes offer some of the most diverse and unique habitats and ecosystems in the country. Few other places offer the combination of desert, forest, lakes, rivers, and seashore. In addition, the Oregon Dunes are open to off-highway vehicles (OHVs), providing some of the best riding conditions in the world.
The largest OHV riding area at the Oregon Dunes stretches between Spinreel Campground and Horsfall Road. There is a road with access to Horsfall dunes located just a few miles north of Coos Bay, and many OHV riders take advantage of the opportunity to access the dunes from a location that has parts and equipment stores, gasoline, and other supplies that may be needed.
No matter what type of Oregon coast vacation you prefer, Coos Bay provides a home base amongst a wealth of natural wonders yet with all the amenities of a large city. Not only does it provide easy access to the Oregon coast attractions, it also serves as a convenient jumping off point for exploring the southern Oregon coast.