The exquisite southern stretch of the Oregon coast rewards travelers with rugged sea cliffs and enormous boulders in the churning waves. And there’s just a fraction of the traffic and taffy stands compared to the northern coast, where many of the nearly 2.4 million residents of metropolitan Portland spend their weekends. This lonelier stretch of seaside Oregon has ethereal hills of sand, world-renown golf courses, seafood shacks, and hippie-turned-yuppie self-realization centers.
The OREGON DUNES NATIONAL RECREATION AREA (3) is nicknamed “Sahara by the Sea.” The undulating sands draw dune buggies, ATVs, and board-riding sand surfers ($10 for a five-day pass). Golfers make the pilgrimage to BANDON DUNES GOLF RESORT (4) to take on four courses rated among the best in the world ($310 per round). JERRY’S ROGUE JETS boat tours (starting at $50) are the antidote for sedate sweater-clad strolls on the beach. The 1,000-horsepower boats can hit 50 mph as they weave through rapids and narrow canyons on a 52-mile stretch of the federally designated Wild and Scenic River.
The tiny WATERFRONT DEPOT (2) in Florence is worth the long wait for its crab-encrusted halibut and Oregon berry cake. The docks are the dining room at FISHERMEN’S SEAFOOD MARKET in Coos Bay, which claims to have the best clam chowder on the coast ($5.50). SPINNER’S SEAFOOD STEAK AND CHOP HOUSE in Gold Beach offers a break from seafood. Try the Pistol River mushrooms Napolean appetizer ($11) and Whiskey Steak ($28) marinated in a single-malt from Scotland.
Even those who don’t know a Big Bertha from an Anchoring Putter can enjoy the BANDON DUNES GOLF RESORT, set amid the legendary links ($280 and up). Guests score a discount on the steep greens fees. The eclectic look of TU TU’ TUN LODGE on the Rogue River seems inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, East Asia, and the California Missions ($255 and up). WILDSPRING GUEST HABITAT (1) ($198 and up) is a new-age-infused luxury resort set amid a forest dotted with sculptures. Try a reflective labyrinth walk or morning tai chi.
Alaska, Delta, and United fly from John Wayne Airport to Eugene, with one stop. American and Allegiant fly nonstop to Eugene from LAX.