A short spur off the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, this Route showcases a glorious stretch of coastline that includes six state parks, two National Wildlife Refuges and America’s first National Estuarine Research Reserve.
From North Bend, take Cape Arago Highway to Charleston, a working fishing port and a great point of departure for a charter fishing trip. Soon you’ll pass the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology, a teaching and research extension of the University of Oregon, and Coos Head, which offers a fascinating look at the mouth of this dynamic estuary. Driving south, you’ll reach Bastendorff Beach County Park, a popular surfing spot.
A series of beautiful state parks awaits you on this stretch of the Route. First stop is Sunset Bay State Park, which features a beach surrounded by sandstone cliffs that shield this favorite swimming cove from the strongest winds and waves. Three mile farther on you’ll reach Shore Acres State Park, which rests upon a bluff that offers sweeping views of the Pacific. The Park was once the site of a grand estate built by lumber baron, Louis B. Simpson; the restored five acre gardens of the Simpson estate, filled with exotic plants from around the world, are open to the public. The road ends at Cape Arago State Park, poised 200 feet above the Pacific. Watch for seals and sea lions in the surf near Simpson Reef, and for migrating whales farther off the coast in the winter. To reach the next leg of the Route, retrace your route for six miles and then turn right on Seven Devils Road.
Driving south, you’ll come to the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, home to many important species including bald eagles, great blue herons, elk and Dungeness crab; it also offers a number of great hiking and paddling trails. A little farther along, you’ll pass some of Bandon’s celebrated cranberry bogs (Bandon is, after all, the unofficial cranberry capital of the Pacific Northwest). Anchoring the southern leg of the Route is the Coquille River Lighthouse, one of Oregon’s most photographed landmarks. The Route skirts the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge before going along the edge of Old Town Bandon. The southern end of the Route traces the scenic drive along the cliff, with stunning views of sea stacks and surf.