Though we loved Washington, the limitations of where we could take the dog began wearing on us, so when we got into southern Oregon we visibly relaxed into the diving cliffs and timbered beaches beside a roaring sea…ready to drink in the adventure.
Day 6: Tillamook County to Bandon, Oregon
From Tillamook County, we were up and grabbed coffee at one of the many roadside coffee huts in parking lots lining the highway. If anyone can explain this amazing phenomenon to me, though I’m not complaining about the abundance of coffee options, I still wonder how they’re all in business.
After, we visited a nearby waterfall hike called Munson Creek Falls. It was a short half-mile jaunt in lush greenery and we were the only folks on the trail at that time. While you can no longer reach the falls up close, you can still view the gorgeous falls from the trail. Our next stop was the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area near Newport, Oregon. We—and 30 of our closest tourist friends—leaned along the fence above this carved-rock hot tub, as waves of peacock-blue water seeped in and out of the grotto.
As we passed oceanside homes on rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean, shrouded in thick forest, we dreamed of pulling off and settling down with the sea as our new neighbor. Our final stop was for seafood at Griff’s in Winchester Bay, a tiny port town amidst the beach dunes of Oregon. I ordered shrimp and scallops and Andrew opted for a whole Dungeness crab, which he tore apart with his hands cave-man style while I drove. We arrived to our camping spot at Bullards State Park, which bordered a short wooded nature trail to the dune-lined beach.
Not to Miss: Devil’s Punchbowl, all the sleepy beach pull-offs between Newport and Bandon! Neptune State Scenic area, the Oregon Sand Dunes
Day 7: Bandon, Oregon – Bullards Beach Campground
I instantly felt at home in our camping spot on the Oregon coast. Our space was adjacent to a sandy beach path less than a mile to the beach. I threw my things down, leashed Kita, and we ran up the path to an abandoned stretch of beach. The path dripped in gold afternoon light, floating like streams of silk through the trees. Shadows drew dark lines in the sand, as we stumbled in a heap onto the shore.
The next day we languidly walked out to the Coquille Lighthouse, then down the beach where we spent a lazy afternoon watching the waves and counting the crabs that scurried in and out of their holes. Later, we ventured to Bandon Beach for sunset. Bandon Beach is a less popular area than Cannon, but in my opinion, much more tranquil and beautiful. We walked along the beach as the sun broke into million colors reflecting off the shallow pools of water on the sand, illuminating the striking natural sea carvings on the shore.
Not to Miss: Bandon Beach at sunset
Lodging: Bullards Beach Campground
Day 8: Bandon and the Drive to Brookings, Oregon
Our last day there, the wind picked up and a blanket of grey clouds hung above the fog forming a barrier of moisture thick as a down comforter. We walked down the picturesque streets of the town. I’d heard great things about the Bandon Fish Market, and they allow dogs on their patio—so we sat outside, ordered a couple of beers and chowed down on a delicious Dungeness Crab sandwich. One of the more difficult things about traveling with a dog is that most dog-friendly restaurants only allow you to eat on the patio, which can be difficult in inclement weather. The rest of the time we either ate at the campground or got take out in the car.
We visited a number of gift shops, and ended up striking up a conversation with an older gentleman who owned the antique store. He’d moved from California three decades before, and really sold us on the small beach town life. Bandon was one of our favorite areas of the trip, and I’m already longing to head back.
Not to Miss: Sisters Rock State Park – Port Orford, OR
We headed out of town and began trucking down the PCH to our next stop in Brookings, Oregon. By that time, the beachfront highway had become our world, my small SUV our rolling home and safe haven. Most of the trip I’d planned to the hour, but Andrew is more of the non-planning school of thought when it comes to road trips.
Without warning, he veered off into a small dirt turnout and parked in front of a large rock. Large cliffs blocked most of our sight lines, but a few steps around the corner and it was as if we’d found another planet. Three islands connected by thin strips of rocky beach, like balloons made of earth floating forever in the sea.
The aptly named Sisters Rock State Park was a gem hidden so well we almost missed it. We were the only souls there, our shoes leaving footprints in the black earth. Remnants of an old mining town littered the shoreline, relics of ghosts from another time. After seeing a few fire rings, we considered camping there, but called the state parks department and were informed that camping is prohibited (it doesn’t mention this on the sign, so I’m glad we gut-checked by calling).
Day 9: Samuel H Boardman – Brookings, Oregon
At sunset, we arrived at one of my favorite camping spots in Oregon at Harris Beach State Park. The tent camping spots are spread out among the upper part of the campground, massive wooded spots overlooking the ocean. The large campground offers RV hook-ups, yurt rentals and tent camping all nestled within tall redwood trees and lush greenery.
In the morning, we headed out on a few of the many trails at Samuel H. Boardman scenic corridor. We first did the Natural Bridges Cove trail, which has many different viewpoints of the booming ocean waves against the rocky cliffs of shoreline. Though you can walk out onto the bridges, we absolved to watch others from a safer area above.
Note: Parts of the natural bridges trails are steep and rocks and dirt can easily slide out —I wouldn’t recommend bringing your dog unless you have a second person to hold its leash for the sketchier parts. We had a hard time with two of us making sure the dog was totally safe in all areas, which made for a bit of an anxiety-inducing hike. I would also be especially careful on this trail if it is wet and slick.
Not to Miss: For a super dog-friendly hike, we loved the short trek to Secret Beach! There’s a gorgeous little waterfall at the end near the beach and if you run out past the cliff all the way to the left (if you’re looking out at the ocean), there’s a second smaller beach with a little lagoon that Kita insisted on jumping in and out of at warp speed.
Lodging: Spot D5-2 Harris Beach State Campground
These stops on the Oregon Coast were some of the most memorable places we’ve ever been. Sprawling ocean, moss-covered trees, dense forested hikes peppering natural sea caves and bridges made of colorful textured stone…it was all so inspiring and inviting. Something about being there, with the wind whispering soft lulls against our cheeks, helped me realize just how content I was spending our time exploring the hidden secrets and gorgeous mazes of our own country…and just how little of it I’d seen. Now onto the redwoods of California!