Take Your Sweetie on an Epic Adventure
Dinner and a movie are nice for Valentine’s Day, but we have a hunch that what your sweetie really wants is a romantic adventure, with no planning required. From its wild, secluded beaches to majestic old-growth forests, Oregon’s South Coast is made for dreamy winter road trips. So before buying that gift card, pack up for one of these ready-made escapes.
Brookings is home to some of Oregon’s most rugged and dramatic sea stacks and rock formations, miles of breathtaking overlooks in the Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, and epic tide pooling at Harris Beach State park at low tide. Brooking is the Southern entry to the Oregon Coast. It is where you can hook a majestic salmon, be a daredevil rafting the white waters and turn into an explorer of the scenic river banks on the Chetco, Rouge, Elk, and Sixes River. The Oregon Redwoods are as magical as ever and worth setting aside a day to hike. Make sure your vehicle is up for a bumpy 4-mile road to the trailheads and carry a jacket so you can comfortably stroll through the loamy and foggy forest floor as you set out on the 1.2-mile loop Oregon Redwoods Trail or the shorter 0.4-mile leg through your own private mystical forest. Tell stories afterward over elegant surf and turf at Beachfront Bistro in Brookings, and catch a sunset while treating you and your partner to premium cocktails.
If your idea of a perfect day is cruising around Powell’s Books in Portland and lingering over coffee and pastries, this place is for you. Gold Beach Books & Art Gallery is the largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast, with more than 75,000 new and used books including rare books and first editions. You’ll want to grab a fresh scone and a mocha from the in-house coffee bar and find a nook. See local artists’ works on the walls and come for live music and readings by local poets and authors in the evenings. Then head out to the beach — make sure to stop for a selfie at Kissing Rock — and look for glass floats, which are placed along three miles of coastline for treasure hunters every February through April. Special red floats are hidden during the week of Valentine’s Day. Stop at the Gold Beach Visitors Center for maps, information, and details of prize drawings for float finders.
With floor-to-ceiling windows, the ocean views at Redfish restaurant are reason enough to visit Port Orford. This modern, French-inspired bistro prides itself on its artful dishes, including daily vegetarian and vegan options. Stay at the boutique Redfish Loft, upstairs, and explore Battle Rock Park, one of the most spectacular viewpoints on the Coast. Hike to the top of the rock, which juts out into the ocean, and spot whales on their winter migration. Browse nearby art galleries for more keepsakes of your trip.
You may have seen images of Bandon’s famous circles in the sand, but it’s another thing to experience it. You can do that on weekends during winter when labyrinth master artist Denny Dyke creates his walkable art by drawing detailed patterns on the sand with no wrong turns or dead ends. The sessions are subject to cancellation due to inclement weather, heavy rain, and/or high winds, so check his website before you go. Then surprise your sweetie with a quintessential Oregon Coast activity: fat-biking along the South Coast and kite-flying at Face Rock, followed by some ice cream goodness at Face Rock Creamery. Gear up at South Coast Bicycles in Old Town Bandon and find maps, tide tables, and other tips for your breathtakingly scenic 19-mile route (or part of it).
Coos Bay is the largest city on the Oregon Coast (population 16,000), but you’ll still have access to the forest and the ocean just outside your door. Take a leisurely drive to Golden and Silver Falls State Natural Area, less than an hour’s drive northeast, to enjoy off-the-beaten-path waterfalls after a short hike through an old-growth forest. Nothing says romance like trekking through scenic canyons to reach cascading waterfalls that plunge into pools a hundred feet below. Back in Coos Bay, celebrate with a hearty dinner at Blue Heron Bistro, which has served authentic German fare since 1976. A full seafood menu and innovative weekend brunch complement the menu beyond schnitzel, goulash, and roast duck.
By Jen Anderson, Updated January 2023 by Travel Southern Oregon Coast
Header image by Steve Dimock