White foam and stormy Pacific waves crashed through the opening in Arch Rock. The scent of pine and spruce wove through the salty air and the low, misty gray clouds. And our family of four—Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster—took in beautiful Oregon Coast travel, full of sea stack rocks, high cliffs, and temperate rainforests, all from the viewpoint of an accessible trail right off world-famous Highway 101.
When planning a trip, many families have to take into account different mobility conditions. Ours is no different: With an amputee mama who uses a prosthetic leg, our family keeps accessibility front and center when planning our various Oregon Coast road trips and family travels.
That’s why, when planning a fall 2021 trip to the area between Reedsport and Brookings, Oregon, we were excited to find so many ways to explore and enjoy this beautiful stretch of the Southern Oregon Coast.
We want to thank the Oregon Coast Visitors Association for sponsoring our trip. Our opinions, however, are our own.
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Accessible Southern Oregon Coast travel considerations
Sure, we were excited… but would Jodie have good beach access? Were there accessible trails? Would we all be able to check out viewpoints and other attractions?
Oregon’s Southern Coast is world-renowned for its free public coastline, volcanic cliffs, lighthouses, sea stack rocks, and outdoor recreation. In fact, the 158 miles of Highway 101 between Reedsport and Brookings have 5 of the coast’s 11 lighthouses, dozens of Oregon State Parks, the 40-mile stretch of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area (which inspired author Frank Herbert to write his masterpiece, Dune), and some of the best sea stack rocks, arches, and other formations available anywhere in the world.
This fantastic, family friendly place is also welcoming for Oregon Coast travelers with various disabilities or mobility conditions. And we can expect this to continue improving. Oregon State Parks is working through a multi-decade accessibility upgrade throughout the entire park system. The 2021 ADA Transition Plan details upgrades based on 273 statewide site evaluations. Improvements range big and small, from replacing soap dispensers and modifying door entries, to completely rebuilding attractions and access areas.
Combine a forest wander with stunning ocean views at Port Orford Heads State Park
About 30 minutes south of Bandon, the small town of Port Orford is also home to three state parks. On top of a headland that looks out over the Pacific Ocean, three trails at Port Orford Heads State Park combine incredible ocean views with the shelter of a storybook Oregon coastal rainforest.
From the parking lot, the Towers Trail offers a forested start to a beautiful wander through ferns and sitka spruces. Just beyond? Stunning views of the sea and headlands around Port Orford. Towers Trail starts off paved, but much of the later trail is pea gravel. The trail is narrow in spots. However, much of the grade is level or has a gentle slope. You’ll find a unique vantage of the ocean and coastal lands.
Directions to Port Orford Heads State Park
Explore the dinosaurs of Prehistoric Gardens via an accessible path and boardwalk
South of Port Orford, dinosaurs roam. And with the Oregon Coast’s tall, lush, temperate rainforests, the thick beds of ferns and tall trees easily make you feel like you’ve taken a trip not just to the coast, but back in time.
Pea gravel paths are wide, and wooden bridges criss-cross a stream that gurgles through the grounds. And at every turn, life-size models of dinosaurs or other prehistoric creatures await, including a stegosaurus, dimetrodon, and pteranodon.
The rich, green forest can make you feel like you’re a million miles (and a few hundred million years) away from the rest of the world. Yet the path isn’t actually very long. This easy roadside attraction was right off Highway 101. It gave our entire family big smiles and lots of new insights on the world of the dinosaurs.
Directions to Prehistoric Gardens
Oregon Coast travel: Access beaches and scenic overlooks from Highway 101’s viewpoints and Oregon State Parks
Dotted with small towns, forests, beaches, and coastal wonderlands, Highway 101 is this stretch of the world’s only major highway. Oregon State Parks operates many viewpoints and state parks right off the road, including large properties such as the 1,850-acre Humbug Mountain State Park, and small scenic access points such as Ophir Wayside.
In Port Orford itself, Tseriadun State Recreation Site’s Agate Beach proved another wonderful, and accessible, stop for our family. Just past Evergreen Shores RV Park, the road ends at a parking lot with accessible parking spaces. A paved trail cuts through a small wooded area between the parking lot and the beach. Near the end of the trail, loose sand and clumps of dune grasses lead the way to a black sand beach, rivers of agates, and dramatic stack rocks.
Directions to Tseriadun State Recreation Site (known locally as Agate Beach)
Between Port Orford and Gold Beach, Ophir Wayside is right off 101. Along with toilets and an accessible parking lot, a short path runs to a long stretch of beautiful beach. The paved trail is narrow and has a few bumps along the way. The asphalt ends at a sandy dip that leads to the shore itself. Ophir makes a wonderful stop to take in the sea air and wander along a long, unbroken beautiful sandy beach.
Directions to Ophir Beach
Nearby Arizona Beach also includes a 0.6-mile loop trail. Our understanding is the trail and overall area are very accessible. We’re planning to check them out on our next trip to the Gold Beach area.
Directions to Arizona Beach
Marvel at the Southern Oregon Coast’s sea stack rocks along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor near Brookings
Just 6 miles north of the Oregon-California border, Brookings is also home to one of the most scenic driving, hiking, and recreation routes along the entire Oregon Coast. The 12-mile area known as the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor includes some of the Southern Oregon Coast’s best accessible travel options.
Near the northern edge of the Corridor, Arch Rock is where this part of our journey began. Arch Rock’s ample parking lot looks out over wild seas and high cliffs. A 0.3-mile loop trail cuts through a stand of trees. Don’t be surprised if the scents of spruce and cedar fill the misty air. An overlook at the headland’s fenced edge gives excellent vantage as the sea bashes through the opening of Arch Rock.
At another viewpoint just a little south, a short path leads to a cliff-hugging fenced boardwalk that overlooks Natural Bridges. Here, seven blowholes and arches combine to make every breaking wave a sensation of crashing spray and vivid white foam.
Just outside of Brookings itself, Harris Beach State Park was a favorite for our entire family. The campground’s large playground gave the kids some big romping time. Down at Harris Beach itself, interpretative signs discuss tide pool creatures you might see during low tide. A concrete ramp system gives access to a short stretch of beach. An overlook at the parking area also looks out over stack rocks and another stretch of beach, which is often covered in a veritable forest of driftwood.
Directions to Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Where to stay in Brookings (and where to play, eat, and more)
Accessible Oregon Coast travel
Adults and kids with disabilities can enjoy the wonders of Oregon’s Southern Coast
Our family trip to the Southern Oregon Coast was made all the more enjoyable knowing that we had so many options that could work not only for our two children, but for an amputee mama who uses a prosthetic leg. With minimal difficulty, our entire family could explore overlooks, make our way to stunning beaches, and enjoy views at the very edge of the continent.
Of course, every disabled traveler has a different disability. Ultimately you know best what you can do. We hope our experience traveling as an accessibility-minded family helps you find ways to enjoy your own accessible trip of a lifetime during your next Southern Oregon Coast travel adventure.