By Gary Hayes
It’s famous for sandy beaches, scenic rock formations, colorful tide pools, outstanding bird watching and frequently seen marine life. A visit to Harris Beach State Park in Brookings offers up the best of the breathtaking Oregon Coast with a wide variety of recreational and touring options nearby. Whether you have a weekend or a week, the attractions around Harris Beach will offer plenty to keep you busy and will leave you wanting to come back for more.
Scenic Beaches: Miles of sandy beach provide the perfect playground for family activities and offer an inspiring setting for a stroll or a nature-lovers retreat at Harris Beach State Park. Its clusters of near-shore and offshore rock formations make this stretch of coast a dream destination for outdoor photographers at sunset. The park offers access to north and south beaches separated by one of Oregon’s most accessible and vibrant rocky intertidal areas. The main day-use parking area just north of the park’s campground offers access to about a half-mile of sandy beach with numerous near-shore rock formations. A trail from the small parking area near the park’s entrance leads to South Beach, a nearly mile long stretch of sandy shoreline.
Intertidal rocks and coastline looking north from Harris Beach.
Bird Watching: Just offshore from Harris Beach is Goat Island, also known as Bird Island, a nod to the massive seabird population it supports. It’s actually the largest island along the Oregon Coast and is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, as are many of the smaller rocks along this stretch of beach. It’s estimated that more than 100,000 seabirds nest on Goat Island, representing 11 species, including nearly a quarter of the state’s population of Leach’s Storm Petrels. Tufted Puffins are also among the seabirds that can be spotted here. While even casual beach goers can enjoy wildlife encounters, a pair of binoculars will give you an eye-opening glimpse of this remarkable natural area, while serious bird watchers tote spotting scopes in hopes of sighting species to check off their list.
Walking and Hiking: Scenic walking paths, sensational viewpoints and spectacular hiking trails are easily accessed at Harris Beach and just minutes from the park. For casual strolls, the Park’s Sunset Point Trail follows much of this scenic coastline, connecting viewpoint overlooks, the South Beach Trail and a walking/biking trail that leads 1.2 miles to downtown Brookings.
A rocky peninsula just over two miles to the south of Harris Beach comprises Chetco Point Park that features easy trails, great views and access to beach and intertidal areas. Look for seals and birdlife among the numerous rocky outcroppings. More serious hikers should not miss the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor that lies just north of Harris Beach. This 12-mile stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail is one of the most scenic in the state. You can hike the entire 12-mile stretch or pick a portion of the trail from several of the viewpoint stops.
Whaleshead Beach to the Thomas Creek Bridge is a moderate three-mile hike (six miles out and back) that rewards hikers with scenic views and a variety of landscapes including the intriguing Indian Sands. Boardman Corridor stops such as Natural Bridges, Thunder Rock Cove and the Arch Rock Viewpoint offer impressive views just steps or short walks from parking areas.
Hikers can traverse a strikingly fragrant Myrtle grove, then connect to a one-mile loop trail to explore Oregon’s largest stand of Redwoods in Loeb State Park, a 20-minute drive from Harris Beach up the north side of the Chetco River. Myrtle trees, some over 200 years old, shade the three-quarter-mile Riverview Trail. It’s a full sensory experience as aromas reminiscent of eucalyptus and camphor wood fill the air as you walk along the Chetco River.
Paddle Trips: Watery adventures await paddlers who can uniquely explore this ravishingly diverse and dazzlingly scenic stretch of the South Oregon Coast. Even beginning paddlers can experience these unique seascapes and natural areas by participating in an expedition guided by South Coast Tours, a paddle tour company. In two-hour or four-hour tours, you can paddle the seacoast of Brookings and Chetco Point. More experienced paddlers can join longer tours of the captivating arches and coves of the Samuel H. Boardman Corridor. Kayak fishing tours, overnight expeditions and paddleboard tours are also offered.
Where to stay: See our lodging directory for area options.