By Bonnie Glidewell

Sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky. I live in a region where I am surrounded by rivers, lakes, waterfalls, festivals, leisure, hiking trails and other adventures and some of the best cheese / wine / beer / food in the nation. It can be so easy to get lost in your responsibilities and what we all call the “daily grind.” That's why I planned an escape to Oregon's South Coast.

My amazing hubby and I headed to the coast for a weekend full of romance and adventure. Unfortunately, we only had two nights to enjoy our delayed one-year anniversary so we picked Gold Beach and Port Orford.

Since this was such a special weekend, I did some research and booked two of the top-rated accommodations on the South Coast - Pacific Reef Resort and WildSpring Guest Habitat.

Pacific Reef Resort is rated No. 1 for ocean rooms in Gold Beach, And, when they say ocean rooms, they mean it. We were greeted with the most pleasant attitudes and overall helpfulness, which to me is a very important.

Pacific Reef Resorts delivers on its claim. This view was perfect! The room was spacious with a comfy king-size bed, updated and clean, smelling both fresh and inviting.  We had a spectacular view of the sea, which we instantly took advantage of with a bottle of one of my favorite Applegate Valley reds from Troon Vineyard.

Not only did the balcony face the ocean, it faced their new “Adventure Theater,” an oversized projection screen playing a short welcome film each night with suggestions on things to do and see during your stay.

I also should mention the gorgeous exposed wooden beams and stone wall inside the enclosed hot tub. These touches only increased our enjoyment of the inviting hot tub on that cool coastal night. 

By the way, Pacific Reef Resort is tucked away from Gold Beach's main street so although you are nearby everything you needed, you don't have to listen to traffic.

Time to explore

As we headed across the historic Rogue River Bridge up the coast on Highway 101, we were so mesmerized by the scenery that we nearly passed our next stop - Humbug Mountain.

Humbug is one of the highest points on the Oregon Coast (hence, the laughable stink face my husband gives below when we made it to the top). This 3-mile uphill hike featuring an old-growth temperate rain forest is filled with wildlife, wildflowers and an array of trees and berries.

If a more relaxed hike is up your alley, the Francis Schrader Old Growth Trail is an easy 1-mile loop outside Gold Beach where you can stroll through a lush and forested area boasting more than 22 of trees, plants and shrubs. A couple other attractions to note are Rocky Point, to see the best tide pools in the region, as well as Cape Sabastian State Park, which represents an awesome photo opportunity and a nice 1.5-mile walking trail to the cape.

What else to love about Gold Beach? There's easy access to the renowned Wild and Scenic Rogue River and, even better, there's a jet boat adventure on river. We'll get to that later.

Relaxing in Port Orford

I cannot believe it took me years to discover my love for the quirky and quaint town of Port Orford. At the moment, this town is one of the less-crowded and undiscovered gems of Oregon's South Coast. You can move a little slower and take deeper breaths than you might in a busier coastal getaway. We found the visitors center staff warm and welcoming, waiting to help us.

Directly overlooking the beach from the visitor center, Humbug Mountain and Battle Rock, we felt rejuvenated even after the long haul we had just conquered. Although it seemed like we only needed a night stay to see everything there is to offer, we were proven wrong. This place is full of art galleries, music and poetry as well as the most unique “dolly dock” at the port, also known as an open-water harbor.

Each and every day the fishing fleet is hoisted in and out of the harbor with a crane. This can be quite the spectacle to watch, and can be something to brag about as it is one of only two harbors in the United States who still uses this method.

We headed up the coast a few more miles to visit the absolute westernmost point in Oregon, Cape Blanco State Park. You can expect a little more wind and a lot more tourists … and better yet, more whale watching. We were surprised by a whale sighting while at the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Built in 1870, the lighthouse stretches upward 256 feet and can be seen for more than 20 miles out to sea. Less than five minutes’ drive from the lighthouse is the Patrick Hughes House, an old Victorian house that was home to Mabel E. Bretherton, Oregon’s first female lighthouse keeper in 1903.

Other things to do and see in or near this town are the mosaic wall overlooking the port, the Wetland Interpretive Walkway, Prehistoric Gardens, the Elk and Sixes rivers, as well as the old city jail or the fisherman’s memorial.

When on the coast, eat seafood

All this hiking, driving and exploring made us more than hungry. Although this town is small, the food selection is mighty. We typically crave a basket of fish and chips at the local dockside eatery whenever we go to the coast, but since we were on our anniversary trip we wanted to take it up a notch. We headed for the Redfish restaurant with Modern American/Mediterranean Style cuisine and a spectacular view of the bay and sunset.

We ordered the local Arch Rock lager to pair with the restaurant's pan-seared scallops, sake and preserved lemon-basted scallops, wild mushrooms, candied pork belly, foam of bacon dashi, & fresh herbs. My husband ordered the Redfish lamb burger and I, the catch of the day which was ling cod. Our meals were top-notch and were plenty big enough to stuff us so full that we had to turn down the mouth-watering dessert staring at us from the next table.

Next up, WildSpring Guest Habitat!

This is a getaway with a resort, retreat, sanctuary and paradise kind of feel. WildSpring Guest Habitat is a Sustainable Tourism Leadership Award-winning accommodation, an absolute one-of-a-kind experience.

Michelle and Dean, the resort owners, are believers in forest bathing, the Japanese practice which shows that time spent in nature lowers stress levels and overall increases your physical, emotional and mental well being,

Wanting a change of pace, Michelle and Dean retired their life in Los Angeles and moved to the quaint town of Port Orford years ago. A dream turned into a reality, and they now are proud owners of five acres in a private, residential forest, with five luxurious cabin suites built like small homes filled with art and antiques from around the world.

You will find a walking labyrinth, benches, hammocks, a sculpture garden and my favorite … the spa! The spacious open-air slate spa overlooks the ocean and is surrounded by massive trees that help you feel as relaxed as possible while knowing the comfort of your cabin is a short walk away. We simply put on our plush white bath robes and headed through the well-lit walking trail from our cabin to the spa where nothing but the sunset and a few peaking stars awaited our arrival. Being an eco-friendly spa, bromine is used instead of chlorine so it's much easier on the skin. If it wasn’t for the skin pruning, we could have stayed out there all night.

They also offer wines for purchase as well as the coordination of massages and Tai Chi on site.

Nothing about the best

The attention to detail here is perfect, from our easy check-in to the heated bathroom tiles and immaculate attention to detail throughout cabin structure and décor, the relaxing acoustic musical mix made by Michelle, the chocolates and fresh flowers waiting with a note in your cabin and the outrageously delicious breakfast spread in the morning paired with organic fair trade coffee.

I know the website reflected a “really good meal”, but it does not compare to what you will experience in person. First off, you can stroll from your cabin to the guest hall where breakfast is already prepared and is not limited in amount. The dining area has a full-length table along with a handful of other café style seating, captain chairs and a deck full of outside seating. Whether you choose to sit in or out, the view is impeccable.

If you are inside, the room is nearly all glass so you will not miss out on the ocean view. Now, the food! Fruit salad, a wide selection of breads, specially prepared granola, cereal, Sarabeth jams, Snoqualmie steel-cut oatmeal, hard-boiled eggs, a cheese spread, yogurt and a freshly prepared “other” hot item.

During our stay, our hot items were an egg puff (much like a quiche but without the crust and much better) and blueberry cornmeal muffins. Heck, they even share their recipes so you can try them at home! I have to admit I went for seconds, maybe thirds, and my husband went for much, much more!

What was the best part of all this? It was included with our stay!

When you stay here, you only meet others who are calm and (overly) satisfied with the WildSpring Guest Habitat experience.

One last wild ride

Before heading home, we went back to Gold Beach where we partook in a combination of “adrenal junkie” activity and scenic river jet boating with Jerry's Rogue Jet Boats.  Jerry’s offers three separate jet boat trips. We read “the longer the trip, the wilder the ride - in terms of whitewater and scenery,” so we chose the longest ride. 

For clarification, jet boats don’t use jet engines. The powerful engines use “hydro-jet” water pumps that lift boats and allow them to set only six to eight inches deep in the river. Crafts virtually skim along the sometimes shallow Rogue River and travel to hard-to-reach places.

Now for the big kahuna, and the trip we excitingly joined. The 104-Mile Wilderness Whitewater trip was short of seven hours on the gorgeous Rogue River, and included one quick pit stop and an hour-long meal break before heading back down river. We traveled into the ‘Wild’ section, an area only accessible by jet boating, rafting and hiking.

Jerry’s is the only commercial jet boat trip allowed to operate in this remote 12-mile section of the Rogue River, even reaching the base of Blossom Bar rapid which is the furthest up you can go. Our pilot for the day, Darin, was a long-timer with 26 years on the job.

Being on the river with Darin was like being on an episode of Cheers, Everyone knew his name! He was quite the character always leaving us wondering if he was yanking our chain or telling the truth. Truth or not, he gave us the run-down of the rich history of the Rogue River as well as the company itself. We saw turtles, osprey, ducks, bald eagles and other creatures.

Although the length of the trip seems long on paper, we never once felt bored as the stories kept coming as did the 360-degree spins, rollers (large river rapids) and miles of calm water.

I love being in the canyon and seeing the rugged scenery, and even more so scanning the rocks like I do clouds and imagining different figures, animals or people as they pass by. I also like riding with the wind in my hair and feeling like a celebrity. Yep, you heard me right. River rafters, swimmers and other folks enjoying Southern Oregon’s best all wave as if you are running for Miss America.

Did I entice you enough to try it out? If not, let me fill you in on some “local” secrets. If you don’t want to get wet, really wet, stay away from the front. You'll be drenched up there. And, if you forget your splash gear, Jerry’s has you covered. You can borrow some water protection.

Jerry’s Rogue Jets

Jerry’s Rogue Jets was established in 1958 by three brothers: Jerry, Alden, and Court Boice. They revolutionized commercial boating by being the first to develop, install, and use hydro-jet pumps in a boat in the United States. Jerry’s Rogue Jets became the first commercial jet boat tour company in the USA and set the standard for commercial jet boat tours. The company continues today as a world-class nature based excursion on the Rogue River and a great tourist destination on the Southern Oregon Coast.

Read more about the history of their company, check out the map of the Rogue River and even plan ahead on what to order at your meal stop! Jerry's offers two other shorter trips, the 80-Mile Whitewater Excursion and the 64-Mile Historic Mail Boat Route


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