Thinking about heading to Oregon’s Adventure Coast this holiday season? If so, you’re in for a “fin-tastic” time. Not only is this home to the infamous Shore Acre Holiday Lights Display (we’ll talk about that in a moment), visitors will have an amazing opportunity to see some of the thousands of Gray whales migrating south in the Pacific Ocean during Winter Whale Watch Week: Friday, December 27th through Tuesday, December 31st.
Thanks to the dedicated and knowledgeable volunteers from the Whale Watching Spoken Here® program, Oregon Coast visitors can learn important lessons about these mysterious and awe-inspiring creatures and their annual migration, for FREE. Bring your binoculars and plan to stop at one of the designated Whale Watching Spoken Here® sites (like Shore Acres State Park) between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. during the 2019 Winter Whale Watch Week and you just may witness the beautiful sight of Gray whales blowing, breaching and fluking as they pass by on their 12,000-mile journey. To help you plan your trip, here is a 2-day Winter Whale Watching itinerary the whole family will enjoy with options for indoor and outdoor activities. Tip- be sure to dress the family in layers and bring rain jackets!
Start the day by sipping on a cup of fair trade, organic, house-roasted coffee from Bayside Coffee on Boat Basin Road in Charleston, a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Chat with locals or the owners in this family-friendly, causal establishment. Tip- try the Blackberry Mocha!
Afterward, go for a stroll along the Charleston Marina Complex, about a half-mile down the road to check out the fishing vessels and local wildlife. Sometimes, you can even catch a few of our local resident sea lions relaxing on the docks or going for a morning swim. Next, head to Shore Acres State Park from 10 am – 1 pm. Here you will find Whale Watching Spoken Here® volunteers to help you spot and learn more about the migrating gray whales heading south. Be sure to explore the beautiful gardens and natural scenery all around you, the views of the Pacific Ocean can’t be beat! Parking at Shore Acres is $5 (cash) or a current State Park Pass, Coastal Pass or current Campground Receipt.
After a delicious lunch, head to the Charleston Marine Life Center. This kid-friendly destination will entertain and educate kids of all ages for the afternoon. Attractions include an aquarium highlighting different coastal ecosystems, a tide pool touch tank, whale and sea lion skeletons, and underwater video from deep reefs and undersea volcanoes -OR- if you’re feeling adventurous and want a “true” Oregon Coast experience later in the day, be sure to stop by Basin Tackle Shop to find out how you can catch your own fresh Dungeness crab for dinner (ask for Rob!).
LATE AFTERNOON/EARLY EVENING
If possible, go see Shore Acres Holiday Lights before you head for dinner (it will be less crowded earlier in the day). The whimsical display features 325,000 LED lights, garden landscape lighting, holiday trees, and dozens of lighted sculptures including life-size whales, animated sea lions, an undersea garden, Koi underwater in the pond, a leaping frog in the pond, leaping dolphins and more. We recommend beating the crowds and arriving early so you can enjoy the beautiful view at the sea wall, browse through the Information & Gift Center (opens at 3:30 p.m.) and see the spectacular gardens before it gets dark. Besides, you will want to experience the magical transformation of the lights at dusk. The display runs until December 31, 2019, admission is free but parking is $5 (bring cash). A current State Park Pass, Coastal Pass or current Campground Receipt will also get you in the park!
Wrap up a big day of adventure with a delicious dinner at one of our local establishments in Coos Bay, North Bend or Charleston. Here are some of the local spots popular with visitors:
Start with breakfast at the Pancake Mill Restaurant and Pie Shoppe. It’s a must! Enjoy more than just pancakes and grab some delicious pie “to go” (whale watching is even sweeter with a delicious pie in hand!).
From there, buckle up and hit the Cape Arago Highway Loop. This loop will take you to beaches and state parks where you can take in the breathtaking vantage points and see the famous seals and sea lions on the Oregon Coast. Some of our favorite spots on the loop include Sunset Bay State Park, Bastendorff Beach, Simpson Beach, and, of course Shore Acres State Park. Be sure to dress comfortably and bring your camera! There is a 6-mile hiking trail loop from Sunset Bay cove to Cape Arago State Park that takes you along dramatic cliffs, into the coastal forest, and down to the tidepools and beaches.
While you’re at Shore Acres State Park, visit with the Whale Watching Spoken Here® volunteers (from 10 am – 1 pm). You’ll most likely see different types of whales than you did on Day 1, and you’re likely to learn something new from the volunteers.
On your way back to Coos Bay, make sure to stop by Cranberry Sweets Factory Store (1005 Newmark Avenue, Coos Bay, OR 97420). Watch candy being made and try out some of the delicious samples of their famous sweets. Our favorite? The peanut butter milk chocolate popcorn. Yea, it’s a thing.
Some of our favorite lunch spots for Day #2 include:
Get a sense of Coos Bay’s history and culture with a visit to the Coos History Museum. Exhibits will give visitors a glimpse into what life was like on Oregon’s South Coast in years past and our important connection with Native Americans and various industries like logging, fishing, and manufacturing. Don’t miss the gift shop – it’s a great place to find some hidden treasures and fun souvenirs.
Afterward, browse through the unique locally-owned shops, galleries and boutiques in downtown Coos Bay and North Bend.
DINNER Try another local restaurant in Coos Bay, North Bend or Charleston- whatever you’re in the mood for, we probably have it! For a truly special family outing, visit North Bend Lanes for dinner and bowling. This popular locally owned bowling alley features some of the best pizza and burgers in town PLUS a full bar. It’s a great place to end your trip.
Got questions? We’ve got answers! We’re here to help you plan and make the most of your time on Oregon’s Adventure Coast any time of the year. Please visit our traveler’s info page for more info and click here to download our Visitor Guide.
You can also learn more by visiting the Coos Bay Visitor Information Center located at 50 Central Avenue in Downtown Coos Bay or call (541) 269-0215 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.