There’s A LOT to love on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend Charleston, but some would say that the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area tops the list. With 32,186 acres of dunes, forest, streams and lakes, it is the largest expanse of coastal dunes in North America, and one of the many natural attractions that sets our region apart from other destinations. Multiple visitors have told us that visiting these mysterious, ancient sand dunes was not only the highlight of their trip, they felt like they had been transported to another world.
The majestic dunes are known for their expansive hiking trails and surrounding campgrounds, but the best way to fully experience the Oregon Dunes is a thrilling, heart-pounding ride up and down the mighty hills in an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) or Off Highway Vehicle (OHV). We’d say it should be on EVERYONE’s bucket list. If you’re planning on visiting Oregon’s Adventure Coast any time soon, or if you’re looking for an extraordinary (some would say life-changing ) experience, we 100% recommend riding the dunes. All you need is a Driver’s License and a willingness to let go! The finest ATV riding on the Oregon Coast is in North Bend (we think so anyway). You’ll find the largest riding area at the Oregon Dunes between Spinreel Campground and Horsfall Road, just a few miles north of North Bend and Coos Bay.
If you’re a first-timer, no worries! We reached out to our friends at Spinreel Dune Buggy & ATV Rentals and asked for some tips and advice for anyone who’s new to riding the Oregon Dunes. Here’s what they had to say:
Rent your ATV/OHV equipment from a reputable business. There are multiple local businesses recommended for ATV/UTV, Sand Board & Sled Rentals, and tours like Sun Buggy and Steve’s ATV Rental, but first-time riders have consistently raved about Spinreel Dune Buggy & ATV Rentals in North Bend. “This place runs like a well oiled machine,” says a recent visitor on TripAdvisor. “My son and I had a blast riding over the dunes. Anyone that’s wanting to rent ATVs or dune buggies in the North Bend area should definitely go here!” You can learn more in this news clip featuring Richard Burkholder, owner of Spinreel.
Arrive early! If you are renting a dune buggy or ATV from Spinreel, you can’t just show up and hop on your ATV and go. There are waivers to sign, paperwork to fill out, and a brief safety video to watch. The Spinreel staff recommend arriving 45 minutes in advance, so there is time to do the above, in addition to familiarizing yourself with the riding area map, and going through a vehicle orientation to make sure that all drivers and riders are comfortable with the vehicle operation.
Dress appropriately, no flip-flops! Spinreel states on their website that closed toed shoes are required, so leave the sandals at home. Helmets and goggles are provided, but it is recommended you bring your own gloves or you can purchase some at Spinreel. Be mindful that the weather changes in Oregon, ALOT! We recommend wearing layered clothing that will allow you to adjust for changes in temperature accordingly. Be sure to have sunscreen on hand and apply generously to exposed skin every few hours. Even on overcast days, you can get a sunburn!
Bring your Driver’s License. If you plan to operate an ATV, you must bring a valid Driver’s License with you. Also, keep in mind, the vehicles are for adult drivers that are at least 18 years of age. Spinreel also has a policy that drivers must be at least 25 years of age if they plan to have any passengers under the age of 18.
Leave small children at home or with a sitter. Passengers must fit properly (be approximately 52 inches or taller, and be able to sit in the seat with their feet on the floorboard with their back against the seat) and wear a helmet.
Pay attention to the safety instructions and video! Remember the safety video and vehicle orientation we mentioned earlier? Pay attention to what they say, it will greatly reduce the chances of having an unfortunate incident or getting hurt. “They have someone going over all the rules, what to do in case of an emergency, and a short video,” posted a recent visitor. “Paying close attention to the safety session really pays off…yet still get to experience stomach-dropping feeling here and there”.
Fortunately, Spinreel makes the safety orientation easy, helpful AND fun! “They gave us a little lecture on the map of the area, showed us an amusing safety video, so we all felt prepared, out there on the dunes,” writes another. “Sufficient time was given to us during the verbal training and all questions answered thoroughly. The video was easy to follow and very explicit with it’s directions.
You Must Wear a Helmet. When operating or riding in any off-road vehicle, helmets are a must. They will greatly reduce your chances of head or brain injuries in case of an accident, not to mention protect your eyes and face from flying objects or debris. Properly fitted helmets and goggles are provided with every rental, but don’t worry, the staff always cleans and disinfects all helmets and goggles after each use.
Don’t panic if you get stuck! It happens to the best of us. Pay close attention to the safety video to learn tips on how to prevent getting stuck and what to do if your vehicle does get stuck. But if you do get stuck, all you have to do is call and someone from Spinreel will come to get you. Recent visitors can attest to this! “When one of our ATVs got stuck, I called and they came out to help us within a few minutes. It was lots of fun.”
“When they say to call them if you get into situations you aren’t comfortable with, do it! Since the staff member quickly came to rescue us when I got stuck in a deeper sand (…truly beautiful to see how easily & gracefully they got my car out), I was able to resume my adventure in no time…hence maximized my allotted reserved time :-)” One more tip: as you are climbing over a large hill, be sure to do so at an angle, rather than head-on. This will let you account for any unexpected drop-offs or riders on the other side that you can’t see.
Take lots of pictures. The views are unbelievable, and you will want to capture these memories (and make your friends jealous).
Do a guided tour. We have heard countless first-time riders express how grateful they were to have booked one of Spinreel’s Follow Me Tours. On this tour, you follow one of their experienced guides (like Justin!) on a one-of-a-kind journey. You still have the thrill of driving one of their vehicles while taking in some of the amazing views that you might have missed on your own. TripAdvisor reviewers rave about their experience and have expressed it was worth splurging for!
“Three of us did the guided tour on the Oregon Dunes with Justin. It was so worth having an expert show us what to do and where to go. It was well worth the extra expense of a tour. We were able in two hours to see a wide range of the part of the Park that is accessible to dune buggies. We also felt very safe following him. The whole experience was such fun and unique.”
“Did a “We Drive You Follow” Tour with my family of 4 in a 4 seater. Justin was an awesome guide. Had 5 other quads in the tour, and he kept us all going. Was a good pace for new drivers of quads and at the end took us on some more challenging areas of the dunes. Whole family enjoyed the trip. Would definitely do it again.”
“We would definitely do this again and would recommend Spinreel to others, especially the guided tour if you are new to an ATV/Dune Buggy adventure.
“We had a blast on the two hour, Follow the Guide tour with Justin. we traversed all over the dunes - much more than we would have on our own. It was fantastic fun.”
“Did the “Follow me tour” with Justin and had a great time. Varied terrain, varied speeds and never uncomfortable conditions. Have done UTV tours before and this one is up there with our best ones. Great for novices or those looking for new scenery.”
Check out the off-road vehicles before you go. The type of vehicle you rent depends on several factors so don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations or read reviews to determine what would be best for you. Here are some of the many vehicle recommendations we found from other users (please pardon any grammatical errors, these are unedited):
“As a family who has never been to the dunes, renting the RZR was such a great idea!”
“We are from Florida and had a blast shredding the dunes with the ATV’s we rented. Wife and I rented two seater Razor and son used Quad. Definitely the highlight of our trip.”
“Rented a 4 seater and 2 450’s. It was well worth the money and time spent!”
“We rented a 4-seater for two hours, and we had plenty of time to ride along the coast and have fun on the dunes. Awesome experience.”
“We had a 4 person ATV and Justin was great about getting us comfortable with the equipment and took us all over the dunes.”
“4- seat razor was perfect for the adults (and younger children) while the junior 4- wheeler was perfect for our 13 year old. Highly recommend.”
“Great outfit Brand new Polaris vehicle Highly recommend They made a beginner comfortable from start to finish.”
“Bypass the ATVs and go for a Razr! Cough up the money for 2 one seaters rather than a two seater. What a rush!!!”
Head for the beach! If you opt to ride without a guide, we recommend heading towards Horsfall Beach for unsurpassed views, miles of open sand, and pure bliss. Riding on an nearly empty beach is one of the best parts of the whole experience. Starting from the south, you can gain access to the dunes by Box Car Hill, a notable landmark. This southern portion is called the Horsfall Dunes, which has a large open area to ride and access to Horsfall Beach, where you can ride along the shore during the day.
Plan to ride for at least 2 hours. Most riders say that 2-3 hours is plenty of time for first-time riders to have some fun on the dunes, hit the beach and take in the amazing views of the ocean, forests, lakes and more. As you are planning your itinerary for the day, be sure to factor in the time it will take you to prepare for the ride, the safety orientation, etc. Your time does not start until you are ready to go, and the Spinreel staff member releases you to begin your adventure.
Make Reservations. Spinreel recommends making reservations for rental vehicles for their first available times (June–August at 9:30 a.m. and September–May at 10:30 a.m.). Reservations can be made online or by phone if you have further questions. Making reservations will ensure there are vehicles available for you, and will make the process much smoother.
Leave no trace. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, a rare combination of forest, ocean and desert, is one of our most unique treasured natural destinations on Oregon’s Adventure Coast. It is up to us to be good stewards of the land. If you see wildlife, please appreciate it from afar and do not attempt to touch or interact with them - it is after all, their home. All visitors are responsible for their own actions, and we ask they take special care and follow Leave No Trace principles. Please learn more and consider supporting conversation efforts from organizations like Save the Oregon Dunes.
We’re here to help you plan an adventure you and your family will remember for years to come.
For more tips on how to get the most out of your Oregon Dunes Adventure, please visit these resources:
Editor’s Note: As the developments in Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to unfold, please follow the direction from our public health authorities including the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, and Coos Health & Wellness to protect yourself, our community and our visitors.
Face coverings are mandatory for all when inside a public space AND outdoors when 6 ft distancing cannot be maintained.
If you are ready to travel, we are ready to welcome you back to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. However, if you are feeling ill or not comfortable traveling right now, we encourage to stay home and stay healthy. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Please visit https://www.oregonsadventurecoast.com/covid-19/ for more information.