Highway 101 may be one of the most scenic and most visited highways in the United States.
Starting in San Diego County and running up through Washington, it offers a wide variety of coastline, beach cities, state and national parks, and incredible ocean views.
Oregon’s reputation for its exquisite coastline is well deserved. Long sandy beaches, high cliffs overlooking secluded tide pools, enormous boulders on shore and off that seem almost primeval.
In another article you can read here, we explored Bandon by the Beach. If it isn’t the favorite location for photographers, it is surely in the top three.
At the Border: Jedediah Smith State Park
Today we we go South, back close to where the state begins—if you are driving north that is. Brookings is just six miles north of the California Oregon border. As you cross the border, to the east is Jedediah Smith State Park, a gorgeous thickly forested park with giant redwoods, trails, and campsites, running along the Smith River. If you have some time, take a few hours to hike around. The stillness, except for the birds chirping and the wind rustling the huge trees, and the beautiful trails take you back to what the country might have been like to the early travelers.
Speaking of rivers, besides the Smith River, and the Chetco, that divides Brookings and Harbor, nearby you will find the Winchuck, the Pistol, the Rogue, Sixes and Elk rivers too. No wonder it’s a popular area for fishing, swimming and kayaking.
Brookings – Harbor, Two Towns, One Destination
The area called Brookings is actually the town of Harbor on the south side of the Chetco River, and Brookings on the north side. Somehow they get lumped together as one when touring. The area is lightly populated, but we often make up for that in tourists. Still it maintains the small fishing town feel.
And fishing is a big draw for the area. Salmon fishing is wonderful at various times of the year. If you are a fisherman, you won’t want to miss the Slammin’ Salmon tournament in early September. The Chetco River usually offers excellent salmon fishing in the fall. They are catching ling cod at the moment.
Then there is crab season! The crabbing industry is huge in Northern California and Oregon, with the best catches off shore. If an area has a large bay, such as in Coos Bay, crab are found in quantity there. Otherwise the fisherman head out to sea. This year was a light year for the Brookings area at least, yet still a fishing boat with over 8,000 crabs was not unusual.
This last week in March many were seated overlooking the ocean whale watching.
In May the annual Azalea festival is held. Then there are Art Walks, Kite Festivals, concerts in the park.
Summers are filled with camping, hiking, kayaking and swimming. Between the several rivers where swimming and picnicking are popular, and the beaches, the area is fun for all.
The Unique Weather Called the Banana Belt
One of my favorites things about the Oregon coast is the cooler temperatures. That is another big draw for the area in summertime. Plenty of people living inland in the 90 degree summer weather, will head for the coast to comfortable temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s. You can feel the temperature drop as you drive across from Interstate 5.
Brookings itself is considered a banana belt zone. Often warmer than the rest of the coast, and less overcast and rainy. That might seem surprising since the area does get over 60 inches of rain in an average year. Most of it falls in winter and spring. You can see the banana belt effect often simply driving between Crescent City and Brookings. In the 30 mile coastal stretch it is sometimes 10 to 15 degrees warmer in this stretch of Oregon.
You will find a variety of restaurants throughout the town. There are too many to list. If you are looking for clam chowder, venture down to the beach in the harbor. Enjoy chowder and a bloody mary at Sebastian’s while you watch the waves break. Be sure to hit a favorite local hangout, Superfly. Since they make their own vodka, try a martini at the popular martini bar or enjoy the busy family style restaurant.
You can find Pizza, Mexican, Chinese, Sushi, coffee shops, and so much more. OHallaron’s is a very popular stop for a fine dinner. One of my favorites is Mattie’s. I challenge you to find better French toast than you will find there.
The several beaches in the area offer different facilities. Some are for day use. A couple of the more popular are the ones with camping. One, down in the harbor, right on the water is a long stretch that is a delight to walk. Rocky sand, driftwood, campfires, all pepper the beach. There is a popular hotel located there, along with an RV park and campground.
For beauty, Harris Beach is at the top of my list. There is Harris Beach Campground at the top, with the tree filled private camp sites, then down the hill is the popular beach. At low tide, check the tide pools. Anytime, take some of the hiking trails that lead to and from the beach. The views are wonderful.
Golfing and More
Salmon Run Golf course is becoming a popular spot for golfers these days too. The movie theater offers two current movies each week. Charming gift shops line the main street of town, and plenty of antique stores are there for browsing as well. If you want to get out on the water, sign up for a charter fishing boat. That is an experience here, with the wonderful variety of fish you might catch.
It’s a wonderful little gem to spend some time visiting. Don’t miss it if you are traveling along the Oregon coast. Spend time in the outdoors, the fresh cool air. Whatever time of year you will find something to enjoy in the small town, friendly atmosphere.