17 Awesome Things to Do in Coos Bay, Oregon

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The Oregon Coast is bursting with adorably quaint towns, offering dramatic coastal views and lots of charm. The teeny town of Coos Bay is often overlooked for some of its more popular neighbors, like Florence or Bandon, but this is a huge oversight—this eclectic town is full of natural beauty and quirky attractions. Here’s 17 incredible things to do in Coos Bay, a hidden gem along the southern Oregon Coast.

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View of cove in Shore Acres State Park in Cpps Bay, Oregon
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My husband, Justin, and I have lived in the Pacific Northwest for four years and have visited the Oregon Coast more times than I can count. Part of what keeps us coming back again and again is exploring its cute towns—like Coos Bay—that offer the laid back coastal vibes and jaw-dropping views of sea cliffs, dramatic pine tree forests, and abundant wildlife. 

But what exactly are the best things to do in Coos Bay? Let’s get into it!

Things to do in Coos Bay, Oregon

1. Coos Bay Boardwalk

Get acquainted with Coos Bay by strolling along its wooden boardwalk, which stretches about half a mile along the river. It offers a handful of restaurants; some informational displays about the town’s history, including the Koos #2, an old tugboat that previously was used on the river; and beautiful views of the boats in its harbor. 

Kooa #2 tugboat located along the Coos Bay boardwalk in Coos Bay, Oregon

There’s also some nice picnic tables if you want to grab lunch from any of the nearby restaurants in Coos Bay’s little downtown and enjoy the riverside views. 

2. The Egyptian Theater

One of the quirkiest things to do in Coos Bay is catch a film at The Egyptian Theater, one of only four theaters remaining in the entire United States with Egyptian Revivalist architecture. Dating back to 1925, the building features ceiling lights that look like hooded cobras and stairways with enormous pharaoh statues—it feels like something straight out of Cairo (or, maybe, Las Vegas!). 

Egyptian Theater in Coos Bay, Oregon

Instead of having new releases, the theater now shows independent films and cult classics—for example, I’m typing this on Valentine’s Day and they’re currently showing the beloved romantic classic, Casablanca

Alternatively, there’s occasionally events, like live music or stand-up comics, that are hosted here. Between the unique building, offbeat showings, and the super affordable pricing (at the time this is written, adult tickets to most shows are under $10), this is the perfect activity to enjoy during a rainy day on the Oregon Coast. You can check out its calendar here.

3. Coos History Museum

If you want to learn more about the history of the town, this small museum packs a surprising punch, with interesting exhibits about Coos Bay’s fishing and logging industries, Indigenous people, and transportation used in the area. 

Fishing boats in the harbor in Coos Bay, Oregon

Despite its compact size, the museum has an impressive array of artifacts—many of which you can interact with—including 250,000 images and 50,000 objects on display.

4. Coos Art Museum

Founded in 1966, Coos Bay is home to the only art museum located in any of the Oregon Coast towns and is actually the third oldest art museum in the entire state. The museum is housed in an art deco building, boasting seven galleries that typically display a mix of contemporary and Pacific Northwest artwork.

Art deco building of Coos Art Museum in Coos Bay, Oregon

It also hosts an array of fun events, like weekly Yoga at the Museum, shows for local artists, and classes and workshops, ranging from how to fold origami to an introductory watercolor class.

5. Oregon Coast Historical Roadway

Are there any train nerds in your family (my dad is definitely in this camp)? 

Stop by the Oregon Coast Historical Railway on 1st Street, which has a variety of old engines and cabooses that you can walk through and explore. Their pièce de résistance is a restored Baldwin steam engine that’s over 100 years old that previously was used in the logging industry through the 1950s—you can even ring its bell! In addition to the trains, there’s also a small museum with photos and artifacts, including historic conductors’ uniforms.

This little museum is completely run by volunteers, so the hours are a bit limited and weird—11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays only. But if you can fit it into your schedule, you should definitely get your caboose over here—it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Coos Bay with little kids!

6. Mingus Park

If you’re looking for a unique place to stretch your legs, Mingus Park is just a few blocks from Coos Bay’s small downtown. It has everything you could expect from a nice municipal park, with tons of tall trees, a skate park, two playgrounds, and lots of picnic tables. 

But what makes it so unique is its Choshi Gardens, a Japanese garden in honor of the town’s sister city, Choshi, Japan, which includes ponds with lily pads and koi and a few Japanese style bridges. Best of all, it’s totally free, unlike many of the popular Japanese gardens in the Pacific Northwest (for example, the Portland Japanese Garden charges over $20 per person!). 

Koi in a pond

7. Cranberry Sweets

Did you know that only five states in the U.S. produce cranberries, with Oregon being the fourth highest producer? 

There’s a family-owned local candymaker, Cranberry Sweets, that crafts over 200 kinds of treats in Coos Bay and the nearby town of Bandon, with a focus on cranberry goodies—think chocolate-covered cranberries, cranberry jellies, cranberry cookies, you name it! The Coos Bay storefront has TONS of free samples to try if you’re not sure what kind of cranberry candy is up your alley and all of the workers are super sweet (pun obviously intended!). 

Cranberries
Pssst… Coos Bay’s neighbor, Bandon, is actually the cranberry capital of Oregon, with over 80 cranberry farms in the area and an annual Cranberry Fest every September. 

If you happen to be in the RV fam, you can even stay overnight at one of Bandon’s cranberry farms if you’re a member of the Harvest Host program (if you want to sign up, make sure to check the top of this landing page for a unique promo code discount!).  

8. Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area

Located about half an hour north of Coos Bay, the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is the largest expanse of coastal sand dunes in the United States and actually one of the largest on the entire planet! Covering 31,500-acres and stretching across 40 miles of the coastline, the dunes have been formed over the last 100,000 years by lots of rain, wind, and time. 

Dunes and coastal forests along the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area in Coos Bay, Oregon

While the tallest sand dunes here stretch up to a whopping 500 feet above sea level, you can find slightly more manageable dunes to play on, including doing everything from riding ATVs and hiking on trails, like the Oregon Dunes Loop Trail or the John Dellenback Trail to keeping a watchful eye out for the western snowy plover, a threatened species of bird, and even sandboarding (yup, riding down the sand dunes like you’re snowboarding!). 

9. Bastendorff Beach

Located 20 minutes south of Coos Bay, this beach has a wide stretch of soft sand, surrounded by pine-strewn rocky headlands. It’s an excellent place to try to kitesurf, catch a wave, or simply stroll along the beach. Consider bringing some binoculars with you—this is one of the best beaches on the Oregon Coast to spot resident seals or sea lions out in the water! 

Man walking along a beach in Coos Bay, Oregon

Outside of fire season (July 1 – Sept. 30), you can even have a campfire right on the sand as you watch the sunset. Just be aware that the beach closes at dusk every day.

10. Sunset Bay State Park

Sunset Bay offers yet another wide, sandy beach, surrounded by rugged cliffs and coastal forests. True to its name, the park is an incredible place to watch sunset, but also has a variety of other activities to partake in—volleyball, basketball, horseshoes, and even a network of hiking trails that will take you to the incredible neighboring parks (more on those below!). 

Man walking along beach with a headland covered with pine trees in the background at Sunset Bay State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Additionally, if you’re looking for a place to camp in Coos Bay, Sunset Bay has a small and quiet campground, tucked into a coastal forest that’s just a short walk from the beach.

11. Shore Acres State Park

When Justin and I visited Coos Bay, we were thinking about skipping Shore Acres State Park and I’m SO glad we didn’t! 

The park, located just down the road from Sunset Bay, is perched on the edge of a sea cliff, with jaw-dropping vistas of the surrounding sea stacks and the dramatic waves that have formed them over thousands and thousands of years. 

Sea cliffs covered with pine trees and rock formation with waves at Shore Acres State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

While the views of the rock formations are spectacular, what really makes the park unique is its botanical gardens. The land was originally used as the private vacation estate for the lumber baron, Louis Simpson, who planted lush and exotic gardens here. Today, the gardens are still alive and well, with a formal, Japanese-style, and two rose gardens to choose from—all of which boast flowers, shrubs, and other greenery from all over the world. Regardless of what time of year you come, you’ll be able to see something in bloom here!

12. Cape Arago Lighthouse

If you want to see one of the most picturesque of the eleven Oregon Coast lighthouses, make sure to stop at the Cape Arago Lighthouse viewpoint, located here. The 44-foot lighthouse, built in 1866, is perched atop Chief’s Island, a rocky outcropping which juts out of the Pacific Ocean below. 

Cape Arago Lighthouse on top of Chief's Island in Cape Arago State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

The island has been reclaimed as tribal land of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians and is not open to the public. However, it’s still definitely worth stopping at the viewpoint to snap a photo and there’s even some benches here that are perfect for relaxing on and enjoying a picnic lunch. 

13. Cape Arago State Park

This state park is located on a rocky headland that juts dramatically into the turquoise waters of the Pacific. The main attraction here are a handful of hiking trails that lead you down to different vantage points of the water. 

For example, the Cape Arago North Cove Trail winds down a steep, rocky path to an overlook of the nearby Shell Island, a popular hangout spot for (very noisy and occasionally smelly) seals and sea lions. In fact, the trail is closed from March through June to protect newly born seal pups from human interaction! 

Sea lions sunning themselves on a rock at Cape Arago State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Alternatively, the Cape Arago South Cove Trail steeply winds down to a sandy beach, covered with tidepools with colorful sea life and gnarled driftwood.  

Sandy beach with a rocky cliff behind it at Cape Arago State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Both of these trails are short, but definitely pretty steep—so be sure to save some energy for your climb back up!

14. Simpson Reef Overlook

One of the best things to do in Coos Bay if you love wildlife is to stop at the Simpson Reef Overlook. On pretty much any given day, you’ll likely see HUNDREDS of harbor seals, California sea lions, and steller sea lions hanging out on the aforementioned Shell Island, which is an excellent place for them to feast on fish, breed, or simply rest. 

The island is a bit far offshore, so you might want to bring along some binoculars to get a better look at our flippered friends. Alternatively, if you happen to be visiting on a weekend during June and July, there’s usually some awesome volunteers from the non-profit Shoreline Education for Awareness, with fancy scopes that you can look through and a wealth of knowledge of the marine mammal residents.

Sea lions and seals at Shell Island from the Simpson Reef Overlook near Cape Arago State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Additionally, if you’re visiting during the gray whale season (you can see these whales migrate from mid-December through mid-January and from late March through the end of May or the resident whales from June through mid-November), this is one of the best vantage points around to see their spouts or flukes as they swim and feed offshore. 

15. Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area

For a different kind of wildlife spotting, head to this spot, managed by the Bureau of Land Management, that happens to be the home to approximately 100 Roosevelt elks, the largest species of elk that weigh up to a thousand pounds!

Roosevelt elk in Redwoods National and State Park chewing on grass

Visitors are almost guaranteed to see elk either at the official viewing area or the number of different pull-outs along the highway, regardless of what time of year you visit. There’s also informational signs to learn more about these beautiful creatures, as well as little spotting scopes to get a closer look.  

Even if you happen to stop during an elk-free day, this also happens to be an awesome spot for birdwatching, including waterfowl, purple martins, and marsh wrens.

16. Agate Beach

Yet another wide sandy beach with beautiful sunsets, Agate Beach got its name from its former abundance of agates, a kind of colorful volcanic rock. 

Nowadays, these beautiful rocks are harder to find along its shores, due to coastline dredging which has unfortunately covered the agate beds with sand, but with some patience and a lot of luck, you can still definitely pick some up here. Even if you’re not so lucky, there’s still interesting tidepools to explore here, as well shallow and generally calm water that’s perfect for kiddos or simply wading in. 

17. Explore nearby towns

Okay , okay, this one might be cheating a bit, but there’s seriously nothing better than a good ol’ fashioned road trip along the Oregon Coast.  And good news—Coos Bay is surrounded by some SERIOUSLY cute towns, like:

Bandon (25 minutes south of Coos Bay): 

In my opinion, this is another seriously underrated Oregon Coast town. There’s so many incredible things to do in Bandon, from watching sunset at the jaw-dropping Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint to exploring its historic Old Town district. 

Sea stacks sticking out of the Pacific Ocean at the Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint in Bandon, Oregon

Florence (one hour north of Coos Bay): 

Florence has a slightly more industrial vibe than some of the other towns along the Oregon Coast, given that its downtown area is along the Siuslaw River, instead of the Pacific coastline.  Nevertheless, you’ll find plenty of antique shops and candy stores, tucked into pastel beach shacks, in its cute-as-a-button Old Town and quirky attractions, like the Sea Lion Caves, the self-proclaimed largest sea cave in the country. 

Yachats (one and a half hours north of Coos Bay): 

This tiny town is a total hidden gem and has sort of an understated hippie vibe. Be sure to hit Yachats Brewing, which is housed in a cross between a garage and a greenhouse, and the Heceta Head Lighthouse, which, in my opinion, is the most picturesque lighthouse on the coastline. 

Heceta Head Lighthouse with a rocky outcropping sticking out of the Pacific Ocean in the background in Yachats, Oregon

How to Get to Coos Bay

Coos Bay is located along the southern Oregon coastline, about four hours southwest of Portland, which has the largest international airport in the state; three hours southwest of Salem; and two hours southwest of Eugene. 

Alternatively, Coos Bay makes the perfect addition to an Oregon road trip itinerary, especially if you want to focus on the towns along the central and southern coastline—for example, Coos Bay is a little over two hours north of Brookings, which is home to the not-to-be-missed Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, or a little over two hours south of Newport, one of the biggest towns along the coastline that offers the Newport Sea Lion Docks (an awesome place to see DOZENS and DOZENS of sea lions for free!) and the beautiful Yaquina Head Lighthouse. 

Cape Creek Bridge with a rocky sea cliff and pine trees in Yachats, Oregon

Theoretically, you can get to Coos Bay via a series of busses from any of the large cities in Oregon, but, as suggested above, I’d highly recommend renting a car to explore the city and the surrounding area. The Oregon Coast is seriously made for road trips!

Where to Stay in Coos Bay

If you want to explore downtown Coos Bay and the various state parks near the town (which you totally should), your best bet will be to stay overnight in or near Coos Bay.

Man walking along a beach at Sunset Bay State Park in Coos Bay, Oregon

Check out:

  • The Mill Casino: If you prefer larger hotels, consider staying at The Mill Casino, which has beautiful views of the surrounding bay; thoughtful in-room features, like a refrigerator and microwave; and over 700 slot machines and other games to keep you busy if you have a rainy day (or if you’re just feeling lucky! 
  • Itty Bitty Inn: For something on the other end of the spectrum, this quirky little inn offers themed rooms that are furnished with adorable antiques—think a tiki or even a Star Trek themed room. Everything about this place screams cozy, from the freshly ground coffee and complimentary local beer on tap to the warm welcome by the staff. If I were staying in Coos Bay, I would 1000% make the Itty Bitty Inn my homebase. 
  • Lighthouse Cove Inn: Located in Bandon’s Old Town, this place has lots of Oregon Coast charm, with hand-painted murals of oceanscapes, in-room fireplaces, and complimentary breakfast.

There you have it—I hope you have as much fun enjoying all of the incredible things to do in Coos Bay as we did! Do you have any questions about this Oregon Coast town? Let us know in the comments below! 

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