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11 Top-Rated Things to Do in Gold Beach, OR

Written by Brad Lane
Feb 22, 2021

Gold Beach is a stunning city on the southern Oregon coast, 40 miles north of the California border. While this town of approximately 2,300 residents doesn't draw the same crowds that other coastal destinations do, for many, that's more the reason to visit.

Gold Beach is still a popular place to travel, and several attributes add up to make Gold Beach one of Oregon's best small towns. The Wild and Scenic Rogue River meets the Pacific Ocean in Gold Beach, surrounded by an abundant beach to explore. Visitors often take advantage of jet boat tours on the Rogue for fast-moving fun and scenic expeditions.

Starting with the Cape Sebastian Scenic Corridor, the stretch of coast south of Gold Beach is stunning. Highway 101, also known as the Oregon Coast Highway, cuts straight down Gold Beach and offers easy access to the enchanting environment.

Find some inspiration to travel to the Oregon Coast with our list of the top things to do in Gold Beach.

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Take a Ride on Jerry's Rogue Jets

Jerry's Rogue Jets
Jerry's Rogue Jets | Bureau of Land Management Oregon and Washington / photo modified

The Rogue River is a defining natural feature of Gold Beach and the surrounding region. The river meets the Pacific Ocean on the north side of town, where the iconic Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge spans the waterway. This picturesque bridge is near the launching point for one of the river's best adventures.

Jerry's Rogue Jets has been offering jet boat tours of the river since 1958. These exhilarating tours span up to 52 miles upriver. The tours are a combination of whitewater excitement, nature-based tourism, and family-fun entertainment. Each ride comes with a knowledgeable narration provided by the boat operator.

Jerry's Rogue Jets offer three distances for a day trip. The 64-mile round trip provides impressive scenery and a slower pace. The 80- and 104-mile round trips feature more rapids and whitewater excitement. While most visitors opt for a day trip, overnight trips are also available, with packages offered by Paradise Lodge near Medford.

Official site: https://www.roguejets.com/

2. Hike the Cape Sebastian Trail

Cape Sebastian Trail
Cape Sebastian Trail | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

The Cape Sebastian State Scenic Corridor offers some of the most awe-inspiring views along the entire coast. The cape's prominence 200 feet above the ocean adds to the incredible panoramic view. The signature trail of the area, the Cape Sebastian Trail, is accessible from Gold Beach with less than a 10-minute drive on the 101.

After pulling off the 101 onto a paved parking lot, the Cape Sebastian Trail begins its descent toward the ocean. The trail is approximately 1.3 miles, with 700 feet of elevation loss (one way). The route meanders through a thick Sitka spruce landscape, revealing stunning views of the coastline along the way.

The hike is part of the state-spanning Oregon Coast Trail. For longer trips, visitors can access the beach at Hunter's Cove, directly south of the cape, and continue hiking on the beach from there. Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint is approximately nine miles south and makes a great end to a long day hike.

Some of the most stunning sea stacks on the southern coast fill in the section of the beach between Cape Sebastian and the Pistol River. Places to visit along the route, like Myers Creek Beach, Black Rock, and Ariya's Beach offer absolute postcard ocean images.

Official site: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=52

3. See a Shipwreck

The Mary D. Hume in Gold Beach
The Mary D. Hume in Gold Beach | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

On the south side of the Isaac Lee Patterson Bridge, an eye-catching shipwreck is hard to pass up. The disintegrating boat in the water is the Mary D. Hume, built in Gold Beach in the late 1800s. Alongside an aesthetic appeal, this unique sight also has a long history to tell.

In service for nearly 100 years, the Mary D. Hume first shipped goods between the Rogue River and San Francisco. The boat then served time as an arctic whaling vessel up north before becoming a tugboat in Puget Sound. Upon retirement back in Gold Beach in 1978, problems bringing the ship out of the water caused it to sink into the shallow sea.

The ocean and elements have slowly taken pieces of the Mary D. Hume ever since. And while it's an undeniable popular spot for passing birds, the boat today is still a fascinating pitstop on the north side of town. A pullout parking area offers great views and interpretive information about the shipwreck.

4. Take a Picture with a Dinosaur at Prehistoric Gardens

The Mesozoic Era is on full display at Prehistoric Gardens, 16 miles north of Gold Beach on the 101. Within these dense rainforest surroundings next to the ocean, 23 immense dinosaur statues stand in the foliage. This iconic roadside attraction has been a favorite family pitstop since 1955.

The family of E.V. "Ernie" Nelson, the original artist and creator of Prehistoric Gardens, operates the park. Today, much of the park remains the same, including the eye-catching dinosaur sculptures. Visitors tour the grounds on a graveled pathway and pause for pictures with these magnificent displays. Information about each dinosaur is available beneath each prehistoric statue.

It's not only the dinos that add to the experience at Prehistoric Gardens. The surrounding moss and many shades of the rainforest make for a very atmospheric effect. Walking through this lush environment is reason enough to visit, and the enormous dinosaurs only sweeten the experience.

The gardens are open every day during the spring, summer, and fall. The gravel path is wheelchair accessible. Check the weather and pack a rain jacket if necessary.

Address: 36848 US-101, Port Orford, Oregon

Official site: http://www.prehistoricgardens.com/

5. Stand on a Sandstone Bluff at Otter Point State Recreation Site

Leash-free area at Otter Point State Recreation Site
Leash-free area at Otter Point State Recreation Site | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

This state recreation site isn't as popular as other oceanside destinations. And the small crowds add to the appeal of this scenic stretch of coast. This secluded space is just a few miles north of Gold Beach, with a dirt parking area off the Old Coast Highway.

Sandstone bluffs, short hiking trails, and unique sea stacks comprise the 121 acres encompassed by this state park unit. The most common activity here is wandering about the oceanic environment and marveling at the dynamic landscape. The area is also popular with pet owners thanks to a designated leash-free area.

Explorers should take caution when venturing onto the sandstone bluffs above the ocean, and keep their distance from the crumbling edges. These high vantage points are excellent for whale watching in the winter and spring months. The recreation site also has several beach access points to get a better look at the sea stacks near the surf.

Address: Old Coast Road, Gold Beach, Oregon

6. Browse the Selection at Gold Beach Books

Near the center of town, Gold Beach Books holds the prestigious title of "largest bookstore on the Oregon Coast." Over 75,000 new and used titles adorn the shelves of this family-owned bookshop. This selection makes Gold Beach Books a staple institution of the city and a fun place to find a book to bring to the beach.

Roasting coffee adds to the aroma of Gold Beach Books, thanks to the on-site First Chapter Coffee House. This full-service coffee spot offers seating and internet access for anyone looking for a cozy place to work on a new novel. The bookshop and coffee shop also displays rotating works from local artists in the community.

Address: 29707 Ellensburg Avenue, Gold Beach, Oregon

Official site: https://goldbeachbooks.com/

7. Learn Something New at the Curry Historical Museum

The Curry Historical Society preserves and shares the unique history of the southern Oregon coast and Curry County. The society operates the flagship Curry Historical Museum in Gold Beach.

The Curry Historical Museum is in the center of town within the Alice Wakeman Building. Inside, several exhibits and artifacts highlight unique moments in the county's history, spanning from indigenous cultures to more modern times. Volunteers at the museum are happy to answer questions and elaborate on the displays.

The museum is closed Sundays and Mondays, as well as the entire month of January.

Other historical society museums in Curry County include the Port Orford Lifeboat Station and the Cape Blanco Light Station, both operated by the Cape Blanco Heritage Society.

Official site: www.curryhistory.com

8. Explore the Dunes at Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint

Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint
Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint

This inspiring state park unit is set against shifting dunes and the Pistol River, 10 minutes south of Gold Beach. The site offers excellent access to a vast and sprawling sandy beach. While Pistol River is a little quieter than other beach destinations on the coast, it's still a popular place for locals to enjoy the ocean.

With several scenic landscapes like dunes, a mellow river, and a sprawling beach, sightseeing is always popular at Pistol River State Scenic Viewpoint. And pet owners often bring their four-legged friends to join in with on-leash adventures. The dunes at Pistol River are continually shifting, as is the river, offering new landscapes to explore with each visit.

Pistol River is a day-use park unit, open from early morning to dusk. A popular way to reach the state scenic viewpoint is hiking south on the Oregon Coast Trail from Cape Sebastian. This hearty hike passes by some of the most scenic coastal features in Oregon.

9. Grab a Bite to Eat

Seared albacore at a restaurant in Gold Beach
Seared albacore at a restaurant in Gold Beach | Will Buckner / photo modified

Gold Beach has a plethora of fresh restaurants to grab a bite to eat. While recently caught seafood adorns many menus, the town's appetite also includes pizza, barbecue, and ethnic eats. And many of the restaurants in Gold Beach are relatively close to each other, lining either side of the 101.

Places like Spinner's Seafood Steak & Chop House and Barnacle Bistro offer signature menus and an excellent atmosphere. These two restaurants offer some of the best places to bring a date in Gold Beach. Other popular places to visit nearby like Anna's - by the sea and Port Hole Cafe provide a little more casual and comfier places for a dining experience.

Woggy's Fish N Chips is a popular lunch spot in Gold Beach and a place to get a quick bite. For pizza connoisseurs and those feeding the whole gang, Sunset Family Pizza, also on the 101, serves up pies piping hot. And some of the best barbecue on the coast is available at Gold Beach BBQ.

10. Road Trip through the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Coastline along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor
Coastline along the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor | Photo Copyright: Brad Lane

If the roadside scenery isn't enough in Gold Beach, the stunning Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor begins 20 minutes south of town. This 12-mile linear park on the 101 offers one of Oregon's best road trips and some of the most spectacular ocean views on the entire West Coast.

Several roadside pullouts and hiking trails line the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor. Arch Rock Picnic Area is the northernmost developed site, while Lone Ranch Beach bookends the south. A few dramatic attractions in between include Thunder Rock Cove, Secret Beach, and Whaleshead Viewpoint.

The Oregon Coast Trail winds throughout the entire area and connects all the sites. A popular way to explore is parking at a trailhead and spending the rest of the day hiking from one scenic point to another. However, nearly all hiking trails leading to the ocean feature steep terrain and aren't always suited for first-time hikers.

11. Have a Picnic at the Geisel Monument State Heritage Site

The Giesel Monument State Heritage Site contains the Geisel family's historic gravesites, dating back to the mid-1800s. The tragic circumstances involving the family's death centers around the tension between new settlers in the region and the indigenous populations - often referred to as the Rogue River Wars.

The site is one small monument to tumultuous times in Orgon's coastal history. The area today offers a quick respite from the 101 and a secluded place to enjoy the temperate landscape.

More information on the Rogue River Wars is available through the Curry Historical Society and the Curry Historical Museum.

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