Bay Area more Info

Things to Do


Oregon’s Bay Area offers plenty of exciting entertainment opportunities. There are many cultural attractions and activities from museums and art galleries, to live theater and numerous festivals. You can take in a current blockbuster at Pony Village Cinema or a classic film at the newly renovated Egyptian Theatre. Or if it’s the nightlife that calls to you, Warehouse 101 @ The Mill Casino Hotel offers up nightly entertainment as well as gaming activities.
RECREATION (land & water activities)

If you’re a sports/outdoor enthusiast, there are numerous adventures to be had both by land or sea in Oregon’s Bay Area.

Land acitivities include The Oregon National Dunes Recreation Area with sand dunes towering to 500 feet above seal level which offers hiking, horseback riding, camping, sandboarding, off-highway vehicle use and dune buggy tours.

Other sports/recreational activities include birding, hunting, archery, bowling, tennis (public courts available at Sunset Middle School, Upper Mingus Park, Simpson Park, Airport Heights & at the Boys & Girls Club) golfing (Bandon Dunes, Sunset Bay Golf Course), disc golf (Windsor Park & Mingus Park), biking and a variety of motor sports to keep you entertained and active.

If it’s water acitivites you crave, Oregon’s Bay Area offers a myriad of opportunities from sailing, canoeing, kayaking, water-skiing, swimming, scuba diving and fishing. The largest lakes include Woahink, Siltcoos, Tahkenitch, Eel, and North and South Tenmile Lakes.

Other great things to do on our coast include:

Crabbing & Clamming which are allowed year-round in bays, estuaries, beaches, tide pools, piers and jetties. Check Oregon Fishing Regulations for current limits and license requirements. Crabs may be taken using crab rings, pots, or baited lines. Dungeness and Red Rock crabs are available, but female Dungeness crabs may not be kept. Crab rings can be rented at Betty Kay Charters in Charleston.

Abundant mussels, soft-shell, bay, butter, littleneck, cockle and gaper clams are available. All local waters are open for clamming. License is required. Clams may be taken by hand or hand-powered tools. It is unlawful to remove clams from shells before leaving clamming area. Each digger needs a separate container. Check at the Visitor Information Center for more information regarding limits or call Wavecrest Discoveries at 541-267-4027 to schedule a personalized “clamming excursion”.

Storm & Whale Watching are popular along the Southwestern OR coast. Shore Acres State Park, Bastendorff Beach County Park, Cape Arago State Park and Simpson’s Reef Overlook offer outstanding views of waves and whales. From November through May you can view the migration of gray whales from the Arctic Sea to Baja California and back. By late December they are seen in numbers off the Oregon Coast as they head south. Official whale watching stations, including one at Shore Acres State Park, are staffed with volunteers during the ‘Official Winter Whale Watch Week’ between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Adult males and females without calves again pass Oregon in March and April going north. The ‘Official Spring Whale Watch Week’ coincides with Spring Break. Females with calves can pass as late as May. Look for the vapor blow or for portions of the head, back ridge or tail as the large mammals surface. An adult whale will reach 46 feet long (a Greyhound bus is about 40 feet). Early mornings or calm, overcast days are the best for spotting the whales. Call Betty Kay Charters for whale watching “up close.”

Whale species to watch for on the Oregon Coast include:

Gray Whales: Splotchy gray color with barnacles on skin and ridges along the back just in front of the tail.
Humpback Whales: Long white flippers, bumps on the top of the head, very strong angle of the back when diving, short dorsal fin.
Killer or Orca Whales: Tall dorsal fin, very distinct black and white pattern, often seen in groups.
Sperm Whales: Square-shaped head, blows at a 45-degree angle from the top of the head, ridges along tail stalk, wrinkled-looking skin, often seen in groups.

Tide Pooling – Tide pools are alive! They are home to a variety of plants and animals which should not be damaged or removed. Always be cautious of the wave action and the tides. Sunset Bay State Park 3 miles SW of Charleston offers a wind protected cove and shallow waters in the bay for easy access to a good selection of species and Cape Arago State Park 5 miles SW of Charleston also has an excellent variety of species. The South Cove is open year-round while the North Cove is closed March 1 to June 30 to protect seal pups.

Beach Combing – Walking along the high tide line on any beach can provide the opportunity to find many interesting treasures from the sea. Shells, driftwood and polished rocks or agates are some of the collectibles that may be taken home. Seven Devils State Recreation Site and Whiskey Run Beach 8 miles south of Charleston on Seven Devils Rd. are great places for finding banded agates, agatized myrtle, jasper, and other woods. Bastendorff Beach County Park 2 miles SW of Charleston offers panoramic view of Coos Bay entrance, jetties and sunsets. Access to Bastendorff Beach via roadway to the beach. 541-888-5353 or 541-396-3121, x 354.

The 600-foot bulk freighter, The New Carissa, ran aground during a storm on February 4, 1999 just off Coos Bay’s North Spit. The final piece of the wreckage was removed in October 2008 because the remaining portion of the freighter poses a safety hazard to the public due to its rusting metal and proximity to the beach and is a liability for the State of OR because it rests on state land.

The Sujameco, a ship that ran aground in 1929 was discovered when winter sotrms changed the surface of the sand at Horsfall Beach enough to expose the remains of the ship. While most of the ship was removed during salvage operations, iron projections can still be seen in the winter sand at the low tide line north of the parking lot.

More recently this season’s wind and waves have shifted a mountain of sand on Coos Bay’s North Spit uncovering the 35-foot-long bow of wooden-hulled vessel believed to have been identified by archeologists as the George L. Olson, a 223-foot-long wood-hulled schooner carrying lumber in the Northwest for over 20 years until June 23, 1944 when it ran aground at Coos Bay’s North Jetty. Researchers say they know how the ship wrecked, but they would like to know more about how it made it onto the North Spit. They also think there is more of it buried in the big dune that’s eroding away with each storm.

For more information on these local shipwrecks and other ships that have run aground in the Coos Bay/North Bend area you can call the Coos Bay Visitor’s Center at 541-269-0215.


The Bay Area has a wide assortment of shopping options to choose from. From gift & specialty shops where you can take home a taste of the region including local wines/beers and seafood; to antiques, cranberry sweets, local artwork, hand-crafted items such as myrtlewood gifts and native american items including carvings and quilts and much, much more. So shop for yourself or others and enjoy the memories of your trip to the Oregon’s Bay Area. Local shops in our area can be found by going to our member directory.


Boys & Girls Club of SW Oregon (SWOYA) 3333 Walnut Avenue, Coos Bay. Year-round activities and summer recreation programs. 541-267-3635

South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve 64907 Seven Devils Rd. Coos Bay. Many different activities for the youth year round.

Conventions & Tours

Surrounded by the Pacific shoreline with its dunes and beaches, Oregon’s Bay Area is located between the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area on the north and Shore Acres State Park on the south. So whether you’re coming to the Bay Area for a convention, group tour, reunion, wedding, or other event, you will find diverse accommodations including 700+ guest rooms, meeting rooms available for groups up to 500, and if you’re looking for outdoor adventure tours the Bay Area offers plenty of excitement for everyone.


The Mill Casino-Hotel (541) 756-8800. Meeting rooms and banquet facilities for 25-300 people. On-site catering available.

Red Lion Hotel (541) 267-4141. Meeting, banquet, convention & reception facilities for up to 220 people. On-site catering available.

North Bend Community Center (541) 756-8500. Meeting & banquet facility for up to 780 people. Full kitchen available. Catering allowed. Small conference room available with theater seating for up to 50 and conference seating up to 30.

* Additional convention information available at the Coos Bay/North Bend Visitor’s and Conventions Bureau


Betty Kay Charters – Bill & Margery Whitmer – 1-(800) 752-6303 operates out of Charleston harbor providing ocean fishing opportunities. Contact them directly for costs and further information.

Charleston to Bandon Tour Route Beginning in Charleston, this 40.5 mile route with several optional spurs takes you from Charleston’s Marina, past several beaches, along ridge tops, past local commercial and agricultural ventures and ends in Bandon. The Charleston to Bandon Tour Route is nationally significant because it links two of the state’s most important coastal rivers (the Coos and the Coquille) and accesses the nation’s first National Estuarine Research Reserve, two National Wildlife Refuges, and six state parks. Further, this Tour Route gives travelers views of the southern end of the Dunes National Recreation Area, Cape Arago, Coquille River Lighthouse, and the three lead natural resource industries in Coos County: commercial fishing, timber and cranberries. The forty miles of this Tour Route are exceptionally diverse, giving an excellent introduction to the entire area.

Gray Ghost “Wine” Tours, LLC. Gray Ghost “Wine” Tours include customized tours that offer a unique experience and insights into the business of grape growing, the process that turns grapes into wine, the history of these unique terrior’s and other interesting aspects that will entice new as well as experienced wine enthusiasts. Our wine stops may include behind the scene tours, barrel tastings, food pairings, vineyard tours, historical stories and stunning views. Contact Doug & Sherrill Gray at (541) 260-8687 or


The Oregon Connection (formerly The House of Myrtlewood) offers a FREE Myrtlewood Factory Tour showing you how the rough logs are fashioned into a wide variety of beautiful finished products. Myrtlewood, America’s most beautiful hardwood, is found primarily in a small area on the Pacific Coast. Come and visit the 4500 square foot gift shop that also features Oregon wines, clothing, 12 varieties of fudge, gourmet foods, books and Wooden Touch Golf Putters. Write or call for a complimentary catalog. 1-(800) 255-5318 E-mail:

The Myrtlewood Factory Located five miles north of North Bend, this factory was established in 1911. FREE personalized tours let you see the process that goes from raw logs to beautiful gifts, furniture and household items — and all the steps in between. Contact them at (541) 756-2220.


Historical Markers Oregon’s Historical Markers have a history of their own. Explore Oregon’s heritage with a self-guided tour through its Historical Markers and Heritage Trees. The Visitor Information Center, 50 Central Avenue, Coos Bay has a brochure available featuring detailed information and a map.

Historical Downtown Walking Tour brochures are available at the Visitors Information Center, 50 Central Avenue, Coos Bay for self-guided walking tours of downtown Coos Bay and North Bend. The brochures feature pictures and historical information on some of the older homes and business buildings in the area as well as a map identifying locations.

Mill Slough (pronounced “sloo”) Self-guided walk through the watershed from Coos Bay to Blossom Gulch. Mill Slough collects water from the hills and funnels it to the bay, providing a route for migrating salmon. Stop by the Visitor Information Center, 50 Central Avenue, Coos Bay to pick up a brochure filled with information and a map about Mill Slough.

Oregon’s surviving coastal lighthouses serve as visible, accessible links to the past — monuments to Oregon’s maritime heritage. The Oregon Coast is home to nine lighthouses, some of which are still working. Stop at the Visitors Information Center, 50 Central Avenue, Coos Bay and pick up an Oregon Coast Lighthouse brochure featuring history on all nine lighthouses, which ones are open for tours, contact numbers, etc.

Menasha Forestry Tour Explore Coos County’s first guided tour through a working forest conducted by a professional forester. Bring your kids and your questions. FREE ADMISSION. Tours are offered in July, August and September. Seating is limited, so call the Visitors Center at (541) 269-0215 or (800) 824-8486 for further information and to reserve your spot.

South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve 5 miles S. of Charleston on Seven Devils Rd. First estuarine reserve in the nation. 4,700 acres of freshwater streams, upland forest, salt marshes, mudflats, open water channel, nature trails, boardwalk and tide flats. Many species of plants and animals. Interpretive center, educational presentations, bookstore, restrooms, phone, wheelchair access. 541-888-5558

Jerry’s Rogue Jets PO Box 1011, Gold Beach, OR. A nature-based river adventure (“Mild to Wild”) for all ages. Open daily May 2 through October 15. 64, 80 or 104 mile trips. Fun, informative & exciting. 541-247-4571 E-mail:

Wavecrest Discoveries Special tour guide services for people who want to add extra value to their visit. These unique excursions are a deeply rewarding way to explore the exciting southern Oregon Coast and connect you with the region’s fascinating natural and cultural history of the dunes, beaches, lakes, bay, marshes, estuaries, and inter-tidal areas. Call Marty Giles at (541) 267-4027 E-mail:

Clausen’s Silverpoint Oysters, 66234 North Bay Road, North Bend. Offers tours of the oyster processing facilities. Call 541-756-3600 for more information.


Spinreel Dune Buggy Rentals 67045 Spinreel Road, North Bend or Far West 4-Wheel Rentals Inc., 68694 Sandy Way North Bend, OR. Rent ATV’s to drive in the dunes. 541-756-3419. Tours available. Large groups or families. The Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area features enormous, rolling dunes of sand rising to heights of more than 250 feet. Their contours are continually changing, with the wind acting as a tireless sculptor. 541-759-3313

Please visit the Visitor Information Centers in Coos Bay or North Bend for detailed information and maps on area hiking and biking trails.

Senior Activities

Below are just a few of the clubs and centers available for Seniors interested in pursuing their passions and connecting with other Seniors. The Coos County RSVP program, whose mission is to help people ages 55 and older find enriching opportunities to volunteer their talents and make positive impacts within the community, also serves as a bridge to connect Seniors willing to “Share the Experience of a Lifetime” with the non-profit and public service agencies that need volunteer services. At RSVP, Seniors “Make a Difference!”

Audobon Society
Eric Clough
(541) 266-7382

North Bend Garden Club
Judy Pederson
(541) 759-4145

Bay Area Senior Computer Club
Hal Sutherland
(541) 888-3364

Dahlia Society of Southern Oregon
Marie (Paulette) Woodward
(541) 267-0740

Coos Bay Information Center
Cheryl Crockett
Visitor Services Coordinator
(541) 269-0215

Saints -N- Aints Square Dance
Rick Woolsey, President
(541) 266-9637

Experience Works
Senior work-training & employment
Delma Kamm
(541) 751-8522

AARP Oregon State Office
(888) 687-2277
National – membership services
(800) 424-3410

Coos Bay Garden Club
Joan Johnson
(541) 888-4748

South Coast Folk Society
Stacy Rose
(541) 808-1002

Coos Head Garden Club
Kathy Leaf
(541) 888-6358

Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP)
Tonya Schoonmaker, Director
(541) 888-7332

Senior and People with Disabilities
Karen Snyder, Director
(541) 756-2017

Sweet Adelines
Nancy Connell, Team Leader
(541) 888-4438

Bay Area Senior Activity Center
(541) 269-2626
Hot meals served Monday – Friday 11:30 North Bend Senior

Recreation and Activity Center
(541) 756-7622
Hot meals served Monday – Friday at noon

Bay Area History

The origin of the name “Coos” is open to discussion. It means “lake” and “place of the pines” in a Native American Language of the nation’s east coast. According to historians, the explanation has been around so long it has gained almost universal acceptance. Several Native American tribes claimed the Coos Bay Region as their ancestral homelands for thousands of years before Europeans first visited the Oregon coast. Members of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, Siuslaw and Coquille tribes lived, hunted, fished and gathered food along the bay and its estuaries, area rivers, and in the forests and meadows.

British and Spanish sea captains made the first approaches to the South Coast beginning about 400 years ago. Sir Francis Drake is said to have sought shelter for the Golden Hinde somewhere near Cape Arago in 1579, but few white explorers visited the region by land until the 1820’s. Legendary trader and adventurer Jedediah Smith journeyed through the region seeking furs and Hudson’s Bay company dispatched Alexander McLeod to search for an inland passage.

The area remained largely unknown to Euro-Americans until the 1852 stranding of the schooner Captain Lincoln on the North Spit. The survivors’ 4-month encampment and subsequent rescue the brought attention of gold prospectors who came to seek their fortune from beach placer mining. The Coos Bay Commercial Company arrived the following year from the Rogue Valley to open the wilderness to settlers. They established Empire City, the county seat of government until 1896.

Early on, entrepreneurs were drawn to the area’s waterways, forests and fertile valleys. Sawmills and shipyards at Old Town North Bend and Empire City fueled economic development and brought workers and their families. Bay towns provided early commercial hubs for transportation systems reaching inland as well as a home for the Mosquito Fleet of small boats. Rivers and sloughs served as highways for transporting agricultural, forest and coal products as well as carrying people to and from town. Early promoters, in fact, called the Coos region the “Venice of the West”. Coal mining and salmon canning helped build the economy along with timber harvesting and production, shipbuilding and farming.

Immigrants of pioneer days came from Canada, the British Isles, Germany, Austria and a host of other far-flung lands. One of the best known was Gow Why, a Chinese man who sold vegetables door to door before opening his own grocery store in Marshfield (Coos Bay). The Scandinavian-American Bank, Suomi Society and Scandia Shipbuilding Company reflected the prevalence of Swedes and Finns.

Before the mid 1910’s, difficulties of fording rivers and crossing the Coast Range isolated the Coos region from the rest of Oregon. The Pacific Ocean became the regional link to the outside world. A journey to San Francisco by sailing ship took 48 hours and was easier and more comfortable than the 150 mile, 3 day trip inland to Eugene via Scottsburg and Drain by steamer and stage coach. Establishing passenger and freight rail service to the interior valleys in 1916 –“Where Rail Meets Sail”–opened this region to widespread commercial trade and tourism.

A shift to forest industrial production, improved highways and a booming national economy led to extensive urban growth in the 1920’s. The one-time mixed economy was gradually changing from rural agricultural and connections to
San Francisco were coming to an end. The first lumber shipment destined directly for a foreign port left in 1922, bound for Japan.

The 1930’s – 1950’s brought about major changes. Shipyards contracted with the U.S. Government to build minesweepers and rescue tugs for World War II defense purposes. Large national lumber companies set up operations and expanded significantly for the next two decades. Jetty improvements, commercial fishing and crabbing shaped the development of Charleston.The completion of the Coos Bay Bridge (now McCullough Memorial Bridge) in 1936 and the Roosevelt Highway significantly improved modern transportation connections and provided the final link in opening the Coos region to the outside world. The formerly remote district known as the Coos Bay country had come of age.

Submitted by Ann Koppy, Coos Historical Museum. Photographs from the Museum Collection. For additional historical information, please log on to the Coos Historical & Maritime Museum

Bay Area History by Nathan Douthit