Charleston, Coos Bay, and North Bend
The towns around the harbor of Coos Bay—Charleston, Coos Bay, and North Bend—refer to themselves collectively as the Bay Area. In contrast to its namesake in California, the Oregon version is not exactly the Athens of the coast. Nonetheless, visitors will be impressed by the area’s beautiful beaches, the largest oceanfront dunes in North America, and three wonderfully scenic and historic state parks.
Because much of this natural beauty is on the periphery of the industrialized core of the Bay Area, away from U.S. 101, it’s easy to miss. All that many motorists see upon entering Coos Bay/North Bend on the Coast Highway are the dockside lumber mills and foreign vessels anchored at the onetime site of the world’s largest lumber port.
The little town of Charleston (pop. 700) to the southwest makes few pretenses of being anything other than what it really is—a bustling commercial fishing port. Processing plants here can or cold-pack tuna, salmon, crab, oysters, shrimp, and other kinds of seafood. The town might occasionally smell of fish, but the few restaurants and lodgings here are good values, and the town is the gateway to a trio of extraordinary state parks: Sunset Bay, Shore Acres, and Cape Arago.
To reach Charleston from points south, or to head south from town, take the Seven Devils Road, which has its southern terminus about three miles north of Bandon. This route runs 13 miles past forests, state parks, and an estuarine preserve.
Getting to Charleston, Coos Bay, and North Bend
Improvements to Highway 42 make it possible to get to and from Roseburg, 87 miles from Coos Bay, in less than two hours. Motorists should still be aware that this thoroughfare carries more truck traffic than any other interior-to-coast road in Oregon. But weekenders will usually encounter few trucks and light traffic.
Porter State Lines (541/269-7183) operates twice-daily bus service between Coos Bay and Eugene via Reedsport and Florence. Eugene has Amtrak and regular Greyhound service, as well as an airport served by national carriers.
Coastal Express buses (800/921-2871), operated by Curry County Transport, operate between Coos Bay and Brookings to the south.
Public transportation in the Bay Area is limited. The one bus line makes a loop in Coos Bay and North Bend, and Dial-A-Ride (541/267-7111) operates on-call minivan bus service 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel