COOS BAY, Ore. — Wearing a sweatshirt against the seaside chill, I grilled fresh-caught red snapper then served my family of three at a picnic table. After dinner, I settled into an Adirondack chair around the campfire with a glass of local pinot noir before taking a hot shower and crawling into a plush bed in a heated Airstream.
Putting the pieces in motion for that kind of rewarding Oregon coast vacation moment can be expensive and labor-intensive — buying or renting a recreational vehicle, hauling or driving it for hours, setting up camp, fetching firewood. But at Bay Point Landing, a luxury RV and camping resort that opened in 2020, a turnkey operation awaits.
The firewood and Adirondack chairs? Waiting at the sturdy stone fire pit. The propane grill for cooking fish? Delivered to our site. The pinot? From the general store. The deluxe Airstream? Already parked, and stocked like a hotel room, replete with a minibar.
For a long weekend getaway on the less-traveled but still scenic southern Oregon coast, the cabins and Airstreams available for rent at Bay Point Landing are attractive. And for RV owners, this upgraded spin on the traditional RV park is a winner.
Our Oregon coast experience began in Florence, where we popped out on the Pacific after driving west from Eugene. For Seattle-based travelers, the University of Oregon’s hometown is the closest airport, train station and car-rental option to this stretch of the coast. On the 51-mile drive south, much of it along the unique landscape of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, we passed a lot of RV parks. Most featured vehicles packed like sardines and little else.
Bay Point Landing, by contrast, felt like a modern resort, with expansive grounds and ample room between sites. There are two wings — one exclusively for RV owners (126 sites in total), the other predominantly populated by 28 Scandinavian-inspired rental cabins and 14 Airstream Hercules travel trailers — each anchored by a bathhouse with showers, restrooms, laundry facilities and an outdoor dog wash. The RV-only wing also has a bocce ball court, horseshoe pit and playground.
Where the resort feel really shines: the amenities spread among a central cluster of four buildings where the property fronts the lower end of Coos Bay. The indoor heated saltwater pool, while small, is welcome compensation for the fact that Pacific Northwest ocean beaches, for all their scenic charms, are not well-suited for swimming. The fitness room offers a Peloton, yoga mats and other basics. The kids den is stocked with toys for a range of ages. The adult activity room can be set up for movie or game night. The lounge is properly furnished for eating a meal, sipping a cocktail or pecking away at a laptop.
The front office doubles as a general store carrying the essentials, from olive oil to a bottle of wine or craft beer. Want to save yourself a trip? Everything can be ordered via text and delivered to your site at no additional charge. (The property has strong mobile signal and Wi-Fi throughout.)
Over the course of three days, I ordered fish and chips from the on-site food truck (about $14), fire starter, the grill, a high chair, a travel crib and clamming gear. (The latter four items are complimentary for guest use.) Everything arrived promptly, delivered by friendly grounds crew who roamed in golf carts. Bay Point Landing emphasizes hospitality — when I picked up my fish and chips, the driver needlessly apologized for not getting out of the cart to deliver the food.
I can’t speak to the honeymooner or family-sized cabins, but the Airstream was a marvel: heat, air conditioning, hot water, shower, toilet, queen bed, stovetop, kitchen sink. For someone used to tent camping, these amenities were unimaginable luxuries. Touches like the Beekman 1802 toiletries and the pour-over set with ground beans from Sisters Coffee Company were a cherry on top. My only quibble was a dented frying pan that wouldn’t sit flat on the stove.
Although our 1-year-old slept in the travel crib, neighboring guests confirmed the seating area and dining table convert into beds, allowing the Airstream to comfortably sleep four. (Note that while the sites are plenty roomy, there is no privacy between sites — noise was not an issue during quiet hours, although dune buggy engines from across the bay detracted from the serenity of a postcard sunset.)
Rags to riches to rags
Good design makes you want to linger, and the modern beach house aesthetic at Bay Point Landing — clean lines, sharp angles, black shingles — encouraged us to laze about between the swimming pool and digging for clams at low tide. But the Oregon coast is too stunning of a destination not to explore, so we pried ourselves away for an afternoon to commune with the wild Pacific.
We headed 6 miles south, passing through the commercial fishing hub of Charleston, before arriving at Sunset Bay State Park. The broad, sandy ocean beach can get busy, but for us it was just the jumping off-point for a 9-mile round-trip hike along a stretch of the Oregon Coast Trail from Sunset Bay to Cape Arago. The route is generally flat and the trail is in good shape, though some tree roots make an appearance.
The hike winds through three contiguous state parks, part of the Beaver State’s admirable commitment to public access along its majestic coastline. As soon as the trail climbed out of Sunset Bay, we began winding through lush green coastal forest with the sound of waves crashing below. Views down into Norton Gulch offered our first taste of the coast’s rugged beauty as the tide surged through a narrow gap in a rock wall.
Then something unexpected happened. About 2 miles in, we emerged from this wild landscape into flowering formal gardens with horticultural specimens from around the world. Shore Acres State Park stewards the legacy of Louis J. Simpson, the timber baron son of a shipping magnate. In the early 20th century, he developed Coos Bay and neighboring North Bend from a remote outpost into the bustling seaport that it remains to this day.
Simpson built a summer home for his wife Cassandra on a bluff with a commanding view and cultivated a prized garden. “It was a showplace for the wealthy,” explained George Schofield during a historical talk about Simpson’s life in the preserved gardener’s cottage. Schofield and his wife discovered the area in 2021 when they fled wildfire smoke that descended upon their home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada. They liked the park so much that they returned in the summer of 2022 to volunteer as camp hosts.
In 1918, Simpson launched a failed bid for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. Three years later, Cassandra died and the mansion burned down. Those tragedies foreshadowed other bad tidings. The Great Depression ruined the Simpson empire. “They went from rags to riches to rags,” Schofield said. Once owners of nearly all the coastal real estate from Coos Bay to Cape Arago, the impoverished Simpson sold off his holdings to the state, which eventually created the network of state parks.
Today, the public can enjoy playing in the sand on Simpson Beach or try wildlife spotting from Simpson Reef Overlook. As we hiked south, the sound of barking seals penetrated the tree canopy. When we reached the overlook, a few dozen people were perched at the railing with binoculars. A few had spotting scopes stationed atop tripods.
Spread across the rocky reef were hundreds of seals and sea lions. Seal pups clung to small rocks, while on one of the larger outcroppings a mass of marine mammal flesh formed a single blob as dozens of Steller’s sea lions and Northern elephant seals were entwined in an enormous cuddle puddle. Sea birds bobbed and flew around on the hunt for food in the rich kelp garden that makes this nearshore reef such prime feeding and breeding grounds.
From that point, it’s less than a mile to Cape Arago. The Oregon Coast Highway runs well inland of this stretch of coast, which gives this headland a land’s end feel. A series of benches faces outward to the vast Pacific. On the return leg, I noticed intriguing sea stacks that I missed on the way out. It was vindication of what Jenny Webster, one of a trio of Coos Bay residents that we met on our hike, told me: “The hike is different every time. It’s a geological gold mine.”
Odds and ends
Stock up and gear up for your stay in Coos Bay. The Coos Head Food Co-op is the place to stop for local produce, freshly baked bread and pastries, Oregon beer and wine, premade trail sandwiches and small-town hippie charm. Get the catch of the day — red snapper when we were in town — at the floating Fishermen’s Seafood Market (market price). For a seafood lunch on arrival, Shark Bites Café comes correct with clam chowder ($7 cup, $9 bowl), Dungeness crab cake salad ($20) and an oyster sandwich ($14).
Waxer’s Surf and Skate, conveniently attached to Shark Bites, will outfit you head to toe in neoprene and size you up for the appropriate board ($55 for 24 hours). Owner Brian “Bossman” Menten grew up in Coos Bay and will readily share tips on current conditions. The shop and restaurant are also the de facto headquarters of the Free Lighthouse Beach campaign to restore public access to a beloved local beach after a property owner fenced off an easement.
For reliable swell and easy access, park yourself at Bastendorff Beach. Looking for more of a challenge? The beach at Yoakam Point requires holding onto a rope while you lower yourself, surfboard in hand, down a steep ravine trail.
For dry land activities, the Whiskey Run Trails provide 22 miles of mountain bike trails in the Coos County forest. Whiskey Run Rentals will meet you at the trailhead with a bike ($50-$90 for two hours). Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is home to six links courses in the traditional Scottish style (greens fees $345 from July-September for day users).
Clam on-site at Bay Point Landing — ask the front desk for tips — or check out a crab trap and take it down to the Charleston Park Pier. Numerous fishing charters operate out of the Charleston marina.