With gnarly storm-blown trees, miles of empty beaches, and enormous wave-carved rocks offshore, Harris Beach State Park and nearby Brookings are arguably the best of Oregon. Tucked away on Oregon's less-traveled southern coast, Harris Beach is remarkably similar to Ecola State Park, to the north, but with much more affordable options for camping and dining, and noticeably warmer summers. Locals often refer to this part of Oregon as the Banana Belt for its relatively warm and dry weather. The Park is much-loved for whale watching, a host of unique birds, tide pools, and soft sand between your toes.
With the rugged Siskiyou Mountains to the east, this section of the Oregon Coast is very isolated. Access to I-5 is over a hundred miles away via HWY 199 from Crescent City, CA to Grants Pass, OR. What does this mean for visitors? Even in the height of the summer season, your chances of having an entire beach all to yourself are very good.
Harris Beach is wonderfully close to the campground, and for most campers the walk back and forth is more of a treat than a chore. The entire park and campground is on the shore-side of HWY 101, which is great for letting the kids wander around, but traffic may be a little noisy if your site is on the back of the park. There is a separate parking loop for visitors which can fill up on weekends, so you'll probably just walk from camp.
The park is right on the edge of Brookings, OR, which has shops, restaurants, breweries, and adventures like charter fishing and whale watching tours; plenty to keep you entertained for a longer stay.
If this is your first time on the Oregon coast, come prepared for every kind of weather. Don't be discouraged if the forecast calls for rain and clouds. Apart from Dec-Feb it rarely experiences all-day rain, and the sun breaks in between storms are magical with rainbows, waterfalls, singing birds and blooming flowers. The summer highs of 70-80 degrees will feel hotter than you'd imagine with the ocean spray humidity at the beach. As the locals say, "If you don't like the weather - wait a few minutes".
Pets are welcome at all Oregon State Parks, but you'll have to be watchful when the beach fills up with visitors. Cell service is decent, but you may have to walk around the campground to get a strong signal. This is probably not the place for video-chats and catching up on remote-office work. Nearby Brookings has full cell service and WiFi hotspots to reconnect with society.
RV Rentals in Harris Beach State Park
Transportation in Harris Beach State Park
HWY 101 can feel pretty narrow sometimes. Though there are lots of turn outs and viewpoints, many of them are too tight for large motorhomes and 5th Wheels. If you can drop your RV and explore from a smaller vehicle, certainly do so. Both campgrounds have good clearance for tree branches and width of roundabouts. This reviewer advises against HWY 199 through Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park in CA with anything more than a 30ft trailer. The road is literally shrinking as the trees grow each year. Route 38 to Reedsport, OR is a good access for even the largest motorhomes.
Campgrounds and parking in Harris Beach State Park
Campsites in Harris Beach State Park
Harris Beach State Park Campground
Open year round, this park offers ninety RV capable sites. Sixty-five are full-hookup and twenty-five have power and water. There is a public dump station by the entrance. There are large restrooms with flush toilets and hot showers. A nice playground is right in the campground. Sites are reservable online nine months in advance, so if you are aiming for a trip in peak summer, make your reservations early. Pets are welcome in the park. The campground is just minutes away from groceries, dining, and propane in Brookings, OR.
Seasonal activities in Harris Beach State Park
Sunsets along the Oregon Coast are one of the big reasons why visitors come here. Every night is different, with a display of clouds and colors that will make you stop whatever you were doing just to take it all in - and take a few photos. Sunsets are extra special at Harris Beach because of a coastline of rocky outcroppings and Oregon's largest coastal island, Goat Island, directly offshore. Campers lucky enough to be on "A-Loop" will see the whole show right from their campsites. The colors impress all year long, but definitely seem to last longer in the warm evenings of summer.
Go Fly A Kite
Steady offshore breezes create perfect conditions to fly all kinds of kites, and the long stretch of sandy coastline at Harris Beach will give you all the room you need to practice your skills. For inspiration, check out the Southern Oregon Kite Festival, held in nearby Brookings every July since 1993. The weekend festival is free and open to the public, and in addition to local food vendors and entertainment, top kite-makers and kite-flyers display their very best for all to enjoy. This is one of the busiest weekends each summer in Brookings, so you'll appreciate the free parking and shuttle service provided by the festival's organizers.
Agates, Sand Dollars, and Gold dust - Beachcombers Paradise
With a nice mixture of rocky points and sandy coves, Harris Beach is a rewarding spot for beachcombing. You'll always see visitors walking the beach, staring at their feet, hoping to score an unbroken sand dollar or sea urchin. Three other treasures often go undisturbed: gold, agates, and beach glass. The striking lines of black sand which mark the beach after a storm are magnetite sand hiding gold. Gold deposits have been mined profitably along the southern Oregon coast since the 1850's, and those with a gold pan and some patience are often rewarded. Though you'll need to put your shoes back on to look, the piles of rocks scattered across the coastline are guarding an endless variety of colored glass and agates, polished by the heavy winter surf.
An entire trip could be planned down the Pacific coast in Fall just attending mushroom festivals. Brookings hosts it's very own Wild Rivers Mushroom Festival in November, prime Chanterelle season along the Oregon coast. The weekend festival offers identification classes, guided mushroom walks, and excellent seminars from authors and active mycologists. The Wild Rivers has a special focus on therapeutic and medicinal mushrooms. A campsite at Harris Beach State Park would also be a perfect base for morel mushroom season in the spring. Whether you need some help getting started or you have been picking for years, a mushroom festival is sure to be exciting and informative.
Along with baskets of tasty mushrooms, late fall brings over thirty breweries out for Oktoberfest in the coastal town of Brookings. Brookings is home to three local breweries and more in the works. Seasonal varieties will be out in force during this fun weekend of live music, a 5k fun run, corn hole, carnival games and a host of local artists and vendors. The weather is usually still mild at this time of the year, but surprisingly you'll probably have the campground to yourself.
Crabbing and Fishing
The crabbing at Brookings is terrific, with or without a boat. There is a public crabbing pier in the Port of Brookings and it's common for everyone to catch their limit each day. Whether you head out on one of the many charter boats, or came ready with your own, the opportunities for fishing are HUGE. Warm currents often come within reach of Brookings, bringing giant tuna back to the docks. Ling Cod, rockfish, and Chinook Salmon will keep the angler busy no matter what time of year they visit. Check with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife for detailed info on licenses, fees, and closures.