What To Do in Port Orford: 25 Best Ideas (2024)

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Curious about what to do in Port Orford, Oregon?

Our family spent Spring Break in Port Orford and we wouldn’t hesitate to go back. Oregon’s South Coast is incredibly beautiful, full of character, and virtually unknown.

We’d like to thank Travel Curry County for sponsoring this post. All opinions are our own.

A stunning view from Port Orford Heads State Park. Port Orford Heads State Park is a great choice when considering what to do in Port Orford Oregon.

1. Slow Down & Relax

You won’t find this suggestion on a Tripadvisor list, but it’s the one to go for! Port Orford is one of Oregon’s best locations for genuine relaxation.

Our daughter enjoys the ocean air and gorgeous scenery in Port Orford. Relaxation is an excellent choice when considering what to do in Port Orford Oregon.

This picturesque fishing town has a strong community that welcomes and appreciates visitors. Life is simple, chill, and chilly. (Bring a jacket.)

Imagine having a beautiful, coastal town all to yourself! Port Orford has all the beauty of Cannon Beach and none of the crowds.

In all, our five-day Port Orford vacation was characterized by stunning scenery, a relaxed pace, plenty of adventure, and new friends. All you could hope for from a mental health holiday.

2. Port Orford Heads State Park

A ships wheel lays atop an exhibit cabinet at Port Orford Heads State Park. Port Orford Heads State Park is a fantastic choice when considering what to do in Port Orford Oregon.
The historic Lifeboat Station at Port Orford Heads State Park.

Port Orford is best known for its history, and as Oregon’s oldest sea town, it has plenty to go around. Port Orford Heads State Park is a great place to discover this region’s rich maritime heritage.

This park preserves the daunting Port Orford Headlands, high cliffs that jut out into the Pacific Ocean. You’ll also find the Port Orford Lifeboat Station, a historic Coast Guard base.

Semper Paratus – Always Ready

A detail shot of the Port Orford Lifeboat. Port Orford Heads State Park is a great option when considering what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.
The Port Orford Coast Guard risked their lives to rescue the needy.

Port Orford’s Lifeboat Station is a remarkable place. The children loved viewing the self-righting Coast Guard Lifeboat and touring the historic station.

The museum is a great place to start your visit. Once the crew quarters, this handsome building is filled with maritime lore and historical artifacts.

The waters around Port Orford are beset with reefs and sea stacks, making it exceptionally dangerous for ships. An entire room is dedicated to the shipwrecks of the Port Orford coastline.

Did you know that Oregon was repeatedly attacked in World War II? Fort Steven’s Battery Russell is the most famous instance, but the Southern Oregon Coast was attacked as well.

A Japanese submarine repeatedly prowled along Oregon’s coastline, and an aircraft launched from this sub dropped incendiary bombs to spark forest fires in the coastal mountains. The US Coast Guard, US Navy, and Siskiyou Smokejumpers played a key role in foiling Japan’s attacks on the Oregon Coast.

Easy Hikes & Incredible Views

The view of Nellies Cove in Port Orford Heads State Park.
A view of Nellies Cove. Part of the boathouse ruins appear in the lower left corner.

Port Orford Heads State Park boasts three small trails that yield jaw-dropping ocean views. The Tower trail leads from the Lifeboat Station Museum to what was once the location of an observation tower. 

The Cove Trail overlooks scenic Nellies Cove and breathtaking views of coastal bluffs. Peer down into the cove to see the remains of the old Coast Guard boathouse.

Morning sunlight illuminates a sea stack that can be viewed along the Headland Trail in Port Orford Heads State Park.
The Headland Trail

The Headland Trail follows the north side of the Port Orford Headlands. This trail features an expansive view of Cape Blanco and perfect shots of offshore rocks.

3. Battle Rock Park & Oregon’s Trail of Tears

Battle Rock stands nobly over Battle Rock Beach. Battle Rock is a good, low-commitment activity when considering what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.
Nine men fought for their lives for two weeks from the top of Battle Rock.

Port Orford was founded through bloodshed, and you can walk where it happened. In 1851 Captain William Tichenor landed nine men to establish the settlement of Port Orford, but they soon found themselves under attack.

The Tututni tribe drove the men to what is known as Battle Rock, and kept them pinned there for two weeks. The settlers-to-be escaped only by sneaking off the rock and fleeing to Umpqua City, near present-day Reedsport.

People climb up Battle Rock the site of a battle between the Tutuni people and the first settlers of Port Orford.
Nine men found themselves besieged and poorly armed on Battle Rock.

It wasn’t until Tichenor returned with a well-armed party of seventy men that the town of Port Orford was able to be founded. Battle Rock would soon witness further violence – the forced deportation of Southern Oregon’s Native tribes.

Oregon’s Trail of Tears

A bench looks over a dramatic viewpoint of Battle Rock Beach. Battle Rock Beach is one of the easiest options of what to do at Port Orford, Oregon.
Battle Rock Park is an important site along Oregon’s Trail of Tears.

The indigenous peoples of Southwest Oregon experienced their own Trail of Tears. Following the Rogue River Wars of 1855-1856, thousands of Native Americans were forcibly removed to the Siletz and Grande Ronde Indian Reservations.

Port Orford played a central role in these efforts. Around 1,200 people were marched to Port Orford and held in open pens before being transported north to the reservations.

Tecumtum (Chief John) and his tribe were the last to resist. His band of thirty-five men, ninety women, and ninety children surrendered in Port Orford, only to then suffer an arduous 125-mile march north to Newport.

Port Orford’s pioneer cemetery lies less than a mile from Battle Rock. I can’t think of a better place to study Oregon’s uncomfortable, violent past.

4. Photography

A beautiful morning in Port Orford, Oregon. Make time to enjoy the view when planning what to do in Port Orford Oregon.
Yes, we woke up to this!

The Southern Oregon Coast is a photographer’s paradise, and Port Orford is at the center of all the wonder. The coves, cliffs, and sea stacks offer innumerable perspectives.

Abundant wildlife and weather add plenty of subject matter too. Port Orford’s location yields a wide range of viewpoints, while locations such as Cape Blanco, Sisters Rock, and Humbug Mountain offer their own scenic vistas.

Beautiful sea stacks stand amid the surf in Port Orford, Oregon.
It’s hard to take a bad picture in Port Orford, Oregon.

5. Sisters Rock State Park

Discover the best-kept secret of the Southern Oregon Coast! Sisters Rock State Park preserves an idyllic ocean promontory.

Three rocky mounts rise out of the water, yielding two quiet coves and even a sea cave. The two headlands and adjacent sea stack are similar enough to be sisters, hence the name of the park.

Our daughters stand for a picture in front of the three sisters of Sisters Rock State Park.
Sisters at Sisters State Park.

We weren’t prepared for the views that awaited us. You could look in every direction and see only the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast. 

The Sisters have a daunting beauty. The rocky headlands are richly carpeted with mosses and shrubs and wildlife can be found all around you.

Sisters State Park is almost entirely undeveloped. You won’t find more than a sign and a trail, so plan accordingly.

6. Check Out a Unique Port

A port crane lowers a fishing boat in Port Orford. The Port Orford's harbor is a great option when planning what to do Port Orford, Oregon.

Port Orford doesn’t have the best situation, but they’ve learned to make the best of it. What can you do when the waters are too rough? How about lifting the boats out of the water?

The Port of Port Orford is not a natural harbor. You won’t find any bay or river that welcomes ships into safer waters.

Waves lap against the beach along Port Orford Bay.

Port Orford’s harbor sits in a natural cove, under the shelter of a rocky headland. A jetty provides some additional shelter, but not enough to accompany and conventional marina. If that wasn’t enough, this open-water port is also very shallow.

But despite all this, Port Orford is still an active harbor by a simple and unique strategy. The port’s commercial fleet is dry-docked day in and day out.

The Fisherman's Memorial of Port Orford lists those lost but not forgotten.

Two massive cranes lower ships down into the water and hoist them back into the harbor at day’s end. This sets Port Orford apart from every Pacific Coast port in the United States.

It was a treat to watch Port Orford in action. Don’t pass up the opportunity to see the dry docks, walk the beach, and visit the Fisherman’s Memorial.

7. Cape Blanco State Park

The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is Oregon's oldest existing lighthouse.

Explore one of Oregon’s most historic landscapes at Cape Blanco State Park. Situated at the state’s westernmost tip, Cape Blanco is rich in natural wonder and maritime lore.

The Cape’s Spanish name goes so far back that its origin has been lost to history. British Captain George Vancouver attempted to name the cape after his friend, the Earl of Orford, but the Spanish name endured.

Reefs and off-shore rocks lie all around Cape Blanco, and the government approved the construction of a lighthouse just after the Civil War. But Cape Blanco repeatedly defied all attempts at construction.

The first load of supplies arrived by ship in May of 1870, but was lost to the ocean when a sudden gale drove the ship onto the beach. The light station was finally completed on December 20, 1870, for $100,000, an incredible cost for the time.

The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon and among the state’s oldest structures. It’s also an endangered historic treasure

Years have taken their toll on the 19th-century lighthouse, its mechanisms, and even the road that leads to it. Help preserve the Cape Blanco Lighthouse with a donation to the Cape Blanco Heritage Society and their Save our Lighthouse campaign.

8. Go Beachcombing

Our sons show the float that they found while beachcombing near Port Orford, Oregon. Beachcombing is a great activity to include in your list of what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.

Strong winter storms and solitary beaches make for great beachcombing! Our children found all kinds of treasures along Port Orford’s beaches.

On one beach we came across no less than four floats. We chose our two favorites and left two for another lucky child.

Our son discovered barnacles as large as a closed fist! Many of us came home with agates, jaspers, and jades. 

Our son holds an enormous set of barnacles that he found while beachcombing near Port Orford, Oregon.
Our son found an enormous set of barnacles.

9. The Blacklock Cliffs

Striped sandstone at the Blacklock Cliffs. Be sure to include this wonder on your list of what to do in Port Orford Oregon.

Just north of Cape Blanco stands a little-known natural wonder. The Blacklock Cliffs are a masterpiece of drama and contrast, set in one of Oregon’s loneliest beaches.

These golden bluffs explode right out of the beach, like fire from the ground. Dare to follow them and you’ll find that they grow into all kinds of shapes, stripes, and patterns.

There are two different ways to reach Port Orford’s secret marvel. The best-known option is the trail to Blacklock Point, a viewpoint that yields stunning views of the cliffs and the beach that they enclose. 

We wanted to walk along the base of the cliffs so we opted to take the longer route. Here are the directions:

  1. Park at Boice-Cope Park and pay the day-use fee.
  2. Cross the bridge and follow the trail along the edge of Floras Lake and over to the beach.
  3. Walk south about a mile in a half until you reach the cliffs.
@dinkumtribe Have you visited the Blacklock Cliffs yet? @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #oregoncoast #oregonbeaches #oregontravel #oregon #hiddengems #oregontravel @TRAVELCURRYCOAST.COM ♬ Epic Music – DM Production

Be advised that this walk is a commitment. The route is between 3-4 miles round-trip and most of it is over sand. You’ll also need to come prepared because the beach and park offer no facilities at all. 

Despite the long walk, not one of us was disappointed. The incredible scenery and the wild, empty beach were truly epic.

10. Art Galleries

A bronze horse gallops in the sculpture garden at the Hawthorne Gallery.
The Hawthorne Gallery is Port Orford’s place for the fine arts.

Art is alive and well in Port Orford. The Hawthorne Gallery features the fine arts and a wonderful, outdoor sculpture garden.

The Tree Wizard Gallery offers lovingly crafted wood art. The Wooden Nickel is filled with all kinds of creative treasures from local artists.

Myrtlewood dishes stand in a gallery in Port Orford, Oregon. Local art is a great option when considering what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.
Dishes crafted from Oregon Myrtle wood at the Wooden Nickel.

11. Fantastic Restaurants

Smoked Salmon Benedict sits on a plate at Redfish in Port Orford, Oregon.
Smoked Steelhead Benedict at Redfish.

The Port Orford area is packed with flavor and fun. Restaurants range from fine dining to classic seafood to an underground pub!

Of all of Port Orford’s eateries, three especially stand out:

  1. Redfish: Fantastic meals with a beautiful view of Battle Rock Beach.
  2. Crazy Norwegian’s Fish & Chips: Delicious Seafood in a fun setting.
  3. Portside Cafe: Wonderful comfort food and terrific sandwiches.
Fish & Chips and fried oysters at Crazy Norwegian's Fish & Chips.
Fish & Chip with Fried Oysters at the Crazy Norwegian.

12. Go Storm Watching

Powerful winds froth up foam at Battle Rock Beach in Port Orford, Oregon. Storm watching is a great option when planning what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.
Winds churn up seafoam on Battle Rock Beach.

Port Orford is known for its powerful winter storms. We got a glimpse of what nature can do. 

Fierce winds pushed rows of sea foam up the beach and into the air. We watched massive swells crash over the harbor jetty and rain fall horizontally!

The ocean’s might only adds to the epic beauty of the Southern Oregon Coast. Port Orford offers several locations where you can watch the stormy sea from a safe distance.

White waves break upon the shoreline of Battle Rock Beach.

13. Langlois Market’s World Famous Hot Dog

Awards hang in front of Langlois Market's famous hot dogs.

The tiny town of Langlois is home to a world-famous delight. The Langlois Market has made a name for itself with its take on the classic hot dog.

We’re big on food so we decided to try a Langlois Market dog for ourselves. Their short, stout hot dogs are served with raw onions, pickles, and the market’s renowned, house-made mustard.

Enjoy a famous Langlois hot dog with your favorite Oregon craft beer. The Langlois Market offers a rich selection of Oregon brews, and even keeps a few on tap for growlers! 

14. Harvest Berries

Bottles of cranberry concentrate and cranberry syrup sit on a fence near Port Orford, Oregon.

The Southern Oregon Coast is an ideal location for berry farms. Celebrate the harvest by visiting a blueberry or cranberry farm. 

Jensen Blueberries is a favorite farm for locals. Bowman Bogs Cranberry Farms offers informative tours of an active cranberry farm!

A cranberry bog near Port Orford, Oregon. Harvesting cranberries is a great option when considering what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.
Cranberry farms can be found north of Port Orford.

15. Prehistoric Gardens

A dimetrodon peaks through ferns at Prehistoric Gardens. Prehistoric Gardens is a good option to go with when considering what to do in Port Orford Oregon.

Prehistoric Gardens is great fun. Imagine classic dinosaur toys blown up to life-size proportions and hidden in a rainforest!

Our children loved exploring Prehistoric Gardens and learning about the plants and animals of long ago. This is an ideal excursion for young children and the young at heart.

@dinkumtribe This place was so much fun for all the kids! Even our teens enjoyed the full-scale dinosaur models. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #oregoncoastvibes #oregoncoastlife #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #travelwithkids #dinosaurday #prehistoricbehemoth @travelsouthernoregon #prehistoricgardens #prehistoric_gardens ♬ Welcome to Jurassic World – Michael Giacchino

16. Port Orford’s Old Jail

The words "City Jail" can be read over an old, rusty iron door.

Port Orford’s historic jail is a quick and easy roadside attraction. The jail ruins date to the 1930s and sits only a stone’s throw from Highway 101.

Homes stand on either side of the jail, so please be considerate.

My daughter holds up my son so he can get a peek through the barred window of the old city jail.

17. Port Orford Pioneer Cemetery

Don’t miss the opportunity to visit one of Oregon’s oldest cemeteries. Port Orford’s pioneer cemetery bears testimony to the heritage of the town and its surrounding area.

We encountered infant graves, veteran graves, and anonymous graves. Many of the deceased were born as far back as 1830. One woman was born when Lewis and Clark were still exploring the West (1804)!

Please exercise respect when visiting this sacred space.

18. Watch Wildlife

I knew that Oregon’s Southern Coast was wild. But I didn’t anticipate how often I would stumble upon new and unexpected discoveries. We encountered salamanders, banana slugs, tree frogs, elk, eagles, and more. 

@dinkumtribe These little blue creatures look like a cross between a shell and a jellyfish. Scientific name: velella velella. Similar to Portuguese man-o’war, but not dangerous to humans. Commonly called “by-the-wind sailors”, they are washing ashore in piles right now on Oregon beaches due to exceptionally strong winds. The fishy smell is awful, but the blue tide is strangely beautiful. @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel @DinkumTribe ADHD family travel #oregoncoast #oregonbeaches #oregontravel #marinebiology #seacreatures #jellyfish #oregoncoastlife #oregon @TRAVELCURRYCOAST.COM ♬ Gentle Winds – Soothing Sounds

One morning we were astonished by a Blue Tide of aquamarine creatures. Storm tides had pushed ashore hundreds of By-the-wind sailors, bejeweling the coast with their beautiful hues.

19. Langlois Cheese Factory

Langlois Cheese Factory is a kid-friendly event center.

Peruse handmade art, enjoy local fun, and listen to traveling musicians at the Langlois Cheese Factory. This historic location is Langlois’ place for community events and local celebrations.

You won’t find any cheese at the Langlois Cheese Factory, but you’ll find plenty of history. This event venue preserves and honors the legacy of Langlois Blue Cheese, an industry that played a big role in the story of Langlois, Oregon. 

20. Humbug Mountain State Park

Scale one of Oregon’s tallest headlands at Humbug Mountain State Park. 1,765-foot Humbug Mountain offers magnificent views of Oregon’s wild, southern coast.

Humbug Mountain is also home to a remarkable tree. The Oregon Myrtle is a slow-growing bush known for its unique and beautiful grain patterns.

Oregon Myrtles take centuries to mature and are extremely dense. Green myrtle wood cannot float and takes years to dry. 

21. Floras Lake

Image by Frank Price.

Catch the wind and ride the waves at Floras Lake. Steady winds have made this coastal lake a popular place for windsurfing. Floras Lake is gorgeous, largely undeveloped, and borders Floras Lake State Natural Area. 

22. Ocean Charters & Tours

Image by NOAA.

Don’t forget all that awaits you offshore! Whale-watching charters, kayak excursions, and similar activities are a great way to explore Oregon’s wild Southern coast.

What to do Near Port Orford

Gold Beach and the Rogue River are only half an hour from Port Orford. Image by ODOT.

Port Orford is only a short drive away from Gold Beach, the Rogue River, and the Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest. Be sure to include these three attractions when considering what to do in Port Orford, Oregon.

23. Mary D. Hume Shipwreck

The Mary D. Hume is one of Oregon’s best-known shipwrecks. The abandoned steamboat was scuttled after a long and colorful history.

Want a tip? Look for the wharf that sits to the left of the viewing platform. Chances are that you’ll find dozens of harbor seals taking it easy!

@dinkumtribe Gold Beach was a fun quick stop off the 101 freeway in Southern Oregon. Seals right in the harbor, an old shipwreck, and a beautiful bridge. @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe @dinkumtribe #shipwrecked #sealsoftiktok #harborseal #oceancreatures #sealshow #oregoncoast #oregoncoastvibes #southernoregoncoast #oregoncoastcheck #adhdfamilytravel #familytravelcreator #oregonfamily #pnwfamily #pnwfamilies #oregonfamilies #familytravelvlog #familytravelblog #familytravelinfluencer #travelwithkids ♬ Pieces (Solo Piano Version) – Danilo Stankovic

24. Agate Hunting at Orchard Bar

Orchard Bar is a great place for agate collectors and rock hounds.

One of Oregon’s best rockhounding sites is only minutes away from Gold Beach. Orchard Bar is a Rogue River gravel bar that yields agates, jaspers, and other gemstones.

Rockhounding is a lot like fishing — you go as much for the experience as you do for the catch. It’s always a treat to look for agates along Oregon’s scenic rivers, especially the wild Rogue.

25. Frances Shrader Old Growth Trail

The Rogue-Siskiyou National Forest is one of Oregon’s wildest areas. You can enjoy that wildness on an amazing, family-friendly hike through an old-growth forest that’s less than half an hour from Gold Beach!

The Frances Shrader Old Growth Trail is an easy, 1.5-mile loop trail amid bubbling books, abundant greenery, and massive trees. A forest service pamphlet guides you along 13 interpretive stops.

The trailhead is a bit remote and there are no restrooms, so be sure to plan accordingly. 

1 Town, 25 Adventures!

Looking for the right place to relax and reconnect? Port Orford is an ideal destination for a fun-filled family getaway.

©️ Copyright Brian A. Warren 2024.

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About the author

Brian Warren is a native of California and has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Canada, and several other countries. He's husband to Jennifer, Dad of six children, and taught middle school history for several years. His special interests include craft beers, the American Old West, and geology. Brian is also an online marketing specialist and cofounder of Dinkum Tribe, a website dedicated to healthy, happy families. Feel free to send Brian a message at [email protected].