Back to the ocean!
The campground host at Bullards Beach State Park, once she'd warmed up to me, became a wealth of local information. One of the places highly recommended was Shore Acres State Park. At first I wasn't too wild about driving back towards Coos Bay, but after hearing glowing descriptions of dramatic sandstone cliffs, crashing waves, and a gorgeous English garden, I was sold.
|Dramatic coastal cliffs|
So day three of my Southern Oregon Coast adventure had me rising early and heading back north towards the town of Coos Bay. Shore Acres State Park was located 13 miles south and west of town, on a narrow, twisting road. En route I passed the idyllic fishing village of Charleston, and Sunset Bay State Park, with it's lovely beach in a sheltered, cliff-rimmed cove.
|Lots of wave action!|
But Shore Acres State Park was today's destination. Parking my car in it's massive lot, I grabbed my camera gear and headed first to the ocean overlook.
The entire area was once owned by Louis Simpson, a local timber baron. In 1906, he built a huge mansion above these cliffs as a Christmas present to his wife. After the first home burned to the ground, Simpson rebuilt an even grander replacement. But financial losses in the 1930s caused his house and grounds to fall into disrepair. In 1942, Simpson's beloved Shore Acres Estate was deeded to the state of Oregon for use as a public park.
Today, a tiny glass-walled observation building sits on the former mansion site. A long walkway extends across it's clifftop, providing visitors stellar views of unique sea cliffs and pounding waves below. It was the perfect ocean view - I perched myself against the wall and took in the panorama. I became mesmerized watching the churning sea splash against the rocks. I even made a short video so you all could experience it too.
|The formal garden|
What a place to site your home! This rugged coastline was some of the most scenic and dramatic I'd seen. The tan sandstone cliffs were comprised of weirdly tilted strata, eroded into interesting shapes. Huge waves smashed into the protruding rock, creating giant splashes. I could've spent the entire day just watching waves. But more lovely attractions awaited...
|Rhododendrons in bloom!|
After a long wave-watching session, I tore myself away from the mansion site, and headed towards the park's famous garden.
|Bridge to the pond|
Simpson's wife created a fabulous formal English garden on their estate. She had sailing ships bring exotic trees, flowering plants, and shrubs from around the world.
|Brilliant red rhodies|
Although the Simpson mansion didn't survive the years, happily the garden has been lovingly restored to it's former glory. This five acre site boasts a rose-testing plot, Japanese lily pond, and wide variety of flowering plants - with something reaching peak bloom every month of the year.
Lucky me - I hit peak rhododendron bloom! Entering the garden through one of its many gates (to keep hungry deer out) I was instantly overwhelmed. Rhody flowers of every imaginable color were everywhere!
So. Many. Colors. I'd never seen such a wide variety of rhododendrons!
After regaining my senses (and snapping a bazillion photos) I wandered down the path to the lily pond. Wow, did those flowering bushes make some wonderful reflections!
Not only wildly gorgeous, the pond was a peaceful place to sit and contemplate. The surrounding landscaping was impeccable.
I then wandered the long walkways, lined with rhody bushes in a kaleidoscope of colors.
|Ocean in the background|
From one end of the garden, you could glimpse the ocean's blue waters above the fence.
|Lovely pink rhodies|
From the park's website, I learned that daffodils and spring bulbs bloom first (in February), followed by tulips, rhodies and azaleas, flowering annuals and perennials, rose bushes, dahlias, and finally, Thanksgiving through New Year's, the place is decked with thousands of holiday lights.
|The Japanese lily pond was beautiful|
I must've spent over an hour, just wandering the grounds. Such a gorgeous place! (And I won't even begin to tell you how many photos I took)
But the harsh midday light began to make photography difficult, so I finally convinced myself to move on. Not a huge deal, there was lots more to explore.
A short trail took visitors down to Simpson Cove, a tiny beach bordered by tall sandstone cliffs.
A lovely spot for a picnic! Or perfect to just sit and watch crashing waves.
|Wave watching at Simpson Cove|
One large rock in particular seemed to catch the incoming breakers. I witnessed some dramatic splashes, and even caught a couple on my GoPro.
This trail continued further along the cliffs, so of course, I had to see where it went. A side path took me out on another panoramic viewpoint. One direction, I had a great glimpse of the former Simpson homesite. The opposite looked out towards a huge rocky peninsula. Waves crashed on all sides. And then I noticed two fisherman perched on top. Can you see them in the photo below?
|Can you spot the fisherman?|
How about this photo? I couldn't believe someone would place themselves in such a precarious place. One slip and you'd be a goner! I sure hope the fishing was good enough to warrant risking your life!
After leaving the death wish fisherman, I continued further down the trail. It was nearing noon, and the day was getting hot. I was just about to turn back, when I begin to hear sea lions barking. It sounded fairly close, so I followed my ears. I ended up at an overlook off the main road. Hundreds of sea lions were spread out on a distant group of rocky reefs.
|Sea lion grand central|
I spoke with a nice couple who excitedly told me they'd just spotted a gray whale at Cape Arago, the next overlook down the road. But by then I had a mile and a half walk back, and decided not to venture any further. When I did finally reach my car, it was after lunch, and Shore Acres was crowded with people. Hot, hungry, and ready to ditch the crowds, I decided to head back into Bandon. Tony's Crab Shack, and it's delicious fish tacos, were calling my name.
A most excellent way to spend the morning, I'd discovered yet another gem in the Oregon State Park system. One to add to my "must visit again" list for sure!
My final night in Bandon, I had one more chance to capture the sunset. And it turned out to be the best one of all. Check back for my next post and you'll see why!
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