The Oregon coast is one of the official 7 Wonders of Oregon, famed for its incredible landscapes.
As a native to Southern Oregon, travel blogger, and professional landscape photographer, I feel confident in my assertion that this region is one of the most beautiful there is to photograph in the entire world.
Seastacks, tide pools, sea caves, and so much more, this guide is going to take you on a photographic journey to some of the best Southern Oregon coast photography locations.
Whether you are a night photographer hoping to capture the milky way, a landscape photographer seeking beautiful seascapes, or even a portrait photographer looking for postcard-worthy backdrops, the Samuel H Boardman Scenic Corridor has it all.
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🌅 About Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor
The Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a dream destination for photographers, stretching 12 miles along the Southern Oregon coast, beginning near the city of Brookings. It is one of the most beautiful Oregon coast state parks.
You can walk the entire stretch of coast from one end to the other, though you will often be taking an upper trail that leads through the wilderness. It is impossible to walk this stretch entirely along the beach.
Most people, myself included, instead prefer to park and drive. There are numerous locations for photography along this stretch of coast, each of which will be covered and showcased below.
But first, a couple of quick words of warning: following unmarked trails and spending time on tidal beaches can be extremely dangerous!
Be sure to consider tidal warnings, pay attention to signage, and take caution when standing close to the edges.
Additionally, these images have been accumulated over many years, and some of these locations may have new rules and restrictions to follow that have changed since the photos were taken.
It is not my intention to condemn or condone your actions, but simply to educate. To that regard, please be mindful when exploring and photographing on the Oregon coast.
If a trail seems degraded, hazardous, or potentially perilous, be smart and turn around. No photo is worth the risk, and you may be on the wrong trail!
📸 Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Arch Rock
Because most visitors will be traveling from the north, I will begin your Southern Oregon coast photography bucket list with the northernmost stop along the Samuel Boardman corridor: Arch Rock.
The hike to the viewpoint itself is an easy one that will take you less than 5 minutes to reach. While Arch Rock is not the most dramatic ocean vista you will find, it does provide one of the most open views of the horizon, making it a popular spot for night photography on the Oregon coast.
🏖 Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Secret Beach
Easily the most popular spot on the Southern Oregon Coast for night photography is the (not-so) “Secret Beach.”
While this is no longer much of a “hidden gem,” finding it can be difficult as it is not sign posted.
This is my second-favorite location to shoot astrophotography on the Southern Oregon coast, but my absolute favorite is still a secret location known to very few (more on that below.)
What makes Secret Beach so special for photography is the cascading rows of large islands and sea stacks, as well as the meandering stream that leads to the ocean.
Recently (April 2023), a young man lost his life following the wrong trail in search of Secret Beach having taken direction from Google Maps. As stated, please turn around if you ever encounter a trail, especially an unmarked one, with a dangerous grade and never attempt with children!
The instructions below are provided as an effort to ensure those committed to finding this beach do so as safely as possible and take the correct trail.
How to get to Secret Beach
There are two ways to get here, but the easiest is to find an unofficial car park between Mile Marker 345 & 346. You will find cars parked just before the guard rail begins.
From the parking area, there are two trails that go off toward the ocean, but you will want to use the rightmost trail for the most direct, easy route. The walk is only about 10-15 minutes with a mild incline.
If you are not able to find the parking area, the other trail begins from Thunder Rock Cove, but is a bit longer and far more dangerous.
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⛰ Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Thunder Rock Cove
The trail to the right from Thunder Rock Cove will take you to Secret Beach, though it is a longer trail than the one suggested and is easy to get lost or worse. It is not recommended to attempt this trail to Secret Beach.
If conditions are dry and the trail is reliable, Thunder Rock Cove trail offers some incredible vistas.
If you walk the trail, you will find some awesome places to photograph sunset at the actual Thunder Rock cove. It is especially impressive at high tides when the waves smash the rocks and explode in ocean spray.
There are many non-trails that others have formed by visitors trying to find different compositions or seeking Secret Beach, haphazardly creating false trails.
I urge you not to take any of these in search of compositions you’ve seen on Instagram, or in hopes of putting yourself into the photo, as most of them are deceptively slippery and a fall would be fatal.
🎞 Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Natural Bridges
The parking lot for Natural Bridges will be well posted, and is one of my favorite photography locations on the Southern Oregon coast. There will be two trails from the lot, one to the left and one to the right.
The trail to the left takes you to a viewpoint of the Natural Bridges, which provides a beautiful composition for your image and aligns perfectly with the Milky Way core.
I did some astrophotography here during the summer and, though it was not my favorite personally, this composition ended up being one of my best sellers.
If you continue on the trail, there is a way to walk onto the natural bridge itself. As that is very dangerous and not recommended, I will not go into more detail in this guide. Should you decide to attempt this, as always, please be very mindful of the risk you are taking.
The trail to the right, meanwhile, provides the best daytime views in my opinion. I attempted to perform some Oregon coast astrophotography from this other angle as well, but struggled to get enough light under the trees.
It was also difficult to find a safe, clear vantage point. I recommend it much more for golden hour photography!
☀️ Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Thomas Creek Bridge
There is nowhere to stop and take pictures along the Thomas Creek Bridge, but there are pullouts on either side of it. For this one, I recommend employing the drone for some aerial photography.
In my opinion, the best view of the Thomas Creek Bridge is from the sky looking back at the bridge during sunset and golden hour. While the view from the bridge is nice, it just doesn’t have the same impact as including it in your foreground.
HEADING INLAND? DISCOVER THE BEST SOUTHERN OREGON PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS.
⛱ Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Indian Sands
The Indian Sands trailhead is also well sign-posted, though there is a little secret vista that you can access from here as well.
The Indian Sands themselves are beautiful, but hard to photograph in my opinion. However, if you take the trail all the way down and stay to the left, you will happen upon a natural arch that faces South by Southwest. I found this to be another one of the premier locations for Southern Oregon coast night photography.
From the parking lot, you may notice another trail opposite the ocean that goes into the woods. If you walk this trail for about 5-10 minutes, you will come to a clearing with a dramatic view of the coastline. I loved this shot for golden hour, or even for a reverse sunset if you are lucky enough to get one!
🐳 Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Whaleshead Beach
Whaleshead Beach is my absolute favorite place on the Southern Oregon coast for photography. Don’t get me wrong, there are some other locations, like Secret Beach, that provide some special compositions, but Whaleshead is the easiest to access and most diverse to photograph.
There are two parking lots for Whaleshead; one is for the beach, and the other is for the viewpoint. Hands down, you want to go to Whaleshead Beach. The scene is different every time I visit as it seems to transform with each tide, season, and time of day.
Make sure you schedule a sunset at Whaleshead Beach and look to get creative with your compositions. Between the textured sands, seastacks, and of course, Whaleshead rock itself, it has all of the ingredients for some stunning Oregon coast seascapes.
🧺 Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Lone Ranch Picnic Area
While I have not actually photographed much here, it is not for lack of beauty. The Lone Ranch area is a great place to stroll miles of beach, with more access than any of the other stops along the Samuel H Boardman State Park.
The main reason I haven’t shot here often is simple; there are more dramatic views in other parts of the scenic corridor, and there is too much light pollution that comes from the city of Brookings to photograph clean nightscapes.
With all that said, the fact that you can walk miles in either direction does mean that you can probably come up with some clever compositions that no other photographers have already captured.
House Rock has made it on this guide only so locals didn’t think I forgot it. The views from House Rock are impressive by most standards, but not when compared to the rest of the Southern Oregon Coast that you have just seen.
Additionally, the view is largely obstructed from here, making it impossible to do much photographing without use of a drone.
🐚 Harris Beach State Park
We have now left the Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor, but we are still in a beautiful stretch of the Oregon Coast.
Harris Beach State Park is one of the best state parks in Oregon. It is also the final beach you can access before arriving in the city of Brookings. There is camping and restroom facilities here, but be aware that this beach is gated and closes after sunset.
The first few times I photographed at Harris Beach, I ended up shooting sunset here. The photos came out alright by my 2013 standards, but they have not stood the test of time. While more recent trips have brought me to explore other parts of the coast, I still maintain that Harris Beach is one of the better Southern Oregon coast photography locations.
🎇 The Cave of Wonder
Ok, that is not the actual name of this cave. In fact, I’m not sure this cave has a name! I mentioned before that there was a place on the Southern Oregon Coast that I considered the best scene for a Milky Way photography anywhere in the state, and this is that scene.
I also mentioned that its location is a secret, and sadly I must keep it that way. It is not that I wish to have it to myself, nor do I feel entitled to it, but this location can be extremely dangerous if you are not aware of the tides. I fear too many photographers will haphazardly attempt to replicate this shot, ending in disaster. I simply do not want that on my conscience.
With that said, you are welcome to leave a comment with your email if you would like more information. I am not making any promises as to what will be disclosed, but I do think that we all have an obligation to support each other in the photography community, and am happy to do my part.
🎥 Camera Gear for Photographing the Southen Oregon Coast
While it is possible to capture some great photos nowadays with smartphones, for the best possible photos you may want to consider a few key pieces of photography gear:
- Camera: We use the Sony a7riii and have been in love with it ever since the first photo we took with it. However, for beginners you may wish to consider an entry level DSLR. This will allow you to start getting to grips with manual settings and decide whether photography is something you enjoy enough to invest in.
- Lens: The lens we use most frequently is the Sony FE 24-105mm F4 G OSS as the zoom lens allows for the most diversity. We also often use the Laowa 15mm F2 for shots that require a wider angle.
- Tripod: A tripod is essential if you are shooting in low light, at night or for any other long exposure photography. When traveling, we use the Manfrotto Be Free as it’s lightweight and easy to carry on longer hikes. For times when we require something more stable, we use the Artcise Carbon Fiber Tripod.
- Filters: A Circular Polarizing (CPL) filter (CPL) or Neutral Density (ND) filter are very useful for allowing slower shutter speeds and for cutting glare on reflective surfaces, helping to bring out the colors. The best CPL and ND filters we have found are the quartz line from Polar Pro.
⛺️ Where to stay along the Southern Oregon Coast
If you want a perfect, central location with comfortable lodging, I would recommend staying at Whaleshead Beach Resort. You will have more options if you choose to stay in Brookings, but you will be further from the photography locations discussed here.
Of course, the benefit is that you will be closer to grocery stores and restaurants by staying in the city. You will have to decide if you prefer a bit more immersion and proximity to the Oregon coast, or if you gravitate towards having some bars and restaurants to patronize.
You can also find a number of other hotel options along the coast if you prefer.
📖 Other Guides to Oregon & Nearby Regions
The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂
If your exploration of the Oregon coast is part of an extended adventure on the west coast, you may be interested in some of our other regional guides:
- All the Best Things to Do in Oregon: An Ultimate Guide
- Best Things to do in Southern Oregon
- Top 25 Best State Parks in Oregon
- The Most Magical Waterfalls in Oregon
- Ultimate Guide to the 7 Wonders of Oregon
- Southern Oregon Photography Locations
- Waterfalls of Southern Oregon Complete Guide
- Top 15 Places to Visit in Oregon
- Top 10 Places to Visit on the Oregon Coast
- Silver Falls State Park & Trail of Ten Falls Complete Guide
- The Complete Thor’s Well Guide
- The Complete Painted Hills of Oregon Guide
Northern California Guides
- The Ultimate NorCal Road Trip Itinerary Guide
- What to see in Shasta-Trinity National Forest
- Complete Guide to Burney Falls in NorCal
- Yosemite Itineraries: How to Spend 1-3 Days in Yosemite NP
- Yosemite Photography Guide
- Yosemite Sunrise Guide
- The Ultimate Guide to Yosemite Firefall
Washington & PNW Guides
Finally, feel free to browse our Oregon professional photography gallery for prints and inspiration.
🧐 Final thoughts on Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations
The two of us work very hard to create these free travel guides to help you plan your dream vacation. If you think we’ve done a good job and would like to say thanks, please consider clicking the donate button below 🙂
There are, of course, plenty of amazing places to photograph on the Oregon coast north of Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The Pistol River and Gold Beach, for example, have plenty of their own beauty to boast. Even further north, Thors Well and Cannon Beach offer some spectacular seascapes.
However, the savage, rocky coastline begins to flatten out and lose its drama as you travel north. For this reason, I have chosen instead to focus on just this section of coastline that borders California.
I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and descriptions in this guide, and welcome any comments you have below!
59 thoughts on “🌊 Southern Oregon Coast Guide: 10 Best & Secret Places (2023)”
Hello Adam. Darin Bradley here. Is that secret cave in Bandon? If it is not, I, of course would like some clues. Thanks in advance for any or the absolute information on this location.
Hi Darin! I will email you directly; thanks for reading and commenting!
Best month for Milky Way photography at these locations?
June-August have the largest windows to shoot the Milky Way core, but I was able to get some good ones as late as September and as early as May.
Summer months have a better chance at clear skies for sure!
I love the Pacific Northwest and I really need to make my way out to explore more of Oregon! Great post xx
It’s such a beautiful part of the country!
Wow I absolutely love your astrophotography! What camera are you shooting with? I think I need to upgrade mine to attempt shots like those. Great work, keep it up 🙂
Thank you so much. We both have a Sony a7riii and tend to use our Laowa 15mm f2 lens for astrophotography. We’ve got a list of everything that’s in our bag here… https://www.wedreamoftravel.com/instagram-blogger-travel-photography-gear/
Wow! Your photography is amazing! I’m looking to do a trip to Oregon this upcoming year, so this is super helpful.
These are all so beautiful! I am planning a trip for a couple to the Oregon Coast in the Spring, and will definitely be adding a few stops I did not know of!
Oh spring will be a lovely time to go! I’m glad you found it helpful 🙂
These photos are insane! Wow! I’ve traveled so much internationally but not a ton in the US and I always forget how beautiful my own backyard is until a post like this comes along and reminds me!
The US has so many incredible landscapes, but I totally understand what you mean! Oregon, in particular, is gorgeous.
Nice writeup, Adam; and love your milky way shots! I would love some location info re your secret Cave of Wonder”…TIA.
Thanks so much for the kind words. We’ll send you an email!
These photos are beautiful, and bring me back to our own travels through Oregon…just with better pictures! ? Have you been to Oceanside? Super low-key, not much around, but the views all around are magic!
I (Sophie) haven’t been there… we were actually on a road trip on our way in that direction when we came across an injured hawk. This led to stopping to rescue it and a massive detour back to a wildlife rehab centre, so we didn’t make it up there. However, I know Adam has travelled all over Oregon!
What an amazing guide and collection of images. Would you pass along the cave of wonder coordinates? I’m heading to the coast tomorrow!
Thank you for the kind words! We will email you but suspect the tide will be too high tomorrow, unfortunately 🙁
Just the sort of material I was looking for-great blog! I will be returning to the area soon and will certainly follow some of your recommendations. I would be interested in the cave location and if there is a trail to the Thunder Cove overlook. PS-I can read a tide chart and am risk-averse.
Hi Don! Thank you so much for the kind words!! I have messaged you on Instagram with instructions on finding the cave. Best of luck on your shoot!
Brilliant shots Adam!!! I would love more info on the cave please!!!?
Hi Debbie! Thanks for the kind words 🙂 I dont broadcast that one publicly because it is somewhat dangerous if tide is not considered. Please email me and I can provide more info directly; [email protected]
Hi, Lovely post! I’ll be doing some camping in the southern Oregon coast next month and was hoping to do some astrophotography. Could I get some more info on the “Cave of Wonder”? If the conditions are safe then I’d love to check it out. Thanks!
Hi Deep! First off, I just checked out your IG and was very impressed! Your short and sweet caption actually made us laugh out loud 🙂
I will send you a message on IG!
Hi, amazing collection of shots and location guide information! I am traveling to Oregon coast next month and was hoping to do some astro-photography and would be interested in some more info on the “Cave of Wonder”. Thanks in advance!
That’s great Frank! I will send you an email; check your spam folders if you do not receive it!
Beautiful photography! Yeas of course I would love to know the location of the”Cave of Wonder.” I am well aware and always conscious of the tides on the Oregon Coast being an Oregonian.
I would be eternally grateful if you could give me a clue.
Hi Bruce! I will email you 🙂 Thanks for reading and for the kind words!
Fabulous article.I am an amateur photographer. My hobby keeping me sane during the pandemic. I am excited to be headed up to OR in December during king tides and no moon. Would love some hints about the location of the cave. I will definitely try your other spots too. Thanks so much!
Hi Laura! Thank you so much for the kind words and I am so glad you have also found such comfort in the escape that is nature photography during this time.
The cave has since been gated off to the public, unfortunately.
Just fyi, December will not feature the Milky Way Galactic Center in your shots, but dont let that hold you back 🙂 I hope you have an amazing and reward visit!
Love your photos! Any help you could give me on the cave location would be great, it looks amazing!
Hi Chris! Unfortunately last I heard, the cave has been closed off… I have not been back to verify but I will be visiting soon and checking in on things. If I discover it is still accessible, I will help you find it via email 🙂
Thank you for the kind words and polite request!!
Hi Adam. Thanks for the article. I’ll be visiting that area in October. If you discover that cave is still open, I would appreciate any hints. I’m not an instagrammer, and I have a deep respect for the environment. I always try to leave no trace (well, once, a cap blew off my head into a chasm, and trying to retrieve it would likely have cost me my life, so I’m not perfect). I love finding rarely photographed areas. Still, I respect your right to keep the location secret.
I absolutely love this request Bob. Sorry for the late reply but I will email you.
Hey Brother – would love some intel on the location of the “Secret Cave”. I will be on the Oregon Coast for the next 6 months shooting. I’d love to get that shot. Thanks in advance for the info.
Hi Eric! Unfortunately I have been told that there is no longer access to it which I have been unable to confirm. I wish I had better news for you man but there are TONS of good places around Samuel Boardman. My advice is to take every trail you see that does not have a sign; you’ll be amazed at what you find out there!
Amazing article and beautiful photos! I would love to surprise my man by taking him to the secret spot. Could you give me more info?!
Hi Avori! thank you so much for the kind words! Unfortunately it seems the cave has been closed to the public from what I have heard; I’m not sure if its covid related, public safety, or other, but my understanding is that the access has been shut down 🙁 Sorry to be the bearer of bad news!
Hi! Wondering about the cave of wonders as we travel there for a makeup honeymoon in a week or two and any tips on keeping yourself and your equipment safe if going to this spot. Thank you for your time!
Hi Katie! Congratulations on the semi-recent marriage and belated honeymoon! Unfortunately, I have been told the cave is now closed and have not been back to verify whether or not it has or ever will re-open. There are still a ton of places to explore on the Samuel Boardman Corridor though! If you see an unmarked parking area, there is likely a trail… I say take it and see what you get! That is how I discovered most of my favorite look outs 🙂
Beautiful photos!! LOVE the secret cave capture. You’re so talented. I’m Not a photographer but a lover of nature. Could I get this location? I’m visiting now and would love to see this space before I leave. Thank you!!
Thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately, I’ve been told the cave is currently closed and I’ve not been back to verify whether or not it has or ever will re-open. There are still a ton of places to explore on the Samuel Boardman Corridor though! If you see an unmarked parking area, there is likely a trail… I say take it and see what you get! That is how I discovered most of my favorite look outs ?
Fabulous photos!! I will be spending a week in the Gold Beach area this August and plan on shooting a lot of astro. I have gotten fogged out many times before. Fingers crossed I get at least a few good nights. I would love to visit the secret cave location. I always check tide charts before going to this type of location. Sneaker waves are always a possibility but I know to check tides. Any additional info would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, Judi
Hi Judi! Thank you for the kind words and polite request! Unfortunately, I have been told the cave is currently closed to public access. Luckily, there are a ton of nice opportunities around there and Pistol River still. Fingers crossed you get some good conditions!!
Great write up and nice photos. Why is October not a good month for Astro on the coast? Photopills seems to show good alignment. Is it a weather issue? Would you be able to respond by email? Thanks so much.
Hi Hiram! I will reply here and email you as well 🙂 The beginning of October you still have a small MW Galactic Core window for about 2 hours at the most each night, but by the end of the month it is basically at the horizon already by the time it is nightfall. You also tend to get a lot of clouds that time of year. But PhotoPills doesnt lie, if youve got something lined up for October just pray to the weather gods and you can certainly get some bangers! 🙂
Where is the location of the cover page of the southern coast Samuel L Boardman corridor? I’m in the area and would to photograph it?
Thanks for this very informative article! I’m going to Oregon later this week and am hoping to capture some dramatic Milky Way shots along the Samuel H Boardman corridor area. I was wondering if you could provide some hints/tips for that “Cave of Wonder” location as I’d love to capture the Milky Way in that area/spot.
Really appreciate your help and once again, great write up!
Hi Steven! Thank you for your kind words! Unfortunately, last I heard it seems the cave has been closed to the public. I’ve not yet been to the coast to confirm this, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. However, I’d advise taking every trail you can without a sign and you’ll likely discover some incredible spots – this is how I found a lot of these places.
Also, later this week will be tough for Milky Way photography. By Friday (15th Oct) it will be a 77% moon and at this time of year the window to shoot the galactic core is minimal as it’s only visible for just over an hour from around 8pm. You can hopefully still get some great night shots, and maybe even moon shots, but Milky Way will be challenging.
With all that said, the Samuel H Boardman area is truly spectacular so I am certain you will come away with some incredible shots no matter what. Have an amazing time!
ohhhhh just saw this comment. oh well – i will still have alot of other good spots to capture in a short amoutn of time 🙂 even tho i have never been, i already know I will be back after this first upcoming visit
Hey guys hope you’re well. First off – thank you for this amazing blog entry. I just came across yalls page and I’m loving it. So many helpful tips.
I’ll be doin my first ever campervan road trip startin in 3 weeks and Oregon coast has been on my bucketlist to shoot sunsets and astro. I’m coming all the way from Germany so I wanna be able to capture as much as possible.
The last part of the blog is about the “cave of wonder”. I understand that you don’t want people to put themselves in danger – I wouldn’t want that either. As you mentioned it would be possible to reach out and maybe you’re able to give more input on that location. So I wanted to ask if that would be possible? I just would like to be able to check if I would be lucky with low tide when I’m in the area. I’m only there for a short amount of time but I would love to check if there is a chance. If not, I def won’t risk myself since it’ll be the beginning of the trip and I value my life and health.
Thank you in advance and much love from Germany
Thank you for your kind words! I’m so excited for you to discover the Southern Oregon Coast. It seems you already saw my previous comment with the same information but I’ll put it here again for anyone else reading 🙂
Unfortunately, last I heard it seems the cave has been closed to the public. I’ve not yet been to the coast to confirm this, sorry to be the bearer of bad news. However, I’d advise taking every trail you can without a sign and you’ll likely discover some incredible spots – this is how I found a lot of these places.
I hope you have the most amazing time. If you think of it after, I’d love to know how your trip goes and what you thought of the area.
All the best,
Thank you Adam i appreciate that. I cannot wait 🙂
I will be going to the southern Oregon coast in 3 weeks. I would like to know when that pretty little cave is if possible.
I do not offer that publicly as I mentioned Rob 🙂
Really enjoy the locations you speak of and your photos. If you are game, I’d be interested in the “Cave of Wonders” location. I always research the tide schedule wherever I go AND I can keep a secret.
(I don’t expect you to do so, but if you look at the website I have not updated it for years. I now have the Canon R7.)
Referring to you hopefully emailing me the location, not posting it publicly.
I have emailed you Brian 🙂 Thank you for the polite and thoughtful request.