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.
The Oregon coast is one of the official 7 Wonders of Oregon, famed for its incredible landscapes.
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.
If you are reading our travel guide in preparation for an extended visit to Oregon, we have a collection of other regional guides to peruse at the bottom that may be helpful in discovering the best places to go.
If you like the photos you see and want to have one for your home, please visit our Oregon Photo Gallery.
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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: photographing any coastal region, including the Southern Oregon coast, can be 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, just please be mindful when exploring and photographing on the Oregon coast.
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.
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.
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.
As you can see from the photos, it truly is an unmissable location for photography on the Oregon coast.
If you are not able to find the parking area, the other trail begins from Thunder Rock Cove, but is a bit longer.
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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. However, be sure to explore the Thunder Rock Cove trail as well, as it offers some incredible vistas all of its own!
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 trying to find different compositions. 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 actually forbidden, I will not go into more detail on 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.
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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 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
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
- The Most Magical Waterfalls in Oregon
- Ultimate Guide to the 7 Wonders of Oregon
- Southern Oregon Photography Locations
- Southern Oregon Coast Guide
- 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
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!