Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations

Read more about Secret Beach and other locations for night photography in this guide to Southern Oregon Coast Photography locations.
Read more about Secret Beach and other locations for night photography in this guide to Southern Oregon Coast Photography locations.

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.

If you are reading our travel guide in preparation of a road trip to this beautiful part of the state, be sure to check out our other guides to Southern Oregon as well; we have prepared a photography guide to the Waterfalls of Southern Oregon and this Southern Oregon Photography Guide highlighting the best places to photograph in the region.

For those in the area who wish to learn the fundamentals of photography and begin the process of mastering their DSLR or mirrorless camera, I also offerΒ photography classes!

**DISCLOSURE: Some of the links in this blog are affiliate links.Β  This means that at no additional cost to you, we will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.Β  Affiliate links are a small way that we are compensated for the time invested in providing this free resource.**


About Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor

Giving scale to Natural Bridges. one of the best Southern Oregon coast photography locations.
Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a treasure trove of unqiue seascapes!

The Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor is a photographer’s dream that stretches 12 miles along the Southern Oregon coast, beginning near the city of Brookings. It is possible to walk the entire stretch of coast from one end to the other, though you will often be taking an upper trail that leads through wilderness. It is impossible to walk this stretch 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 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 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

Southern Oregon Coast Photography of the Milky Way setting over Arch Rock.
Milky Way photography from the Arch Rock viewpoint.

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  

A daytime photograph of the popular Secret Beach on the southern oregon coast photography bucket list.
Secret Beach can only be accessed during lower tides but is spectacular when accessible.

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.

A Milky Way image of Secret Beach, one of the most popular astrophotography locations for Southern Oregon Coast photography at night.
The Milky Way sets against the countless silhouetted sea stacks of Secret Beach.

If you are not able to find the parking area, the other trails begins from Thunder Rock Cove, but is a bit longer.


Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Thunder Rock Cove

Incredible Southern Oregon coast photography opportunities exist at Thunder Cove in Samuel Boardman.
An up close view of the cascading seascape that makes Thunder Cove so unique.

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 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.

Golden hour photography taken at Thunder Cove on the Oregon coast.
The sun begins its descent at Thunder Cove.

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 carpark 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 carpark, 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.

Milky Way photography is one the top reasons people visit Natural Bridges for Oregon Coast photography.
The Natural Bridges viewpoint with the Milky Way core setting in the distance.

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!

There are multiple viewpoints to photograph the Natural Bridges from.
The Natural Bridges as seen from the right trail.

Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Thomas Creek Bridge

An aerial photo of Thomas Creek Bridge during golden hour.
An aerial photo of Thomas Creek Bridge during golden hour.

There is nowhere to stop and take pictures along the Thomas Creek Bridge, bu 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.


Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Indian Sands

Astrophotography capturing the Milky Way over a natural arch at Indian Sands.
Astrophotography capturing a natural arch 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 to 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!

Golden hour photography of Indian Sands on the Oregon Coast.
The view from the back trail at Indian Sands during golden hour.

Southern Oregon Coast Photography at Whaleshead Beach

A gorgeous sunset at Whaleshead Beach during a Southern Oregon Coast photography workshop.
A gorgeous sunset at Whaleshead Beach during a Southern Oregon Coast photography workshop.

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.

Night photography on the Oregon coast capturing the Milky Way perfectly aligned with Whaleshead seastack.
My favorite photo of the summer captures the Milky Way perfectly aligned with Whaleshead seastack.

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 corridor.

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.

An amazing sunset at Lone Ranch Beach near Brookings.
Starfish cling to a large rock at the sky ignites in the colors of sunset.

House Rock

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

A moody scene from Harris Beach State Park near Brookings.
A moody scene from 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.

A photo from 2013 taken at Harris Beach State Park by Oregon photographer Adam Marland.
A photo from 2013 taken at Harris Beach State Park.

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 and 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.

Amazing Milky Way photography taken from a sea cave on the Southern Oregon coast.
A secret sea cave somewhere on the Oregon Coast.

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.


Final thoughts on Southern Oregon Coast Photography Locations

There are, of course, plenty of amazing places to photograph on the Oregon coast north or Samuel H Boardman State Scenic Corridor. The Pistol River and Gold Beach, for example, have plenty of their own beauty to boast. 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.

If you are planning on driving inland from the Oregon coast, you will also want to browse our guide to Southern Oregon Photography locations.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos and descriptions in this guide, and welcome any comments you have below!


ENJOYED READING OUR SOUTHERN OREGON COAST PHOTOGRAPHY GUIDE? PIN IT! πŸ™‚

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15 Comments

  1. Darin Bradley
    December 31, 2019 / 7:15 am

    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.

    • January 1, 2020 / 1:27 am

      Hi Darin! I will email you directly; thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Kristina Ziegler
    January 5, 2020 / 3:41 am

    Best month for Milky Way photography at these locations?

    • January 8, 2020 / 10:28 pm

      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!

  3. February 1, 2020 / 12:13 pm

    I love the Pacific Northwest and I really need to make my way out to explore more of Oregon! Great post xx

  4. February 1, 2020 / 12:43 pm

    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 πŸ™‚

  5. February 1, 2020 / 3:53 pm

    Wow! Your photography is amazing! I’m looking to do a trip to Oregon this upcoming year, so this is super helpful.

  6. February 1, 2020 / 4:04 pm

    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!

    • February 3, 2020 / 2:18 pm

      Oh spring will be a lovely time to go! I’m glad you found it helpful πŸ™‚

  7. February 1, 2020 / 4:10 pm

    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!

    • February 3, 2020 / 2:19 pm

      The US has so many incredible landscapes, but I totally understand what you mean! Oregon, in particular, is gorgeous.

  8. February 1, 2020 / 4:53 pm

    These photos are beautiful, and bring me back to our own travels through Oregon…just with better pictures! πŸ˜› Have you been to Oceanside? Super low-key, not much around, but the views all around are magic!

    • February 3, 2020 / 2:22 pm

      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!

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**All photos contained in this photography-based travel blog are copyright of Adam Marland & Sophie Clapton.Β 
They are not to be used for any purpose without the expressed, written consent of their owners.**