Getting family members to agree on one location for a healthy winter weekend becomes easier when your destination is Gold Beach, a town that tugs at your wild side with such active winter pursuits as steelhead fishing, hiking and beachcombing. Forget shopping malls and theme parks; this relaxed town on Oregon's south coast focuses on its natural assets — a scalloped coastline of beaches and promontories, the mouth of the Rogue River and the Coast Range.
Average winter temperatures at Gold Beach hover around 50 degrees, and winter storms bring horizontal rains and tumultuous seas. In between the storms, the weather warms, the breezes shift and the sun shines on long, lonely beaches that harbor driftwood, agates and an occasional Japanese glass float. Tide pools teem with sea life at Agate Beach and Rocky Point to the north and Myers Creek to the south.
Book a guided fishing trip at the Port of Gold Beach, rent a crab ring from Rogue Outdoor Store or make a reservation for a guided horseback ride at Hawk's Nest Ranch. Bicyclists can tour the back roads of rural Squaw Valley near the nine-hole Cedar Bend Golf Course or cruise along short stretches of the Old Coast Road.
Walkers and runners fan out on beaches north and south of the Rogue. To access an obscure piece of the Coast Trail, look for a gravel pullout three miles north of Gold Beach on the Old Coast Road. Walk north on the beach .6 mile to the base of Otter Point, where a .4-mile trail climbs through coastal shrubbery to the top of the headland. Look for otters in the surf or gray whales spouting on the horizon.
Waterfront accommodations are common, and winter rates can make a riverside room with a woodstove or a spa with an ocean view particularly attractive. Most folks stay on Ellensburg Avenue (Highway 101) in a string of motels, cottages, RV parks and vacation condominiums that share ocean frontage with the town's municipal airport, high school and fairgrounds. With lodgings like these, you don't have to decide between a walk on the beach and a stroll to Highway 101 shops because one well-planned loop will link both experiences. With a little planning, you can use the inland walk to avoid a head wind on the shore.
Stop by the Rogue River Myrtlewood Shop where an on-site factory fashions wildly patterned Oregon myrtle into miniature lighthouses and hand-turned bowls. Sink into a cushy chair next to a second-story window at Gold Beach Books to page through some of the store's 50,000 new and used volumes. Espresso, snacks, local artwork and live music add reasons to linger at this five-year-old locals' hangout.
For the luxury of fresh steelhead or lingcod — foods high in essential fatty acids — visit the fish market at the Port of Gold Beach or leave the cooking to a family-friendly restaurant with a river or ocean view. Be sure to call ahead for winter hours.