Life is a highway.

This Is the Oldest Town on the Oregon Coast

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The Pacific Coast at Humbug Mountain State Park in Port Orford, Oregon.

Port Orford, Oregon, can’t be beat for small-town charm big on amazing views. Its placement on a green peninsula pushing out into the Pacific provides a beautiful backdrop for village life at a slower pace. 

Jagged bluffs that fall off at the water’s edge and protected beaches contrast the forested hills inland, but all contribute to a vibe of laid-back relaxation. Let’s learn more about Port Orford, Oregon.

About Port Orford, Oregon

Port Orford is an authentic small town on the coast of Oregon with just under 1,200 residents. Its beautiful beaches, lighthouses, and public lands give visitors many reasons to explore this quaint coastal hamlet. 

Port Orford is one of the premier scuba diving locations on the Oregon Coast.

Port Blanco, located in Port Orford, juts out into the sea, making the town the western-most settlement in the lower 48 states. The town’s port stays busy servicing boats and has streets with scattered shops, galleries, and restaurants, all within view of the rugged coastline.

What Is Port Orford Known For?

In October of 1941, the mayor of Port Orford, Gilbert Gable, wanted to improve the poor condition of state roads in the area. He thought the infrastructure made it extremely difficult for economic development to improve in his town. 

Gable almost persuaded the surrounding counties in southern Oregon and northern California to secede from the Union and create the state of Jefferson. We don’t have a 51st state today because the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor two months later, putting secession on the back burner.

How Old Is Port Orford, Oregon? 

Spanish explorer Bartolome Ferrelo mapped Port Blanco in 1543. But it was Captain George Vancouver who conferred a name on the area in 1792.

The army established a fort here in 1851, but it only lasted five years. Today several state parks surround Port Orford, Oregon, protecting land and seascapes of stunning beauty in this 230-year-old town.

Fisherman boats parked on trailers in the harbor in Port Orford.

What Is There to Do in Port Orford, Oregon?

Although small, Port Orford, Oregon, is mighty when considering all of the outdoor activities. Its location on the coast has bluffs, beaches, mountains, and forests to explore.

Here are four easily accessible destinations with hiking, fishing, history, and camping.

Port Orford Heads State Park

Address: Port Orford Heads St. Wayside, Port Orford, OR 97465

About: Port Orford Heads State Park protects and preserves the lifeboat station that operated from 1934 to 1970. The station provided lifesaving services to the southern Oregon coast with an observation tower and a boathouse.

Today, it has an informative museum about the wartime history of the station. Many enjoy fishing and hiking trails along the coast. 

Waves crashing along the wooded coastline in Port Orford.

Port Orford Lifeboat Station Museum 

Address: 92331 Coast Guard Hill Rd., Port Orford, OR 97465

About: The Port Orford Lifeboat Station Museum captures all of the stories from years of lifesaving measures for ships in distress. The Coast Guard stood to watch over the Oregon coast until 1934 while this lifeboat station was active, and the old barracks now serve as a museum. This station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Address: 91100 Cape Blanco Rd, Port Orford, OR 97465

About: The Cape Blanco Lighthouse, built in 1870, has the oldest operating light in the state. In fact, it is the only working lighthouse in Oregon.

You can take a tour Wednesday through Sunday for $2 per person. Visitors can climb the lighthouse stairs to the lantern room and watch the light in action. 

Sunrise over the coast and the white and red Cape Blanco Lighthouse in Port Orford, Oregon.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Humbug Mountain State Park

About: The second state park in the vicinity of Port Orford protects one of Oregon’s highest headlands and Brush Creek Estuary. Humbug Mountain State Park has a variety of hikes, including one to the top of the mountain. It even has a 95-site campground open year-round with showers and a picnic area with views to die for.

Can You Drive on the Beach in Port Orford?

The south beach at Cape Blanco State Park allows cars to drive on the beach, but most other beaches don’t. This activity became law in 1913 when Oregon’s governor wanted to protect the state’s beaches from developers by creating the “Beach Bill.”

It declared all beaches were highways and within the public domain. That bill still holds true for many Oregon beaches, but some have drafted specific legislation keeping vehicles off. Travelers should check local laws.

Traveler’s Tip: With landscapes that include glacier-topped volcanoes, lava fields, abundant farmlands, and wild rivers, Oregon has the most scenic drives in the US.

Is It Worth Visiting Port Orford, Oregon?

If a tranquil, scenic getaway is in your future, make a plan to escape to Port Orford, Oregon. You will find a refreshing change of pace from the busy lifestyle of larger cities, and you can surround yourself with nature at its finest. 

Dip your toes in the Pacific or join a group of whale watchers while hiking the bluffs. Scale the lighthouse stairs to look back into history, imagining Coast Guard rescues off Cape Blanco. Whatever you choose, you can discover the charm of this southern Oregon gem.

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