But this year, given that we’re spending a good chunk of fall and winter in Ashland and living in our trailer (which feels a bit strange, given that we still have a home here), we’ve had the opportunity for some cold-weather close-to-home adventures. Had we known just how enchanting Shore Acres is during the Holiday Lights festival, I think we would have made the effort to get there years ago.
From Thanksgiving until New Year’s, the always-beautiful gardens at Shore Acres State Park are transformed by community volunteers into a wonderland of sparkling lights. Almost every inch of the five acres of gardens is festooned with more than 300,000 sparkling LED lights in a coastal holiday theme that includes herons, puffins, salmon, sea horses, and whales. It is spectacular, festive, and magical—as our friend Katherine commented, “If you’re not in the holiday spirit when you get here, you will be by the time you leave.”
Shore Acres State Park is worth visiting at any time of year. Once the grand estate of Louis Simpson (the heir to the fortunes of a timber baron and shipping magnate), the gardens are filled with trees, shrubs, and flowers from the far corners of the world. Sadly, the opulent mansion fell prey to fire and financial ruin decades ago; fortunately the gardens and the picturesque gardener’s cottage remain.
There’s more to Shore Acres than the luxurious gardens and quaint cottage. Stroll down a trail to a stunning view of the ocean from a glassed-in observation building—the spot once occupied by Simpson’s mansion. A longer trail meanders down to Simpson Beach, a secluded secret cove.
One mile north of Shore Acres—part of the former Simpson estate—Sunset Bay State Park offers camping facilities. We’ve always enjoyed our stays there, but if you have a big rig, choose your site carefully because the roads are narrow and many of the sites are awkwardly angled. This time, we made it a day trip from Bandon, a mere 25 miles away. Oh, and if you go, be sure to stop in Coos Bay at Chuck’s Seafood and pick up something smoked from their vast array of seafood. The smoked teriyaki albacore is seriously addictive.
And there’s more! One mile to the south—again part of the former Simpson estate—Cape Arago State Park has hiking trails and an observation point for viewing Simpson Reef and Shell Island. It’s part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and a spectacular location for viewing scores of marine animals, including seals and sea lions. If you’re motivated, an 8.5-mile (round-trip) hiking trail connects the three parks. We’ve hiked it on past camping trips to Sunset Bay, but this time our goal was to be at Shore Acres in the dark—not so fun for hiking, but really fun for getting into the holiday spirit.[portfolio_slideshow]
Aloha Laurel, So much fun reading about your travels – your writing and the photos are fabulous and so enjoyable. Though right now am tied to work, home & hearth, I’m storing up ideas and a list about places to go myself, and your entries provide a great resource!
Enjoyed running in to you at REI (whenever that was! -seems ages ago!) and am grateful for you sharing your adventure blog with me. I told a friend about it and she is now one of your blog-followers too.
Maybe one day you will make a book of your adventures.
Oh, & I was sorry to hear of the loss of your cat. :( But what a grand time you all had together! Many happy blessings for the holidays and new year of adventure ahead. Love, Suzanne Sky
Suzanne, it was so much fun to see you at REI — and now to have you accompanying us in our travels. Thank you so much for your kind words. Many blessings to you in the new year, as well. xoxo
Love the photos. It has been years since I have been there around Christmas. I lived in Coos Bay for a short spell when I was younger. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you both.
Thanks, Brenda. I didn’t know you once lived in Coos Bay! You guys need to haul that little Casita over to the coast for a holiday adventure. :-)
Oh, how pretty. Love the pelicans and the deer peeking over the fence, but it sure looks cold by the way you guys are bundled up. Have a very Merry Christmas :-)
Oh yes, it was most definitely a cold few days on the coast, Ingrid. But it was beautiful! Merry Christmas to you, as well. ;-)
All I can say is WOW! Looks like Mr. Simpson did the Oregon coast a real favor leaving enough land for three is it, state parks. And what a wonderful volunteer effort to put up such a fantastic light display. So glad you shared this trip. Not sure I’ll ever be there in winter to see it myself. It’s really something. Your pictures are amazing.
Mr. Simpson was definitely generous, Sherry — he donated the land for both Sunset Bay State Park and Cape Arago SP. The state of Oregon bought Shore Acres for $29,000 in 1942. This little adventure is one of many reasons that I’m happy we’re here for the fall and winter, despite the chilly weather.
Laurel and Eric, thanks for sharing, it looks beautiful! I spent last week with your Mom and Dad, they are doing great.
We would like to wish you both a Merry Christmas and a Happy Healthy New Year!
Love Rick and Karren,
We’re so happy to know that you were with my mom and dad — I just wish we could have all been there together in Apalachicola! Eric and I were just talking about how much fun we had with you guys last year in the Keys. Love you and miss you!
Laurel, your post complete with great night shots made me realize it’s Christmas. I like all the animal lights but my fave are the Herons …well obviously because these guys pay us a visit here everyday at our camp.
When we go back to Oregon we will check out these places/trails that you suggested and will pay attention to your warning if bringing a big rig. Will see.
ML, you and Steve would love this area of the Oregon coast — and you don’t have to be here in the winter to enjoy it! The gardens are just gorgeous and the coastline is spectacular. You can stay either at Sunset Bay or in Bandon at Bullard’s Beach SP. Both are beautiful.
I love all the beautiful rocks along the water:) But it sure looks chilly…brrr! Time to move south:)
The lights are beautiful!!! Your photos are so pretty and show the brilliant colors. Thanks for sharing:)
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!
Haha, yes, time to head south! But it’s actually been wonderful to be in Oregon in the fall and into winter — the weather has been kind to us, and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that we won’t be hammered with a snow storm before the first of January! :-)
Just one more reason to love that gorgeous state park! Having never visited at this time of year I had no idea they created this beautiful display…thanks for the heads up!
Lisa, I’m so glad we had the opportunity to see the holiday lights celebration — and we’re also really feeling ready to head south now!
Thanks so much for this post Laurel. When we visited Shore Acres and read about the Christmas festivities they had, I wanted so badly to see this so I was thrilled to see your post and photos. You brought back some great memories for me and had me drooling when you mentioned Chuck’s Seafood. I must agree that the smoked teriyaki albacore is so yummy! We hope you and Eric have a very blessed Christmas.
LuAnn, I had always wanted to see the holiday lights display — and it worked out perfectly for us this year! It’s fun to know that you’ve been to Shore Acres. And you’ve even had Chuck’s albacore! Wishing you and Terry a blessed Christmas, as well.
It’s 1/27/15, and I finally caught up with some of your more recent blogs. All those lights! What a labor of love to create them.
Sheila, I’m so happy that you’re catching up with us. The lights were truly beautiful, and as you said, a labor of love.