The first time we explored the Oregon Coast we were in a tent trailer and had two young children. Changing camp grounds did not sound appealing to us and most ocean-front campground reviews suggested you pack warm clothes because of the cool ocean breeze. We live on the west coast so we get plenty of the cool ocean breeze; what we wanted was the warm southern sun and a home base to explore all the area has to offer. For those reason we decided on Jessie M. Honeyman State Park. It was far enough south that we could expect warmer weather, and it’s sand dunes buffered us from the cool ocean breeze while allowing us to experience these unique sand dunes for the first time. This park is a great location for a base camp because of its easy drive to all the great southern Oregon Coast attractions.
- Recommended Sites: I would camp in any of the loops except G and H due to the loud truck traffic. For all loops I would pick sites as far off the main loop as possible. If you want full or partial hook ups here are my thoughts:
- Loop F would be the best choice because it is near the trails to the dunes. Try to get sites 264 – 275 which back onto the dunes but are not next to the trails and are farther away from the playground (unless you have young kids and don’t mind the extra noise and traffic.) They are also close to the washrooms.
- These book fast so if you can’t get those then the back of loop D is good. Sites 183-192 are off the main road but still close to everything else.
- Loop C will give you privacy but it is a long walk to the trails. The same is true for the back end of loop B.
- If you do not need hook ups all the inside sites in loop F are good as well as the back sites in Loop E.
- Campground Highlights
- Access to the Sand Dunes right from the campground. By far the top highlight.
- Cleawox Lake, great for swimming and paddle boating.
- Full, partial and no hook up sites.
- Paved roads, great for kids biking, but stay off the main road.
- Several large, clean washrooms and shower housed.
- Fantastic Junior Ranger Program
- Sani Dump
- Yurts if you travel with a group who do not have a trailer.
- Central location to local tourist attractions.
- You can reserve up to 9 months in advance.
- Campground Lowlights:
- Lots of vehicle traffic and loud diesel trucks due to the sand dune attraction.
- Its a very large park so you can be a long way from the lakes or dunes
- Things to do:
- Hiking, playing and walking in the sand dunes.
- ATV’s, or dune buggy rides on the dunes.
- Swimming, canoeing or kayaking in the lake
- Interpretive Programs at the Amphitheater
- Bike Riding
- Fishing at Woahink Lake
- Sea Lion Caves- http://www.sealioncaves.com/index.php
- Sandland Adventure Tours – http://www.sandland.com/
- Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint – http://www.oregonstateparks.org/index.cfm?do=parkPage.dsp_parkPage&parkId=86
- Florence, Oregon – http://visittheoregoncoast.com/cities/florence/
- oregon Coast Aquarium – http://aquarium.org
We booked late so did not have a great selection of camp sites. For this reason we were in a site just off the main road (site 244). The site was a good size, nice layout, water/electricity and decent privacy. It all seemed great until very early the next morning when all the diesel trucks started up. Being located on the sand dunes means many campers head there with their ATV’s to hit the dunes. Apparently they tow these ATV’s with diesel trucks and they head out early each day. My advise, stay back off the main road and out of loop H which is where most of the ATVers camp. Lesson learned!
The campground is located right on the sand dunes and Cleawox Lake. The dunes are amazing and a must see if you go that far south. You can access the dunes from one of the paths out of the campground and climb the dunes. What an amazing view and great exercise but take note of the markers when you leave because once you are on the dunes it is very easy to get disorientated and lose track of how to get back to your site. There are two lakes in the park but Cleawox Lake is the swimming lake and a great feature for families. Because the park is off the ocean, the lake and beach are nice and warm, it also has a concession and canoe/kayak rental shack for added entertainment. The lake is situated with the dunes on the south side. This is neat because you can run, roll or slide down the dunes and right into the lake. We didn’t try this but got some great laughs as we watched many people spending hours playing in this area.
This is a very large campground with a good playground, several large clean washroom/shower houses and a great Junior Rangers Program. We went to several presentations during our 5 night stay and the kids collected stamps while learning interesting environmental lessons. One of the memorable pieces of information was: the reason you do not get many mosquitoes when camping at an Oregon State Park is that they build bat houses to attract bats as a natural bug controller. Brilliant!!
The kids really wanted to rent dune buggies to check out the sand dunes. Due to their age it was recommended we rent a buggy and professional driver that could take all 4 of us. Going out on your own is dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing; it’s easy to get lost or stuck in the steep, deep dunes. We opted to hire a driver and we were very glad we did. My husband and I had a great time but the kids were scared out of there minds. You go full throttle up the dunes to avoid getting stuck and then blindly reach the top and drop back down a very steep long slope. We had booked an hour tour but about 30 minutes in we realized the kids were not going to get used to it so we asked the driver to slow down. He took us to the ocean and we rode around the beach area where we could go slower. You can’t go slow on the big dunes or the buggies get stuck so this was a good alternative for our family. My advise; if you have young kids, book one of the large multi passenger group buggies. You will see the area but at a much slower pace and economical price.
Another day we headed north to explore the Sea Lion Caves as well as Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint and beach. It was about a half hour drive from the campground to the Sea Lion Caves. For how long you are there this is an expensive attraction to get into but still a must do. The noise and smell in the caves gives a true, close up understanding of these creatures. It is a very popular attraction so get there as early as you can to avoid the crowds and make note of the early closing time. After that we headed to Heceta Head Lighthouse Scenic State Park and enjoyed the beach. We also walked the trail to Heceta Lighthouse which is the most photographed lighthouse on the coast. Once there you can tour the lighthouse and enjoy the spectacular views. Bring warm clothes with you as the ocean breeze really drops the temperature but it is a great place for a picnic and hike.
We spent another afternoon in Florence to shop for souvenirs and go out for dinner. The town has a quaint little tourist area with great restaurants and shops to poke around in. It was nice to get away from the sand and have a meal prepared for us. Due to its location the seafood is fresh so be sure to try the catch of the day or local chowder, you won’t be sorry.
One thing about camping on the dunes is that you will get sand everywhere. This is the finest sand I have ever seen and it has a way of getting into every corner of your trailer and every piece of your clothes. You will be sweeping up sand for weeks after you get home but it is a nice reminder of your trip. What we found funny was many tourist shops sell small containers of sand as souvenirs, we were not sure why you would buy it when you end up with a beach of your own on your trailer floor every evening.
We loved our trip to Jessie M. Honeyman and would recommend this park for people of all ages.