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Cape Arago State Park. The distant barking of sea lions echoes in the air at a trio of coves connected by short but steep trails. The park overlooks the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge, where offshore rocks, beaches, islands, and reefs provide breeding grounds for seabirds and marine mammals. End of Cape Arago Hwy., 1 mile south of Shore Acres State Park, Coos Bay, OR, 97420. 800/551-6949. www.oregonstateparks.org. Free. Daily dawn-dusk. Trail closed Mar.-June.
Shore Acres State Park. An observation building on a grassy bluff overlooking the Pacific marks the site that held the mansion of lumber baron Louis J. Simpson. The view over the rugged wave-smashed cliffs is splendid, but the real glory of Shore Acres lies a few hundred yards to the south, where an entrance gate leads into what was Simpson's private garden. Beautifully landscaped and meticulously maintained, the gardens incorporate formal English and Japanese designs. From March to mid-October the grounds are ablaze with blossoming daffodils, rhododendrons, azaleas, roses, and dahlias. In December the garden is decked out with a dazzling display of holiday lights. 10965 Cape Arago Hwy., 1 mile south of Sunset Bay State Park, Coos Bay, OR, 97420. 800/551-6949 park access; 541/888-2472 info center; 541/888-4902 park access. www.oregonstateparks.org. $5 per vehicle day-use fee. Daily 8-dusk.
Sunset Bay State Park. A placid semicircular lagoon protected from the sea by overlapping fingers of rock and surrounded by reefs is one of the few places along the Oregon Coast where you can swim without worrying about the currents and undertows. Only the hardiest souls will want to brave the chilly water, however. 2 mi south of Charleston off Cape Arago Hwy., Coos Bay, OR, 97420. 866/888-6100. www.oregonstateparks.org. Daily dawn-dusk.
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