Reached by the Cape Arago Highway from Coos Bay, Shore Acres State Park occupies a scenic one mile stretch of the southern Oregon coastline, here largely rocky and cliff-bound, with just a few small beaches. The main attraction for most visitors, apart from the spectacular views of the ocean, is a botanical garden, established here in 1907 by businessman and entrepreneur Louis J. Simpson, who also constructed a substantial mansion right on the cliff edge.
But for photographers, the appeal is the fantastic, eroded rock; like Sunset Bay State Park, which adjoins Shore Acres to the north, the shoreline is composed of inclined sedimentary layers, unique to this short section of the Oregon coast, which have been carved by the waves into reefs, ridges, pinnacles and sea stacks. In addition, smaller-scale erosion has sculpted the orange-grey sandstone into unusual forms and textures including tafoni, a distinctive honeycomb structure. Some of the strata contain concretions of more resistant rock, so these tend to remain in place as the softer surroundings erode, creating hoodoos and other strange shapes.
Unlike the parks to the north and south (Sunset Bay
and Cape Arago
), a $5 fee is required for entry at Shore Acres, partly to aid in maintenance of the gardens, but free access is possible by parking at the adjacent parks and walking along the coastal trail. This path runs right along the coast, and many places allow scrambling down to explore the rocks and coves. For those arriving by car, the entrance road leads to a good sized parking area, from where the five acre gardens are a short walk south. Another path leads to an enclosed observation building (on the mansion site - the great house having been damaged by fire in 1921 and its partially complete replacement demolished in the 1940s), useful when the weather is inclement; otherwise, the views are better along the nearby coastal trail. Another attraction are the migrating grey whales, often seen between December and June. The gardens at Shore Acres feature a wide variety of flower species, blooming at different times of the year, including daffodils, tulips, azaleas, rhododendrons, roses and dahlias. Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve the plants are embellished by a display of several hundred thousand colored lights.
The best eroded rocks are found towards the north end of Shore Acres State Park, near the mansion site. The receding tide reveals many parallel ridges formed by the inclined strata, angled at 45 degrees, some acting as gateways to narrow inlets. A few of these are lined by thin strips of sand, but generally the cliffs predominate, more so further south, though there is one larger beach (Simpson Cove) near the botanical gardens, a favored location for elephant seals and sea lions. The most extensive tafoni area is about 700 feet north of the observation building, near the site of the mansion's tennis courts; a plateau formed by an outcrop of bright orange sandstone surrounded by grey layers, eroded into many fantastic structures.