Oregon : Safety by City
- Baker City
- Coos Bay
- Hood River
- Klamath Falls
- La Grande
- Lincoln City
Coos Bay, nestled on Oregon’s wild coast, is a town etched by contradictions. Once a timber boomtown, its harbor bustled with log trucks and sawmills.
Today, remnants of that era – hulking mills and peeling storefronts – whisper of a bygone prosperity.
Yet, within this weathered beauty lies a raw, untamed charm.
It’s a working-class town that is defined by its fishing and shipping industry plus the untouched wilderness of the coast and beyond.
A trip to Coos Bay also includes the city of North Bend and the unincorporated area of Charleston.
For the adventurer, Coos Bay is a treasure trove.
Kayak through misty estuaries teeming with birdlife, hike windswept coastal trails, or cast a line into churning waves where whales breach and seals sunbathe.
History buffs can delve into the town’s maritime past, exploring the Coos Bay Maritime Museum or picnicking under the shadow of the iconic Pony Express Terminal.
Nature lovers will find solace in the untamed splendor of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where towering sandhills roll towards the crashing Pacific.
But Coos Bay isn’t for everyone.
The economic decline can be palpable, and a sense of melancholy hangs in the air as the city works to revitalize.
If you’re in it for aesthetics, you’ll need to enjoy a more worn-in appearance.
So, why choose Coos Bay?
It’s for those who seek authenticity, who find beauty in resilience, and who appreciate the raw power of nature.
You truly can’t beat the unique adventures here compared to anywhere else on the coastline.
Ultimately, Coos Bay is a place that wears its heart on its sleeve, a town forged by industry and shaped by nature, now navigating the challenges of reinvention.
If you can get past the blemishes, you’ll need to know some specific safety risks.
I have it all teed up for you.
Warnings & Dangers in Coos Bay
OVERALL RISK: MEDIUM
There's a medium risk here with higher than average crime rates in both violent crime and property crime, plus a staggering theft rate.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK: LOW
Coos County Area Transportation District (CCATD) runs the public transportation here. Taxis and rideshares are available. You'll likely be using a rental car to get here, and that's a smart choice.
PICKPOCKETS RISK: MEDIUM
Despite a theft rate that's nearly 200% higher than the national average, just one pickpocket was reported in 2021 and 2022. Nearby North Bend has a much higher rate, with 28 reported in 2022. Car break-ins are all too common for me to give this anything but a medium risk.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK: MEDIUM
Though Coos Bay’s rugged beauty draws in adventurers, stormy weather and a history of earthquakes and tsunamis add a layer of risk. High winds whip waves into angry giants, coastal erosion gnaws at the cliffs, and steep slopes harbor the threat of landslides. I also read an article about the lack of infrastructure if the "big one" (earthquake) hit. This is another medium risk.
MUGGING RISK: LOW
After pouring through crime data in the cities and the county, criminals here are more likely to take your stuff by manipulation or convenience than by brute force. Just one highway robbery was reported in 2022 in Coos Bay. The risk is low, but please use caution, especially in the areas we'll talk about in a bit.
TERRORISM RISK: LOW
As a shipping port, there will always be a higher risk, but nothing that should warrant concern for a tourist. Plus, plenty of security and processes help keep the city safe before a shipment is unloaded from a boat or a train.
SCAMS RISK: LOW
A common scam is the most recent issue here, with someone pretending to be from the sheriff's office and demanding money or threatening arrest. If you're hip to the common scam tactics, you'll know this isn't how police operate. You're much more likely to be panhandled than scams, but you'll need good street smarts here.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK: MEDIUM
Again, it's those street smarts that will help you make the most of your time here. There's nothing in the crime data that suggests women are more at risk. Statistically speaking, 2022 data shows women are 15% less likely to be victims of violent crime. As a female traveler, I'm not sure if I'd want to visit here alone, but with plenty of tour options, you can have a safe experience with people around you. I just wouldn't go out alone to be safe. It's the same medium risk for everyone here.
TAP WATER RISK: LOW
The 2022 Water Quality Report shows full compliance and no violations. A new report is issued each year by July 1.
Safest Places to Visit in Coos Bay
As a travel safety journalist, I have to be transparent about the risks and reality of different locations.
Nobody pays me to say good (or bad) things.
My reward is being honest.
I bring that up because for all the blemishes I can point out, I can also tell you the rugged, raw, and radical appeal of the outdoors is another palpable part of Coos Bay.
People looking for this level of adventure generally don’t care if they are staying in a fancy hotel.
Oregon’s Adventure Coast is the nickname for this region and the name of the tourism website for Coos Bay, North Bend, and Charleston.
You can download a free visitor guide online.
A great place to start is the historic walking tour of Coos Bay.
You can pick up a map or schedule a guided tour.
More than two dozen locations sit along the 10-block radius.
Another option is the Coos History Museum, housed in a former Carnegie library, which delves into the area’s rich maritime heritage and regional lore through exhibits and artifacts.
Take a trip back in time aboard the Oregon Coast Historical Railway.
This vintage steam train chugs through scenic woodlands, offering a glimpse into the area’s logging past.
You’ll find beaches galore here.
I’ve collected just a small sample.
Sunset Bay State Park is tucked between towering sea cliffs.
Hike trails wind through coastal forests, leading to a sheltered beach perfect for swimming, soaking in the sun, or exploring tide pools teeming with curious creatures.
Cape Arago State Park offers a dramatic headland.
Trails weave through coastal meadows and rocky shores, offering panoramic views of the Pacific.
Keep your eyes peeled for migrating whales and playful seals basking on offshore rocks.
Shore Acres State Park includes an impeccable garden that leads to coastal paths and a secluded cove with crashing waves and mesmerizing tide pools.
Don’t miss the dramatic ocean views from the enclosed observation building.
This is one of the best locations for storm watching.
Lighthouse lovers (like me) have several options, too:
- Cape Arago Lighthouse
- Coquille River Lighthouse Interpretive Center
- Umpqua River Lighthouse
Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area is just 30 minutes north, one of the largest and rarest of its kind.
You can slide or ride ATVs through the dunes.
Places to Avoid in Coos Bay
Most of the hotels here are off Highway 101, which offers convenient access and safety in numbers.
Plus, the hotels are in some of the safer parts of the community.
While there aren’t places that are too dangerous to visit, it’s best to avoid Empire, Charleston, and North Bend unless you have a reason to be in any of those locations.
A lot of what you’ll experience in Coos Bay depends on where you are from and your expectations.
If you’re used to seeing homeless people, you won’t blink here.
If you expect a printing coastal community, you’re in the wrong place.
The thing that makes Coos Bay unique is the deep water port, and until the funding is available to seize that benefit, the community will suffer from the economic surge that should be coming its way.
It’s not a city that caters to tourists, though plenty of amenities welcome them.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Coos Bay
- Coos Bay and North Bend each have their own police departments. Follow Coos Bay Police on Facebook @CoosBayPolice. The main phone number is (541) 269-8911. North Bend’s police department is @NorthBendPoliceDepartment, and that phone number is (541) 756-3161. You can also follow the Coos County Sheriff’s Office on Facebook @myccso.
- Coos County uses the Everbridge system to send out emergency notifications. This will also cover all the cities in the region. You need to stay aware of incoming storm risks, public safety threats, and any other critical information. You can sign up for free and easily unsubscribe when you leave.
- When you’re on the city’s website to look at the visitor section, sign up for email alerts. This could include events, road work, or other important details for your visit.
- For any fishing charter, you’re going to need a license from the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife. You can purchase them online or at local retailers. Clamming also requires a separate permit.
- Winter brings the King Tides, which are the highest tides of the year. This brings the most spectacular waves of the year. It also means the most dangerous surf and beach conditions possible. Ask locally where the best viewing spots are from the safest distance. You should never watch a storm close to where the water could impact you.
- Bring a change of clothing when visiting the dunes. You’ll trek a lot of sand into your vehicle if you don’t, and that might cause a clean-up fee for your rental car or your rideshare to pass on the ride.
- If you see a camping area, it doesn’t mean it’s a campsite for guests. Homeless people have been given specific areas where they can camp for their own safety. You can find a list of campsites for visitors on the recreational website of your choice.
- If you’re concerned about some of the items we’ve discussed, review the Urban Renewal section of the city’s website. You can see the projects underway to help revitalize the town.
- U.S. Highway 101 is part of a scenic roadway that stretches from Seattle to Los Angeles. Summer vacations lead to traffic jams on Highway 101 around Coos Bay. You can use the TripCheck website to see road conditions, construction work, and real-time traffic.
- Usually, in this section, I detail the parking costs and locations, but Coos Bay is in the middle of expanding parking in several locations as of this publication. You can find the newest and latest parking areas downtown on the city’s website.
So... How Safe Is Coos Bay Really?
Coos Bay is not the safest, nicest, or most picturesque city on the coastline.
If you’re looking for the quintessential Oregon coastal magic with charming shops, hotel rooms with ocean views right on the sand, and modern seafood restaurants with outdoor decks, check out La Grande or Seaside.
That said, Coos Bay is not too dangerous to visit – but it’s far from one of the safest cities in the state.
It has some systemic issues, from a lack of upkeep in the community to repeated denial of federal funds to make the city an international shipping port for the ages.
As housing costs went up and industry went out, it left some people homeless or living in poverty.
The mental drain on people can lead to mental health and drug problems, and it’s known that the Mexican cartel once operated out of Coos Bay.
In 2022, violent crime rates were 79% higher than the state average.
What stood out to me is that crime has increased 113% in the city since 2018, evidence that the pandemic hit this town especially hard.
Less than 10% of those crimes happened against strangers, and 45% happened in private homes.
The theft rates are the real concern here, 188% higher than the national average – and that’s saying something in a state that already ranks in the top 10 for property theft.
Nearly 40% of all thefts are related to car break-ins.
You must lock your car here and remove any personal belongings or paperwork with your personal information on it (like rental car documents).
Another 30% of thefts are shoplifting.
I’d especially use caution in North Bend, where pickpocket or purse snatching rates are almost 10% of all thefts.
You’ll see a lot of homeless people here, but the same can be said for every other coastal city.
Coos Bay just seems to have a more visible problem in a less-than-desirable tourist destination.
However, if you can see through the grit and enjoy what is available here, you’ll be helping a community get back on its feet against the odds.
How Does Coos Bay Compare?
|New York City
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International visitors must secure a visa or visa waiver to enter the country. The U.S. State Department website outlines the eligibility criteria for a visa waiver. You can also utilize the Visa Wizard module on their site.
Only the U.S. Dollar can be used here—exchange currency at the airport or at your home bank. Don't wait until you get to the small coastal area. Credit cards will offer the best fraud prevention. Check with your bank to see if you'll have to pay a foreign transaction fee.
Pack layers for cool, breezy Oregon Coast days. Think fleece vests, rainproof shells, and comfy tees. Toss in jeans and sturdy shoes for beach walks and dune hikes. You'll want a wetsuit if you plan on swimming in the cold Pacific waters. Bring bug spray and sunscreen, even though the sun doesn't shine that much.
Southwest Oregon Regional Airport is right on the bay in Coos Bay. United serves this airport with flights to Denver and San Francisco. If you're flying out of the much larger Portland International Airport, expect to spend about four hours on the road.
Travel insurance just makes sense when visiting a place where you'll spend a lot of time on the road, face potential emergency health issues, or deal with weather delays. You want to cover all your bases to enjoy the amazing activities of Coos Bay without worry.
Coos Bay Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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Oregon - Safety by City