How to Elope in Brookings, OR - Oregon Coast Elopement Photographer
Advice on how to elope on the Southern Oregon Coast from the only local elopement photographer.
Brookings, OR is known for Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor which is packed with the most rugged stretch of coast in Oregon. It gets bonus points for being a short, 30 minute drive from the Jedidiah Smith Redwoods which are part of Redwood National Park. When it comes to beautiful Pacific Northwest locations, you really can’t beat it. To top it off, this isolated area tends to receive less traffic than many other Oregon Coast locations. For a day as important as your elopement, it’s well worth the trek out here.
Part of this small town and isolation joy means I’m the only elopement specific photographer in this county. This gives me a special look into Brookings and how I can best help my clients elope here. Let’s chat details from a local on how to elope here.
Where to Elope
If you look up Brookings, OR or Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor, you’ll be looking at Secret Beach and Natural Bridges. They’re wildly popular on Instagram and Pinterest. Here’s a secret for you…there’s better locations here. Both these locations tend to be busy and not a great fit for anyone looking for a more private elopement experience.
As for Natural Bridges, I do not personally photograph at this location. The trail is dangerous and has even been fatal to some hikers. I have lots more on why I do not recommend Natural Bridges in this blog post. Please stay safe and don’t risk your life for an Instagram photo!
Never fear though, the options beyond these popular locations are endless. I currently have a guide with all the options I know of for my clients and it’s almost 30 pages long.
Samuel H. Boardman Scenic Corridor
This park is only 12 miles long and is 100% accessible from the 101. This means you can pick any locations within the park and not be stuck in the car all day. The two high traffic areas are Secret Beach and Natural Bridges but if you’re game to explore beyond that, you’ll find far fewer people. The park has signs throughout with pull-off parking areas. The Oregon Coast Trail stretches through the entire park giving you endless trails to explore.
Always be cautious hiking in this area. These trails are fairly primitive and can be overgrown in sections. Thankfully the proximity to the ocean helps you keep your directions straight and usually some extra thoughtfulness should keep you from getting lost.
This link will take you to park information including a map of trails in the park. I have yet to find a trail that wasn’t worth hiking. Almost every trail is down on the way there and steep on the way back. They’re all also mostly under 1.5 miles. AllTrails is not very useful in this park. Many trails don’t lead where they say (including the listing for Natural Bridges) and you’ll find the park's map more dependable.
Here’s some of my favorite Samuel H. Boardman places for elopements:
Redwood National Park
The Jedidiah Smith Redwoods are a close 30 minute drive from Brookings. They are a busy park by our small town standards but nothing like Yosemite or Mt. Rainier. I always recommend my couples stick to weekdays or shoulder season if you want to avoid the crowds at the Redwoods. The parking areas are small and poorly developed so avoiding crowds lessens that stress. There’s a lot of hiking options of varying lengths with similar results (epic, giant trees and a fern filled forest). AllTrails is a great resource for finding your best hiking options for what you want.
Unlike the Oregon Coast, the Redwoods are not dog friendly. Dogs are not allowed on any of the hiking trails. If you want to bring your pup along for your day, you’ll be better off picking a forest location in Oregon. There’s multiple beautiful forest areas and even one redwood grove option when you head north back to Oregon. Check out this resource for more advice on how to include your dog in your elopement day.
Here’s some elopements from some of my favorite Redwood National Park locations!
Beyond the main parks
If you really want a unique experience, you go beyond these two primary parks. So many people come here for Samuel H. Boardman and Redwood National Park, that they forget to go beyond. All of the Oregon coastline is public land which means there’s a lot to explore. There’s also lots of infamous PNW, mossy, fern filled forests to explore. You’ll even find some waterfalls, lakes, and rivers. Here’s some of my favorite hidden gems for elopements!
Picking Your Location
There’s some special things to consider when trying to find your perfect location for various events. First and foremost, you’ll want to keep an eye on the tide tables. With the rocky coastline comes issues with high tides. Some locations are inaccessible and/or dangerous at certain tides. Some high tides are higher than others so you’ll want to check the height and time. You’ll want to check the location at the same height you’ll be there to make sure it will be what you expect on your elopement day (or your elopement photographer should check this for you). Here's a resource to check tides.
Wind is another important factor with locations. Some areas are more exposed and make them much windier. Most cliff, overlook type locations have high winds while cove beaches will have less wind. Wind will not ruin your photos (actually, it can really add a special magic to your images) but it may be tricky if you’re trying to have a picnic or a ceremony. Cove like locations would be a better fit for an event without wind.
Getting to Brookings, OR
Part of why Brookings is a low traffic area is that it’s a bit challenging to get here. There is no airport in Brookings itself. These are the main airport options to get you to Brookings, OR.
Rogue Valley International Airport in Medford, OR - This is the most popular airport used for getting to Brookings. It’s a 2.5 hour drive to get from Medford to Brookings. You’ll drive the Highway 199 which is windy with some cliff edges. There’s an Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget car rental services at the airport.
Coos Bay Regional Airport in North Bend, OR - This is a very small airport. United Airlines flies from Coos Bay to San Fransisco only. It’s 2 hours on the 101 to get to Brookings. This would be a good airport if you’re using locations in Gold Beach or Port Orford as the airport is 1-1.5 hours from these towns. The prices for these flights vary significantly. They have a Hertz on location. For more information, this is their website.
Del Norte County Regional Airport in Crescent City, CA - This is a very small airport. American Airlines/Contour flies from Crescent City to Oakland, CA only. It’s a 30 minute drive to Brookings from Crescent City. There’s a Avis and Budget rental car services. For more information, this is their website.
Portland International Airport in Portland, OR - This is a large airport with lots of flight and rental car options. It’s a 6 hour drive to get to Brookings from Portland. The cost of these flights are lower than any of the above airports. This would be a great option if you’re also looking to explore Oregon. You can drive the 101 most of the way here if you’d like which is a beautiful drive. You can also explore the Portland area which features the Columbia Gorge and Mt. Hood National Forest.
Getting Legally Married in Oregon
In Oregon, you need an officiant and two witnesses to get married. You do not need to be an Oregon resident to get the license. You can pick up your marriage license in any county and you don’t need to get married in the same county you get the license from. You do HAVE to get married in the state of Oregon for it to be valid though. There’s a 3 day waiting period on the license until it’s valid to get married with. Thankfully, it’s only $10 to waive it if you provide a valid reason for needing it waived (telling them you’re traveling from out of town is classified as a valid reason).
For an officiant, you have a couple options depending on what you want. Getting ordained is simple and free through Universal Life Church. You can have a friend or family member get ordained if you’re going to have some guests. Many elopement specific photographers (including myself) are ordained and can offer a very simple ceremony for a self lead ceremony experience. My partner is also ordained and offers formal ceremonies. Even if you don’t book me as a photographer, he’s available to officiate your ceremony. You can learn more about his services here.
The nearest county seat (Curry County) is in Gold Beach, OR. Another option is picking up your license in another county along the way if it works better for your schedule. Make sure to reach out to the specific county to check their hours and make sure you don’t need an appointment. This website can get you started for Curry County.
If all this sounds too stressful, there’s always the option to get legally married where you’re from before your actual ceremony. Just because the law says you were married one day doesn’t change your anniversary for you. If legalities stress you out, skip them so you can enjoy your day. The legalities don’t change your commitment to your partner!
Finding Other Vendors
Finding other vendors in this area can be tricky since it’s such a small town. You can stick to local vendors or you can pick up things like dessert or florals in Medford! If you want local, here’s some of my favorite vendors in the area!
Videography - Lilli Productions
I actually have a partnership with Sabrina! With our package, you can get photo, video, officiating, and florals. You can learn more about our package deal here.
Hair and Make-Up - Meaghan with Fleurt Beauty Co.
Florals - Humbug Garden
Reminder: live or dried floral arrangements are not allowed in Redwood National Park.
Dessert - Coastal Mist
And if you opt to book with me, I have even more extensive vendor recommendation lists for clients!
The Oregon Coast is infamous for rain and fog…but you’ll find different weather here. While we still get the fog and rain, we get less than the northern coast locations. Brookings get an average 126 days of rain annually versus 185 for more northern coastal towns. We have an average of 191 sunny days per year and see a significant drop in rain in the summer months. We average 3-6 rainy days a month from June to September.
The temperature is around 65 degrees in the summertime and only gets down to 50-55 during the winter. You don’t have to worry about a heat wave if you elope here. The summer temperatures are very comfortable with most elopement outfits and won’t leave you sweating. With the way the ocean affects air movement, we also very rarely deal with smoke during forest fire season.
Where to Stay
AirBNB and VRBO has a lot of great options for this area! If you opt to use these booking services, try to book vacation type properties (something the average person wouldn’t live in). Locals struggle to find housing because many of the properties get purchased as an investment property to run as an AirBNB or VRBO.
If you want to support lodging that doesn’t hurt locals, check out these other options!
Whaleshead Lodge - This is a grouping of cabins with an epic view of the ocean. This is great if you have multiple groups of people you want to stay in the same area. Some of these properties have a large patio overlooking the ocean which is great for a first look and getting ready photos (pictured above). This is their website!
Crook Point - This property has been owned by the same family for generations. You can book them on AirBNB or you can skip their fees and book straight through their website. All their rentals offer ocean views and most of them have a hot tub overlooking the ocean. You’ll also want to check out their venue options! They have several beautiful options that are a great fit for elopements. Here's their website!
Hotels and Motels in town - There’s plenty of other lodging options in town as well. The Beachfront Inn in Brookings is one of many hotel options. Don’t forget to look at Gold Beach options as well since Samuel H. Boardman is between the towns of Brookings and Gold Beach.
The two main land agencies you’ll likely deal with is Oregon State Parks and Redwood National Park. Oregon State Parks on the coast are easy going about permits. You should not need a permit unless you’re setting up a structure (like an arch or rented chairs). Your actions can’t prevent other tourists from enjoying the beach. So some lawn chairs for your guests are okay while a bunch of rented chairs set up with an aisle wouldn’t be okay. You can have up to 50 guests before you need a permit for a high guest count. Even if you need a permit, they are low cost. Check out this resource to learn more about permits for the Oregon Coast. If in doubt, reach out to the permitting office. They’re very helpful and quick to respond!
As for the Redwoods, you need a permit if you’re going to do any kind of ceremony (even a simple vow reading). Rangers do patrol the area and check permits so make sure to do this right. You do not need a permit for just portraits of the two of you in the park. If you have permit questions, the permitting office for the Redwoods is also very responsive. Check out the NPS website for more information.
Make sure to check into these rules yourself! The intention of this section is to give you an idea what to expect according to my most recent conversations with the parks and may not still be accurate or apply to your particular activity.
Favorite Local Activities
Tide pooling - This is one of my personal favorite past-times. Check for extra low tides! Anything less than 1 foot tends to be decent tide pooling. Go to a beach with large rocks that you can walk up to. Sandy beaches aren’t going to show wildlife at low tide but the large rocks make for a great home for all sorts of sea critters. Make sure to be nice to the wildlife and do not rip them off the rocks or disturb them.
Kayaking tours - If you want to explore the ocean from the water, South Coast Tours hosts some amazing kayaking tours (how about kayaking through the arches?!). They also have snorkeling and whale watching tours.
Jet boat river tour - Jerry’s Rogue Jets is part of the rural mail route up the Rogue River. You can jump on one of their jet boats to get a tour of all the wildlife inland (plus ride some rapids).
Fishing charters - The fishing charter options are endless from deep sea to river fishing. You’ll find tour companies all along the coast whether you’re in Brookings, Gold Beach, or Port Orford.
Dining options - We don’t have a ton of restaurants but we have some good ones! If you’re looking for a nice sit down option, my personal favorites are Black Trumpet Bistro (Italian) and Zola’s On the Water (brick oven pizza). A casual favorite is Off the Wagon (plain good food that happens to be all vegetarian) which you can find inside Chetco Brewing. Chetco Brewing is dog friendly and even hosts private events if you’re looking for a place to host a reception.
Why Hire a Local?
While this resource may be packed with local secrets, there is much, much more packed into the various resources I give my clients. Hiring a local can give you insights into the area that the average person won’t know, no matter how many times they visit.
I’ve spent hours exploring this stretch of coastline, taking each random trail, and seeing them in all the seasons and conditions. I make personalized location recommendations based on what the couple is looking for, their date and the tides that day, and the kinds of events going on. I have certain sheltered coves I recommend for picnics and areas that will avoid crowds so you can exchange vows privately. I have locations that work best for dogs or spots that are accessible if you have anyone in attendance that has mobility issues. All this research to make sure I have the perfect spot for your specific needs. I think you deserve locations that serve you, not just the photos I want in my portfolio.
My locations may be my crown jewel of local knowledge but I also love recommending the best tide pool spots, restaurants (like where to pick-up pizza between locations), vendors that serve this area, and the ability to change plans quickly if something unexpected happens (like a random fog bank rolling in).
I’ve taken the dive into becoming an expert in this area so that my couples can have the best day possible here. If you want to chat about what your Brookings elopement could be, fill out my contact form here!
Does Brookings sound like the place for you? Check out these other Brookings resources!