Go Stake Your Claim


Jan 20, 2000
Outside Magazine

A slice of life in Port Orford, Oregon

West Coast blist: The Pacific Ocean rolling out from Oregon's Port Orford

FIRST, THE OBVIOUS: If you want to see blue, you gotta cough up some green. With rare exceptions, oceanfront (and ocean-view) property commands the highest per-acre asking prices of any real estate in the country. Once you get past that, you can heed some earthier considerations. If a property lies right on the water, see it at its extremes of high and low tide to find out how the shoreline fluctuates. Does the receding tide leave a mudflat where you envisioned building a dock? Does high tide lap at the margins of the only level building site? Find out how far the water might reach during a storm surge or a hurricane. Study up on zoning and building codes, too, which are often more restrictive on the coast. If you fall in love with a property's ocean view, anticipate problems that could tarnish it. Does anyone have rights to remove the trees in the foreground? Is there a chance someone could build on the land between you and the water, high enough to block your vista entirely? Rare is the coastal town that hasn't seen nasty lawsuits filed over issues like these.

OREGON'S BREATHTAKING STRING of coastal state parks and its strict land-use laws—a byzantine tangle of urban-growth boundaries, grid tests, and other conundrums—keep property values high. Which means that the price of admission, especially within sight of the Pacific, ain't cheap. But if you don't require urban amenities (like single-malt-and-cigar bars), Port Orford, 170 miles southwest of Eugene, offers tempting substitutes at reasonable-for-Oregon rates: pristine beaches and forests, clean-running rivers like the Elk, Sixes, and Rogue, and enough wind to keep every last boardsailor and kitesurfer stoked.
RECENT LISTING: Fifty-four blufftop and monastically private acres of Douglas fir and myrtle overlooking Humbug Mountain State Park, with a rock-fireplace-bedecked log cabin and a view of the Pacific, $399,000. Sixes River Land Company, 888-291-8275, www.sixesriverlandcompany.com.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Beachcombing for driftwood and agates while waiting for the sunset at Cape Blanco.
FORGET IT IF: You think one grocery store, one movie theater, and zero stop signs sounds like a judicial sentence.
OUTSIDE OF A SMALL SUBCULTURE of hook-and-bullet Southerners, Florida's Big Bend country, 90 miles southeast of Tallahassee, remains an enigma on the map. Coastal towns are few and scattered, with only sporadic road access to the Gulf of Mexico (better known here as "the Guff"). It's not a beachy stretch. Instead, tidal creeks, salt marshes, and seagrass beds support bountiful marine life; Taylor is one of the few Florida counties that still allow scalloping. Cool and crystalline spring-fed rivers invite tubing and canoeing nearby. Drowsy fishing towns like Steinhatchee attract those who like their sunsets dazzling and their seafood and ambience Southern-fried.
RECENT LISTING: 160 acres, including two barrier islands at the mouth of the Suwannee River, with mature oaks and two freshwater ponds, $350,000. United Country/Sawgrass Realty, 352-498-0119, www.unitedcountry.com/steinhatcheefl.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Humming old Jimmy Buffett tunes through your snorkel to the manatees in 72-degree water.
FORGET IT IF: You're driven. Ambition comes here to die.

ON PRICE OF WALES, your natural grandeur comes with a healthy dollop of extractive-industry detritus. But the periodic clear-cuts on this third-largest U.S. island—roughly 135 miles by 40 at the widest—give way to the steep peaks of the Klawock Hills towering above glacier-gouged valleys, streams, bays, and waterfalls. Coastal temperate rainforest looms over a limestone underworld of caverns, sinkholes, and subterranean streams. Black bears, moose, and wolves overlap with bald eagles and wild salmon. And whatever you think of loggers, their thousand-plus miles of gravel roads make it much easier to get around.
RECENT LISTING: Nearly four acres with 350 feet of shoreline, sporting a small A-frame and a hand-built cedar cabin, with four-wheel-drive-only access, $185,000. Prince of Wales Island Realty, 907-826-2927, www.ktn.net/powr.
PICTURE YOURSELF: Venturing out in your sea kayak to hang with the neighbors—porpoises, sea otters, sea lions, and whales.
FORGET IT IF: Ten feet of windblown rainfall a year sounds like...a bit much.