September 9, 2012

A great road trip in Southwest Oregon for kids (and adults)

Young leopard at West Coast Game Park

Here's a great road trip in the Southwest area of Oregon that my bride, daughter and I made a few years back. Every kid loves animals, and my daughter is no different. Although I would have liked to have made this trip when she was a little younger, at 11, it wasn't too late to spend a spring break with animals from various regions throughout the planet.

Our first stop, arriving from the north, was at Wildlife Safari, located in Winston. Having never been to the African savanna, this might be as close as I ever get. The 4.5 mile drive through the park provides up close encounters with a variety of critters from Africa, Asia and the Americas. The park advertises over 600 animals and over 80 species.

Giraffe smiles for camera at Wildlife Safari

After spending the night in Grants Pass, we headed to Great Cats World Park, located just outside Cave Junction on the Redwood Highway. This park provided up close looks at many wild cats from around the world. A guide takes you from cat to cat, providing information regarding each cat's individual traits. The park's website advertises about 30 cats, including lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars and cougars.

Lion at Great Cats World Park

Because it was in the vicinity, we traveled the 20 miles from Cave Junction to Oregon Caves National Monument. This was a departure from the animal theme of the trip, but neither my daughter or wife had been there. So, we took a guided tour through what the forest service deems the "Marble Halls of Oregon."

Cave wall inside Oregon Caves

From their we proceeded south on the Redwood Highway to Trees of Mystery, where giant redwoods rise from the forest floor high into the sky. Again, this was a departure from viewing critters, but the scenery along the way was outstanding, and it was a good way to get to the coast, where we planned to drive north back up into Oregon.

Arriving back in Oregon, we stopped at Prehistoric Gardens, along highway 101. There, we walked through a rainforest full of dinosaurs just outside of Port Orford. I had remembered walking through this forest as a kid. Again, it was worth the hour or two we spent there, and we didn't get eaten.
Prehistoric Gardens

Our next destination was West Coast Game Park, located in Bandon. This place is a zoo with some of the animals actually walking around with you. It has all the animal variety of a zoo and up close access to some of them, such as various wild cats, which are made available to hold and pet.
This handsome devil lived at West Coast Game Park

Driving through Florence and headed to Newport, our next stop was Sea Lion Caves. There, visitors take an elevator through the earth into a cave. From here, hundreds of sea lions lounging on rocks or undulating ocean waters can be viewed.
Statue at Sea Lion Caves

Our final animal viewing destination was the Oregon Undersea Gardens in Newport. Along with the pass to get in was a pass to Ripley's Believe It Or Not and The Wax Works.

Sea lions on Newport docks

This was a fun road trip that I would suggest to anyone with kids.
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