Summer inspires beach trips, but here’s a little secret: on the Oregon Coast, fall reigns supreme: The weather is mild. The fog has rolled out. The wind has died down. And the crowds have headed home. It’s one of the best times to explore the Oregon beaches.
It’s a perfect time to sink into the relaxed pace and unexpected adventure of Lincoln City, a town that unwinds for seven miles along Highway 101, parallel to an equal length of driftwood-strewn beaches. With traffic mellowed from the August frenzy, fall visitors here can enjoy easier access to lodging, campgrounds and attractions.
Day 1: Beaches, kites and crabbing
Start your trip by grabbing a bite and spread a blanket on the protected beach at Siletz Bay — perfect for wading, sand castles and a beginner’s paddling adventure. Bring binoculars to enjoy the wildlife. Seals bask on secluded bay shores, resembling lazy but animated driftwood. Birds feast in these waters: look for osprey, bald eagles, pelicans and herons.
While you’re there, you may as well catch your own supper. It’s easier than you think to hunt purple varnish clams and Dungeness crab. Trap crabs from the bay shore or pier, and dig for clams at low tide. A shellfish license is required for ages 12 and over. Purchase equipment at Bi-Mart or Ace Hardware in town.
While beach wandering, keep a sharp eye for vibrant local color, in the form of handcrafted glass floats. More than 3,000 glass floats, made by regional artists, are planted on the beach each year from mid-October through Memorial Day through the Finders Keepers program. Look for special holiday themes, like the 14 glass hearts on Valentine’s Day and Earth globes for Earth Day.
Explore D River State Recreation Site, where Devils Lake empties into the ocean in a broad, shallow stretch inviting splashing children. The Devils Lake State Recreation Area is right across the highway, with picnicking, camping, yurts and lake activities.
In the self-proclaimed kite capital of the world, you can find a colorful kite to unreel skyward from Northwest Winds Kites & Toys or Winddriven. At the annual Lincoln City Fall Kite Festival in late September and early October, watch the pros fly enormous airborne whales, octopi and more. Kids can make a paper kite and join a parade. Make sure to catch a crisp fall sunset to cap off the day.
Day 2: Tidepools, shopping and seafood
The next morning, visit Roads End State Recreation Site. Serrated lava-rock islands and a pebbly creek frame views of Cascade Head. At low tide, walk a half mile north to crouch among the tide pools, spying anemones the color of sea glass gently waving their tentacles, fingernail-sized hermit crabs mincing along the sandy bottoms, and the occasional starfish gripping the rocks with its poppy-orange arms. At low tide, you can thread past the point to a secret cove, but use caution: rising water will eventually cut off your return. Check tide information and a live webcam of the ocean at the Inn at Spanish Head.
Less than a mile south from D River, head to the beach at Canyon Drive Park and let tumbling waves hypnotize you in the shadow of crumbling sandstone bluffs. Just remember to be careful by the water. Even a calm sea can deliver dangerous sneaker waves, so practice water safety. Never turn your back to the ocean and don’t climb on driftwood near the sea.
Spend the afternoon exploring the historic Taft District on the shore of Siletz Bay. Lincoln City’s small, traditional seaside neighborhood has ice cream and arcade games at Eleanor’s Undertow, plus of course Mo’s famous chowder with a view. Galleries, surf shops and antique stores invite browsing. Or, head north to the Oceanlake District and discover a world of quaint local gift shops; current and classic films at the historic Bijou Theatre; and step back in time at Prehistoric Oregon, where you can find fossils and meteorites and be greeted by a friendly T-Rex.
If the kids are away, the adults can play! Wrap up your day with an exquisite meal at The Bay House, known for its striking waterfront views and multi-course tasting menu with wine pairings. Or keep it simple with a pint of craft beer and weekend live blues at Roadhouse 101 and Rusty Truck Brewing, where they also serve burgers, prime rib and pizza.
Day 3: Arcades, glass art and catch-of-the-day
For some kids — and grown-ups, too — it’s not a trip to the Coast without arcade time and sweets. Feel like a kid again at Game Over Arcade and Putt N Bat for games and mini golf, and Reads Homemade Candies and Candyland Gifts for delectable treats.
If you don’t find a Finders Keepers glass float on the beach, you can make your own at Jennifer Sears Glass Art Studio, or just watch a demonstration and browse the gallery. Visit Mor Art and Alder House for more demonstrations, classes and gorgeous souvenirs to take home.
Settle in for lunch at Kyllo’s Seafood and Grill, where you can grab a fresh, locally sourced D River Burger (double 100-percent grassfed Oregon beef patties, cheese, bacon and onions) or crispy fish tacos. And bring a cooler to bring a little Lincoln City seafood back home with you: The 1949 vintage street-side counter at Barnacle Bill’s Seafood Market is famous its smoked wild Chinook salmon but also carries whatever’s fresh and in season. You won’t go hungry — or bored — in Lincoln City.