Big-wave surfers flock to Nelscott Reef in Lincoln City for some of the most spectacular swells on the Oregon Coast and the world. But the seven miles of stunning coastline here are not just a playground for surfers — they’re hopping with activity all year round.
In fact, Lincoln City has some of the most accessible waterways on the Oregon Coast, each teeming with wildlife and welcoming watercraft of all types — from kayaks and stand-up paddleboards to motorized boats and jet skis. Here are some of the top ways to catch your thrills on the water in Lincoln City.
Kayak and stand-up paddleboard
Imagine gliding through the water alongside ducks, herons, cormorants, bald eagles, deer, elk and beavers. It’s easy to do by kayak or stand-up paddleboard at Devils Lake, the 685-acre paradise just a few miles inland. With calmer water and warmer temperatures than the ocean, the shallow lake is great learning ground for beginners. For supreme ease, set up a basecamp here at Devils Lake State Recreation Area, which welcomes tent, RV and yurt campers year-round.
Paddlers looking for something different can head to the Salmon River Estuary, just north of town — a dreamy stretch of river framed by white-sand beach on one side and a sheer rock wall on the other. It may be hard to focus as you absorb the verdant hillside meadows and wildflowers of Cascade Head above you. This is a protected ecosystem for birds and wildlife, as well as a popular spot for seal-spotting, fishing and crabbing. You can choose your own adventure here: paddle upstream through the fresh river water or head downstream to the mouth, where the river meets the beach and the Pacific.
New to stand-up paddleboard? KLG Adventures, in town, offers both flatwater and ocean lessons; a brief primer on the basics goes a long way. Safari Town Surf also offers stand-up paddleboard rentals and kayak tours along the Salmon River Estuary.
Or you can take advantage of kayak tours offered at the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, just off U.S. Highway 101 south of town. The 2-hour U.S. Fish & Wildlife tour leads lucky paddlers through the Millport Slough and Siletz River, amidst 568 acres of marsh, slough, mudflats and lush forest. Part of the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway, it’s also a birders’ paradise, home to red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, great blue heron, egret and other lovely waterfowl, so don’t forget the binoculars.
Adrenaline junkies looking to kick it up a notch can find their thrills on a jet ski. They’re welcome at both Devils Lake and Siletz Bay, but please respect the no-wake zones. If you haven’t rented a WaveRunner before, they come with one-, two- and three-person seats, and the rush is addictive. See how the pros do it during the Devils Lake Dash jet ski race, which takes place at Regatta Grounds. On the northwest side of Devils lake, stop in to Blue Heron Landing to rent a WaveRunner jet ski, motorboat, kayak, canoe, family paddle boat or pontoon boat, along with all the gear you’ll need.
There’s something idyllic about being on a boat — whether it’s to fish, whale watch or just pass the time on a pleasure cruise.
With its five boat ramps and no launch fees, Devils Lake is a haven for exploring. From your comfortable perch, you may see elk, deer, beavers, butterflies, raccoon, muskrat and and numerous species of birds. Bring a picnic lunch and retreat for a bit at Regatta Grounds, where the littles can enjoy the play structure and splash in a protected swimming area. This spot is also a family fishing favorite: the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife stocks the pond here, with staff and volunteers providing equipment and lessons for youth on how to bait and catch.
Just south of Lincoln City, boaters may launch from the southeast corner of Siletz Bay along the Siletz River. Spend the afternoon on the water exploring or crabbing, then bring your buckets at low tide, when clam diggers regularly dig up a feast. If you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bowl of chowder or ice cream cone at one of the friendly spots in the Historic Taft District, at the edge of the bay. And stop into the Lincoln City Surf Shop for some waterborne inspiration.
Sea kayaking and kiteboarding
If you’re a more experienced adventurer yearning to catch the spray of saltwater on your face, try a water sport that will take you out onto the ocean in Lincoln City. It’s easy to fall in love with sea kayaking, where you’ll get to experience the coastal beauty of the landscape and its stunning wildlife from a front-row seat. Kiteboarding, meanwhile, is a thrilling cross between surfing, skateboarding and waterskiing that will have you feel like you’re flying. The winds here make for perfect swells; you’ll be catching air in no time. Whenever you’re on the ocean, make sure to be vigilant and follow best practices for beach safety. Head to OregonCoast.org to plan your next adventure in Lincoln City.