The Oregon Coast: a Winter Odyssey

January 28, 2015 (Updated March 13, 2017)

If you’ve never visited the Oregon Coast in the winter, you’re missing my favorite time of year to enjoy the 363 miles we call The People’s Coast. You might find yourself cozying up by a fireplace, watching angry waves crash during a spectacular storm; or you may find yourself on an uncrowded beach on a clear, sunny day that ends with a sunset over a beach bonfire. I have fond memories of both, each capturing an aspect of the beauty of this beautiful coastline. Winter is the Oregon Coast at its finest. And really, it’s fine if it rains — the ocean is already wet.

Learn more about the places featured in this video:

Cannery Pier: This boutique hotel is built on the historic site of the former Union Fish Cannery in the Columbia River Estuary. Riverfront balconies offer amazing views of the working river.

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Peter Iredale Shipwreck: See the remains of this 1906 shipwreck on the beach of Fort Stevens State Park.

Ecola State Park: On a clear day, you can look out over a seemingly endless ocean at this often-photographed state park. Also a wonderful place to watch for bald eagles, Roosevelt elk and migrating whales.

Haystack Rock: The iconic Haystack Rock is best visited at low tide, when you can explore its tide pools.

Kelly’s Marina: Located on beautiful Nehalem Bay, relax on the deck and cook your catch after a day of crabbing at this marina.

Pelican Pub & Brewery: The self-proclaimed home of beer cuisine lives up to its promise with award-winning craft brews paired with a delicious menu. Both the beachfront pub and adjacent Inn at Cape Kiwanda are great spots to watch winter storms or winter surfers at Cape Kiwanda.

Devil’s Lake: Glide quietly by canoe or kayak on the lake while you watch for coots, loons, ducks, cormorants, Bald Eagles, and grebes at this state park near the heart of Lincoln City.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse: This beautiful lighthouse is just one of the sights at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, which is also a popular spot for tidepooling and whale watching.

Oregon Coast Aquarium: The Oregon Coast Aquarium is home to over 500 species of animals. The popular “Passages of the Deep” exhibit brings visitors up close to sea creature of all kinds.

Thor’s Well: Also known as the Spouting Horn, Thor’s Well is part of the Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, which encompasses 2,700 acres connected by 26 miles of hiking trails. When surf is up, water shoots upward from the bowl carved out of the basalt shoreline, then drains back into the opening. For the safest experience, view the spouting horn from the Captain Cook Trail, just a short walk from the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center.

Heceta Head Lighthouse: First lit in 1894, this lighthouse is just a quick 1/2-mile hike from Heceta Head State Park. The former keeper’s residence is adjancent to the lighthouse and now functions as a bed & breakfast.

Sea Lion Caves: Take an elevator down to see hundreds of Steller sea lions gather in the amphitheater of this large sea cave during the winter months.

Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area: Dunes dominate the landscape for more than 40 miles between Florence and Coos Bay. The easiest access for general sightseeing is through day use areas at Jessie M Honeyman Memorial State Park and the Oregon Dunes Overlook just south of Florence.

Shore Acres State Park: Wander through a beautifully landscaped formal garden, then stroll down a trail to a viewpoint at the cliff’s edge that offers gorgeous ocean vistas. Shore Acres is a spectacular place to see towering waves crash after a storm.  During the winter months, nearby Simpson Reef Overlook is one of the best places on the coast to see seals and sea lions.

Redfish Restaurant & Loft: The beautiful views of the coastline from this restaurant are tough to beat. The upstairs loft is the perfect storm watching getaway for two.

Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor: Plan for many stops on this 12-mile stretch of coastline. There are so many scenic viewpoints, beaches and tide pooling areas that you’ll want to plan a day or more to explore. Check out Arch Rock Viewpoint, Natural Bridges Cove Viewpoint and House Rock Viewpoint to get started.

Redwood Grove: Oregon Redwoods Trail #1107 loops down to the west into upper Moser Creek drainage to access a grove of majestic old-growth redwood trees.

Editor’s note: Always use caution when exploring the beauty of the Oregon Coast in any season. Read up on these beach safety tips from Oregon State Parks & Recreation.

About The
Author

Emily Forsha
Emily is Travel Oregon's Content Manager, a proud mom, intrepid home cook and loyal Oregon Ducks fan. You can usually find her running, writing, or finding creative ways to avoid doing both, preferably over an Oregon IPA.