: Justin Bailie

5 Wild Winter Adventures on the North Coast

Jen Sotolongo, Guest Author
January 3, 2020

Anything goes on the Coast during the winter months: turbulent wind storms, misty drizzle, milky fog and more bursts of sunshine than you might imagine. Peak-season crowds give way to the locals, and hardy outdoor enthusiasts come here for solitude — drawn by the allure of playing at the beach when others go in search of snow. From biking and fishing to golfing, surfing and paddling, here are five only-on-the-Coast ways for hardy adventurers of all skill levels to embrace the season and fuel up afterwards.

Coastal estuaries like the Neawanna River offer endless solitude and wildlife watching during the winter season. (Photo by: Don Frank / Visit Seaside)

Kayaking and a Cozy Coffee Spot

During winter months, the water level in waterways is higher, which means paddlers can venture further upstream. Also, the lack of visitors presents a better opportunity to get up close and personal with wildlife such as eagles, river otters, migrating birds and more. Kayak Tillamook offers several kayaking tours along the North Coast. Their winter hot cider guided tour runs November to March and includes two hours of paddling and a thermos of hot apple cider. Afterward, head to Bread and Ocean, a cozy bakery and cafe in Manzanita serving breakfast items and gourmet sandwiches for lunch.

Further north in Seaside, the boat launch on the Neawanna River is a great starting point to explore the Necanicum Estuary. The 87-square mile area is a protected watershed that is a favorite spot for bird watching, so bring your binoculars. Rent a kayak at Clean Line Surf in town and compare photos over coffee at Pacific Pearl Coffee Roasters, which takes latte art to the next level.

It may be cool, wet and muddy, which makes it a perfect day for a trail ride along the Wilson River Trail. (Photo by: Justin Bailie)

Mountain Biking and a Pint

Just an hour from Portland lies some of the region’s best singletrack trails. The Wilson River Trail in the Tillamook State Forest features just over 22 miles with more than 5,000 feet of elevation gain. Rolling hills vary between 1,000 feet and 1,500 feet of elevation, offering snow-free mountain biking when snow hits the trails at higher elevations, often between November through April. Easy riding it’s not, but for those who want a challenge, it’s just the spot. Afterward, treat yourself to a pint at De Garde Brewing, a European farmhouse-style brewery across from Tillamook’s food cart pod (bring your food inside to snack while you sip). 

The newly opened Klootchy Creek Trail, a few miles north of Seaside, offers more excellent singletrack for all ability levels, with river, mountain and seaside views. Order a seasonal ale and house-smoked barbeque at Seaside Brewing afterward.

Gearhart Golf Links and other courses on the Coast offer award-winning links and stunning views. (Photo by Kathleen Nyberg / McMenamins)

Golfing and Fireside Dining

What started as a P.E. class for school children in Tillamook turned into one of the Coast’s newest disc golf courses — a sport that’s taking off in popularity, as it’s widely accessible year-round. The 18-hole Bohannon Disc Golf course opened in 2019 and is open to the public when school is not in session. Consider staying 10 miles north at the Garibaldi House to enjoy locally sourced cioppino and clam chowder in front of the fireplace every Friday and Saturday evening.

If the links are more your scene, head to Gearhart to play on the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi River. The Gearhart Golf Links started out as a three-hole course in 1888 and today features a full 18 holes, while staying true to classic Scottish roots. Adjacent to the golf course, the McMenamins Gearhart Hotel Sand Trap Pub is a great spot to grab a bite to eat after a round of golf. The patio features a fire pit, perfect for lingering over a bowl of chowder.

Surf's up at Shorts Sands Beach year round; book a beginner's lesson and check off that bucket-list item. (Photo by: Chris Liedle)

Surfing and a Craft Cocktail

Yes, surfing in Oregon is a thing, and 10 miles south of Cannon Beach, Shorts Sands Beach is a great place for beginners to get started. Set in a protective cove, it is one of the safest spots on the Coast to surf. This popular spot draws crowds during the summer months, but winter weekends tends to keep surfers indoors. Newbies and intermediate surfers alike can book lessons with Cannon Beach Surf Lessons and Rentals. More advanced surfers frequent the waves near Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area in Pacific City. The large beach features free parking and a number of breaks to pick from. Take advantage of deals at Moment Surf Company in town for a board and wetsuit rental.

Warm the bones with a soak in a hot tub and a craft cocktail overlooking the surf at the oceanfront Meridian Restaurant & Bar at the Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa, and celebrate your day with a campfire on the beach afterward. Make sure to use firewood, not driftwood, and build your fire in designated areas only.

Find large, bountiful steelhead and total serenity on the Trask River in the winter months. (Photo by: Justin Bailie)

Winter Steelhead Fishing and a Burger

Starting late November through March, the waters surrounding the Tillamook Bay boast some of the best spots in North America for steelhead fishing. Eager anglers should hit the Nestucca River for a good chance of landing a steelhead over 20 pounds. The river sees some 10 thousand native fish annually, plus an additional thousand or so thanks to the hatchery upstream. Celebrate a successful catch with a burger at nearby Pelican Brewery in Pacific City. Check MyODFW.com for fishing permits, regulations and more resources.

For anglers desiring a more low-key location, check out the Trask River. This small stream has just eight miles of boatable waterway, but doesn’t attract nearly as many visitors. Many fish released from the Gold Creek Hatchery return where they were raised on the Trask, starting in November. Barnett’s Guide Service offers drift-boat trips on both rivers. Go back in time at Dutch Mill Diner nearby in Tillamook for a good, old-fashioned burger.


If You Go:

Weather on the Coast can vary dramatically. Expect rain and clouds in the winter months, with occasional bright, sunny and crisp days. Wind can pick up any day of the year, so layers are best. When playing in Oregon’s coastal areas, keep in mind Leave No Trace principles, and keep the beaches clean for all to enjoy. Storm watching is best done from a safe vantage point, off the beach itself; when you’re on the beach, never turn your back on the ocean and stay off wet logs. Consider traveling car-free to the Coast to sit back and enjoy the ride. 


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