With its dramatic headlands, uncrowded beaches and craggy offshore rocks, the area around Coos Bay, North Bend and Charleston — nicknamed Oregon’s Adventure Coast — is one of the best locations for storm watching in Oregon. It’s also a terrific place to enjoy one of the tastiest pleasures of the stormy season: fresh, locally sourced seafood. Here’s where to get the best views of impressive weather before digging into a scrumptious feast.
See Huge Waves
Think you’ll always have to pack your best rain gear for storm watching? Think again. One of the most common misconceptions about storm watching is that the weather onshore is always, well, stormy. Instead, huge waves are actually created by offshore storms over the Pacific and may or may not coincide with stormy weather on land. Sometimes it can even be sunny onshore while immense waves crash against the rocks. As with everything pertaining to weather, it’s not possible to predict with certainty whether you’ll see huge waves on any given day. Winter, however, offers the best chances — and if you see the words “high-surf warning” in the forecast, that’s another good sign.
When the waves are up, remember to always stay off the beach and choose a safe place for spectating. Shore Acres State Park, about 14 miles southwest of Coos Bay is one of the most iconic wave-watching (and wave-photographing) spots on the Oregon Coast. Not only is it safely above wave range, but the high cliffs create dramatic sprays that can reach up to 300 feet in the air — as tall as eight city buses stacked end-to-end. Cape Arago State Park and the lookout above Bastendorff Beach, both on the same road as Shore Acres, are also great places to watch the waves.
Experience the Power of a King Tide
During winter in the northern hemisphere, the moon is a little bit closer to the Earth and exerts a stronger gravitational pull on the Pacific. That means winter is the season for king tides, which are the most extreme high tides of the year. They usually take place in December and January, and the last one this season is February 8-10, 2024.
During king tides, water might cover beaches or even roads that are normally high and dry. It’s a memorable sight but can also be a dangerous one. The good news is there are plenty of safe areas to view king tides, like Shore Acres State Park and Cape Arago. King tides coinciding with high-surf warnings are rare, but they do happen — and if it does, prepare for some truly awe-inspiring surf.
King tides also bring their opposites: very low minus tides. That means king tide-time is a great time for beachcombing — as long as you’ve checked the tide table, never turn your back on the ocean, and get off the beach well before the next high tide. During the ultra low tides that accompany king tides, walk the beach looking for new treasures like agates, interesting pieces of driftwood, shells or “whale burps” — tangled orbs of vegetation and twigs.
Locally Sourced Seafood
Good news for wave watchers: Winter is also peak season for many favorite seafoods, including the beloved Dungeness crab. The annual Charleston Crab Feed in February is a landmark occasion for celebrating this delicious crustacean. Each year, the community gathers to dig into 900+ pounds of crab purchased from local Charleston crabbers, plus a raffle to win prizes from local businesses.
Oregon’s Adventure Coast also offers many year-round opportunities to shop for and enjoy crab — and nothing gives you an appreciation for Oregon fishing families like trying to catch your own. If you don’t have your own gear, head to Dock D in the Charleston Marina to rent crab pots and buy bait and tackle at Monkey Business, a restaurant and market. Don’t forget to grab a shellfish license online if you don’t already have one. Then cross the parking lot to the Charleston Marina, a great spot to crab from land. If you strike out, you can always grab a crab-cake BLT or an order of fish and chips from Monkey Business when you return your pots. You can also shop for seafood to take home at Chuck’s Seafood in Charleston, which offers fresh, frozen and canned local seafood as well as fish and crab processing.
In Coos Bay, 7 Devils Brewery and 7 Devils Waterfront Alehouse both serve locally sourced seafood, including line-caught Oregon albacore, oysters and Oregon rockfish. Or sit down to a steaming bowl of cioppino at Wildflour Public House (Saturdays also bring a rotating seafood special). Fishermen’s Seafood Market on the Coos Bay Boardwalk also dishes up crispy local rockfish fish and chips for dockside munching (the owner, an avid fisherman, might have even caught the fish himself).