While the 363 miles of Oregon coastline are stunning, pristine and accessible all year long, a winter trip always delivers unexpected treasures. Visitors often find the Coast’s winter temperatures warmer than inland climes. Many come for the storm watching — crashing waves, looming clouds and rain-washed beaches — and stay for beachcombing and fort building in the sunbreaks that follow. Most cherish the fewer crowds and the surging energy of the Coast in the cooler months, with 173 specific spots to view migratory and overwintering birds, and 24 designated viewpoints for whale watching during the winter migration season. Here’s how to explore the quiet beauty of Oregon’s coastal areas this winter.
South Coast Storm-Watching Escape
The rugged South Coast provides access to less-traveled country. A trail system connecting Shore Acres, Sunset Bay and Cape Arago state parks delivers dramatic views and prime storm-watching vantage points for colossal waves. Lighthouse lovers delight in the five charming beacons located along this stretch of Highway 101 — Umpqua River, Cape Arago, Coquille River, Cape Blanco and Pelican Bay lighthouses — each illuminating scenic miles. In Coos Bay, the history museum honors the past with exhibits on logging, maritime culture and the area’s original Native American residents. When you get hungry, the Wild Rivers Coast Food Trail is a road map for tasty adventuring, featuring favorite spots like Old Town Bandon’s Coastal Mist chocolatier, Face Rock Creamery and Alloro Wine Bar & Restaurant, as well as crabbing docks, cranberry bogs, bakeries and brewpubs from Reedsport to Brookings. In Gold Beach, the majestic Rogue River meets the ocean, and quiet beaches welcome beachcombing, bird-watching and crabbing. Book a fishing charter in Brookings to cast for king salmon, lingcod and rockfish, or hike the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor to view wind-sculpted arches and sea stacks. Ready for sand, seafood and more? Consider making this easy 3-day car-free trip to the South Coast.
Central Coast Wildlife Getaway
The Central Coast is the heart of the best things Oregon’s coastal communities have to offer. Lincoln City’s windy beaches have their own magic with nature-inspired glass-art workshops and ample beachcombing — keep an eye out for handmade glass floats hidden in the sand year-round. Beautiful Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge harbors red-tailed hawks, majestic egrets and great blue herons. Plan to spend time at the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay to spy on resident gray whales and seasonal migrators; a friendly expert can help you spot the blowholes here and at dozens of other sites along the Coast. At Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, visitors can tour the 1873 lighthouse and explore the beach below, where tide pools brim with life and sea lions lounge in the sun. In Newport browse boutiques at Nye Beach, view lounging sea lions on the bayfront and explore underwater wonders at the Oregon Coast Aquarium or the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center, with a panoramic view of the docks and river below. Visitors love checking out the gallery scene in Old Town Florence and wandering tranquil miles of the Oregon dunes. A wintertime paddle along the Siltcoos River Canoe Trail is magical, traversing three distinct ecological zones, from an inland lake to the sea. The art scene, sand dunes and whale-watching spots in Florence, Waldport and Yachats are calling: Make yours a car-free getaway to truly sit back and enjoy the ride.
North Coast Culinary Adventures
This region has recently become an epicurean haven with offerings like wild-yeast beers at local breweries, freshly harvested oysters at seafood markets and signature cheeses at Blue Heron French Cheese Company, where you can greet the friendly goats outside. The North Coast Food Trail helps you navigate it all, with dozens of food-based events, foraging field trips, guided tours, farm stays, cooking schools, restaurants and more ways to experience the coastal bounty. Winter is peak season for Dungeness crab, and you can catch, clean and cook your own at Kelly’s Brighton Marina in Rockaway Beach, all equipment and instruction included. There’s plenty of waterfront dining, too. Warm the belly with a bowl of fresh-smoked seafood chowder at the certified ocean-friendly Salmonberry Saloon in Wheeler, where tables overlook the marina. Rent a kayak next door and go for a brisk paddle. If you’ve always wanted to try fishing, winter is a perfect time for a guided trip — catch thrills on a dory boat in Pacific City or gather your pals for a beginner-friendly fishing trip for winter steelhead. Sign up for a volunteer-led day hike, a mushroom foraging walk, a tide pool tour or another coastal expedition through Explore Nature Tillamook Coast. These events are mostly free, led by volunteers at the nonprofit Friends of Netarts Bay Watershed. Getting to the North Coast without a car is easier than you’d think. Here’s how to take a car-free trip to Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach this winter.
If You Go:
Look to plan your trip around one of the Coast’s many winter festivals — from the Yachats Agate Festival and Astoria’s FisherPoets Gathering to food-and-drink festivals like the Newport Seafood & Wine Fest and the spectacular Shore Acres Holiday Lights display.
Weather on the Oregon Coast can vary. 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.
Southern Oregon Coast
Coos Bay, Charleston, Winchester Bay, Bandon, Port Orford, Gold Beach, Brookings
Central Oregon Coast
Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Florence
North Oregon Coast
Tillamook, Rockaway Beach, Wheeler, Pacific City