Covering 180 miles of Oregon coast travel: Astoria, Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.
More Than 20 Reasons for a Late Spring Oregon Coast Jaunt
(Oregon Coast) - Do you really need a list of reasons to
visit the Oregon coast?
After the spring breaks are over, usually after the first weekend of April, so begins a time of year with a variety of really different aspects going on. Yet it’s one of the least populated times of the year on the beaches. There’s the whole “secret season,” unusual weather phenomenon, lower than usual minus tides, lodging specials and a host of other hidden gems about these sands most people don’t know about.
If you’re not indulging in what this place has to offer this time of year, you’re seriously missing out. Here’s over 20 reasons you should be on the coast during – but especially after – spring break.
#1: The Secret Season. There’s more to spring than spring break. In fact, that period after the main spring breaks, from mid April through to the end of May, is a distinctively unpopulated time with a host of interesting natural wonders that make this an unusual time of year at the coast. It’s nicknamed the “secret season,” “hidden spring” or “secret spring” – various incarnations of that, because no one ever seems to talk about it. There is a growing movement of coastal businesses that are making it a point to speak up, however.
What are the components of the “secret spring?” Read on.
#2: Fewer Crowds On top of the beautiful natural phenomenon that abound this time of year, crowds are sizably less. In some areas, like Manzanita, it’s almost a ghost town, and you can enjoy the most incredible chunks of north coast beaches in total solitude. You're apt to find the roads and beaches completely to yourself at times, if not fairly often. This is true even on most really nice weather weekends, where things do get a bit busier – but not much.
#3: Wild Weather Extremes March and April bring a crazed kind of weather, often switching back and forth abruptly between sunny and squalls within the same day, sometimes within a half hour. You get an interesting mix of increasingly nice days, with occasional winter-like storms still possible – periodically within the same day. May starts to calm down considerably, and you lose the big storms, but weather switch-a-roo’s still happen quite often.
You’ll want to come prepared for abrupt changes in weather, bringing along changes in clothing and jackets, in case the weather decides to turn on you.
#4: The Wonders of Spring Storms Spring storms can offer some wild, strange sights, especially when paired with the larger blooms of phytoplankton that happen this time of year. These are the microscopic creatures that whales and other fish eat in huge abundance. One kind, called diatoms, are responsible for the sea foam you see in the waves. Their millions of tiny skeletons combine with the air to make air bubbles in the breakers.
With more of them in the spring blooms, you then get a better chance of seeing sea foam pulling all sorts of strange stunts during the season’s storms, like moving across the highways or even flying upwards, creating the mind-boggling sight of what looks like snow going the wrong direction.
#5: Lower Minus Tides Some of the year’s lowest minus tides can happen in March, April and May, with May having a tendency to be the lowest. This allows for greater exploration of tide pools and other sights not always visible.
This means a huge new world to discover on the coast, as a myriad of objects both alive and inanimate open up. It means a lot more than starfish.
In places like Hug Point, on the north coast, minus tides bring entire new vistas to this already remarkable beach. You can see the bottom parts of the road that was blown out of the headland in the early last century, and other mysterious rocky slabs show themselves just beneath the water.
Add to that the incredibly low sand levels we’ve had this winter and you’re bound to spot more oddities than you’ll believe. At Hug Point, stumps from a forest theorized to be 80,000 years old showed up earlier this year (though they’ll probably be gone soon, if not already, as sand levels have risen across the coast).
In Oceanside, on the Three Capes Tour, the landscape changes drastically in many ways at low tides. Entire new vistas of rocky marine gardens show themselves. Not to mention, you can walk around Maxwell Point to get to its other side, instead of having to go through the tunnel.
#6: Lodging Prices Still Down Traditionally, lodging prices drop after Labor Day Weekend, and then stay really low throughout the winter after dropping again in the late fall. In the spring, around spring break, they start going up again, but there’s still this intermediate time where some remain at winter rates or just slightly higher.
There is no rule of thumb how much prices rise, but usually summer rates don’t kick in until June or July. Many incredible deals are still anxiously awaiting takers, as the coast is rather bereft of tourists at this time of year.
Midweek savings packages are usually still around, and some inns remain 20 to 40 percent off their summer rates.
#7: Lodging Specials Abound. According to Lorna Davis, Director of Tourism Development for the Newport Chamber, hotels, motels and inns are just twitching to get people onto those empty beaches and into their rooms. “There’s a lot of two-for-one specials, or ‘stay two nights and get the third free,’ especially during the mid week,” Davis said.
#8: Sweet Vacation Rental Deals in Lincoln City How does a great deal for a vacation rental in Lincoln City sound? Thanks to A1 Beach Rentals, you can get quite a home at really cut rates. Midweek rates until May are about 40 percent off high season rates. Dozens of rentals in the Lincoln City area. 503-232-5984. www.a1beachrentals.com.
#9: Warmer Waters Thanks to the weather slowly warming up, you’re going to find the sea just a bit warmer at times. Especially in May, the calmer air and more stable spells of sunlight start to heat things up a little more. However, you’ll still find a great deal of cold water and even crazed storms in April.
#10: Dig In, It’s Clamming Season! On the north coast, razor clamming is especially hot – from Tillamook Bay northward. Areas like Rockaway, Manzanita, Cannon Beach and Seaside are excellent for obtaining the delicious little critters. All you need is the right tools and a license, purchased from any sporting goods stores.
After years of being banned, clamming has been legalized
on the central Oregon coast, from Newport’s north jetty northward.
“Thick sandy shorelines have something to do with great razor clamming,”
said Newport geology expert Guy DiTorrice. “They like to move around,
so they need real sandy locations. Our cobble-strewn beaches at most locations
here do not bode well for razor clamming as much as they do for cockles
Wine Tasting Weekends – and Weekdays These abound with greater
regularity up and down the coast, and they can be an incredible find.
In Newport, Blu Cork Wine Bar offers a constant stream of vino and incredible
cuisine most days of the week. Nye Beach Gallery in Newport and Cannon
Beach's Wine Shack provides special wine tastings every Saturday afternoon.
There is always the Flying Dutchman Winery near Depoe Bay, and the Depoe
Bay Winery and Nehalem Bay Winery with tasting rooms always open.
“There are a couple of small agate-containing agate
bars that are open along the meandering channel of Big Creek,” said
Newport beach expert Guy DiTorrice.” The channel has shortened its
hard-northerly track this past winter, opting for some wider sections
closer to Agate Beach State Park.
DiTorrice added there are some agate-containing beaches open north and south of Lost Creek State Park and further north at Thiel Creek, with many collectors reporting nice picking, especially for the “Newport blues.”
Lower sand levels mean the ancient “ghost forest” stumps were visible again on beaches just north of Newport, just as the ones in Hug Point and various other spots along the coast. But these have probably all disappeared. However, there is a major “ghost forest” that’s still visible fairly often at Neskowin.
#14. Explore the Coast’s Live Music Scene From bluegrass, Celtic, jazz, classical, reggae and blues to rock 'n' roll of various genres, the entire coast has a burgeoning live music scene that's actually more interesting than many places inland. The Newport Performing Arts often features the Newport Symphony Orchestra (and sometimes with locally-based celebrity David Ogden Stiers behind the baton). Find all sorts of stuff at The Yachats Commons, rock and blues at the Landmark down the street, big names in Lincoln City at Eden Hall, and more regional favorites at the Kernville Steakhouse. The San Dune in Manzanita and Lil' Bayou in Seaside carry many regional favorites as well, such as The Crackpots or Norman Sylvester.
Perhaps the big hotspot on the entire coast these days is Roadhouse 101 in Lincoln City, (formerly Kodiak Bar & Grill). A recent makeover in structure, approach and management has turned this into a nightclub that’s constantly packed, as throngs sway to blues and rock.
#15. Rain-Soaked Adventures Don't be a scaredy cat and shy from the beaches during spring squalls. It's actually more fun than you may imagine to just wander the outdoors during one of those notorious downpours. You'll have the beach to yourself and see wonders you won't normally see.
#16: Hold Your Meetings on the Coast There is also an enormous industry on the coast geared to this, and places like the Seaside Convention Center or Embarcadero in Newport or the Stephanie Inn are just the beginning. Numerous hotels, like the ones listed in the wedding planning section of this article, also have grand facilities for setting up a large gathering.
#17: Have Your Tide Pool and Eat It Too On April 21 and 22, and May 20, Lincoln City hosts “Tide Pool Edibles, a walk with chef Lee Gray, the Wild Gourmet.” 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. $15 for adults; $10 for kids under 12. Kids must be accompanied by an adult. Call to sign up or for more information. 541-992-3798. www.oregoncoast.org.
#18: Spring Brewers Dinner at Pelican Pub & Brewery in Pacific City - Saturday, April 14th, 6:30-10 p.m. Guests will be taken on a culinary tour of the Italian countryside as they indulge in courses from a variety of Italian regions, each prepared by a different chef. All courses will then be paired with an award-winning Pelican beer, prepared by head brewmaster Darron Welch. The Brewers Dinner is truly a mouthwatering experience that is also educational, as the chefs and brew team describe their creations. $65 for dinner. For reservations, call (503) 965-7007. www.pelicanbrewery.com.
#19: Annual Puffin Kite Festival In Cannon Beach It happens in conjunction with Earth Day on April 21, largely on the beach. It begins with a kite-making workshop at the Surfsand Resort, then includes a hot dog roast on the beach, an ice cream social, a re-naming of the Surfsand Mascot, and features big name kite fliers throughout the day. 800.377.4107.
#20: Indoor Attractions When the weather gets crappy, it's a perfect time to check out the myriad of manmade wonders that feature nature. Indulge in the Seaside Aquarium, Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center - the latter two are in Newport. Also in Newport, you'll find the Undersea Gardens, Wax Museum and the Ripley's Believe It Or Not. In Tillamook, get cheesy at the Tillamook Cheese Factory or check out the large variety of vintage aircraft at the Tillamook Air Museum. Fort Clatsop, near Astoria, is the closest you'll come to seeing Lewis & Clark firsthand. Nearby, the Gateway to Discovery Center in Seaside takes you on a mind-bending ride through the natural amenities of the north coast and some seriously wowing geologic facts. Down near Florence, you'll find the Sea Lion Caves and its various wonders. In many cities, like Astoria, Seaside, Tillamook, Newport and Florence, there are often more than one historical museum where you can get lost in time.
#21: Get Hitched on the Coast Weddings take on a whole new dimension of when done on our shoreline. Try a spring wedding inside the Oregon Coast Aquarium, especially in its 360-degree view tube known as "Passages of the Deep," as sharks and stingrays swim around you. Get married in the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Many large hotels provide perfect facilities for ceremonies, receptions or whatever, like Embarcadero in Newport or The Surfsand Resort and The Ocean Lodge in Cannon Beach. Lincoln City provides some extensive information in a booklet and on their website, www.oregoncoast.org.
#21: Seaside Wine Walk May 12 The spring version of the now twice-yearly event features wine tastings and special events all over Seaside, but especially in the beautiful, atmospheric Gilbert District. (503) 717-1914. www.seasidedowntown.com.
#23: Seaside Aquarium 70th Anniversary, May 20th. Offering a historic admission rate of a quarter for adults and a dime for children. Open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. More details to come. In Seaside, on the Prom. 503-738-6211. www.seasideaquarium.com
#24: Memorial Weekend Wine Tour Every Memorial Day Weekend, almost all the Willamette Valley-area wineries go nuts with one gigantic weekend of wine tours, tasting, entertainment, food and other surprises. It features over 100 wineries, stretching from the Portland area into Yamhill County area, and down to wineries around Corvallis and Eugene. www.willamettewines.com. (503) 646-2985.
For weekly updated info on lodgings and accomodation reviews, see the Travel News section
For weekly Oregon travel picks and lodging secrets, see the Travel News section