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The Dreamy Oregon Coast: Wandering (and Photographing) at Night

Published 04/23/23 at 6:22 AM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The Dreamy Oregon Coast: Wandering (and Photographing) at Night

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(Oregon Coast) – Sometimes, a lack of light is an amazing thing. It yields incredible sights – as soon as you get used to it, that is. (Bandon at night. Courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more)

Wandering the Oregon coast at night is something Oregon Coast Beach Connection has been suggesting for years. Really, when you think about, you're wasting some good beach time while visiting by sticking to only daylight hours. Venturing onto nocturnal sands has its challenges, to be sure, including safety. Think about that before you're going onto any beach and see the Oregon Coast After Dark Safety article.

For those steadfast photographers, a nocturnal shoot out there is a required venture. Especially these days when some new gear makes bold, insanely innovative scenes, and you can now photograph things only high-profile astronomers or satellites could in the past, as in some kinds of nebulae.


Pacific City, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

However, for the average beachgoer, you'll find some memorable new experiences. There's always plenty of reasons to head down after dark – like making a beach bonfire.

Some ideas:


Seaside

First, low access beaches will be preferable.

Many spots in the Gleneden Beach and Lincoln Beach areas are easy to get into at night. Between Depoe Bay and Lincoln City is where you'll find these sandy stretches. In Gleneden Beach, the state park access is prohibited after dusk, and it's a bit tricky at night anyway. So wander the neighborhood streets in back of Gleneden Beach Rd. and you'll find several accesses where you walk directly from concrete steps or small trails to fluffy, sandy entrances.

In Lincoln Beach, the vast majority of accesses are via the neighborhood streets. Once on the beach, the homes above provide some faint light, enough to prevent you from walking into the water blindly. The steep bluffs of coarse sands at the tideline make for some interesting wave action. The waves come in crashing loudly, then dissipate in power fast because of the incline here.

These are the distinctly magical spots, as long as you carry some small flashlight with you for safety reasons. Usually you're alone out here in the black, save for the sound of the waves. And you'll want that flashlight to get a better glimpse of some of the marvels surrounding you, and how different they look at night.


Lincoln City: clouds do different things with night shots

In Lincoln City, head to the NW 15th St. ramp, which has a well-lit stairway and ramp going down to the beach. It's a perfect place for getting hypnotized by the waves and the way the faint light dances on incoming breakers.

Some spots in Lincoln City are trickier than others, with numerous spots sending you down long, stone walkways. These can be treacherous if not lit well or if they're rather long. Most in the central Oregon coast town are flat entranceways - and thus great for getting onto a nocturnal stretch of sand.

Manzanita's beach accesses are all very easy to crawl down, although there are some parking restrictions after 11 p.m. the closer you get to Neahkahnie Mountain. This place is especially enchanting, with part of Neahkahnie above lit up at night, looking a bit like a giant ghost hovering over the beach.

In Seaside, there's virtually no barrier to the sandy beaches from the Promenade or the sidewalk area next to the beach on the southern side of town. Most beaches here have playground equipment that's rather fun for goofing around on after midnight - for those adults who are kids at heart. The stony area of the cove - at the southernmost end - isn't advisable to walk around on at night, but the parking lot is awesome for watching waves.

If you really want to find yourself alone after dark, explore the sandy stretches of Neskowin, the areas south of Pacific City's Turnaround or the southern end of Cannon Beach.

Many of Florence's beaches are low access as well, and Ziolkousky Beach near Reedsport is easily wandered into as well. Near Coos Bay, areas like North Beach or Horsfall are dependent on driving down rather remote little roads, and easy beach entrances at parking lots may technically not be open. Watch for that signage.

Farther down into the south Oregon coast, most of Bandon's beaches are via long walkways, which is fine if you've got flashlights to light your way. The walk down here is well worth it, however, as few spots on the coast have these looming, stark shapes as the Face Rock area and its sea stacks.

Down at Port Orford's Battle Rock Wayside Park, you'll have fairly easy access after dark. Near Gold Beach, Nesika Beach is not a bad spot to meander in these hours.

You'll notice the majority of night photography on the south coast is from higher-up vantage points. Low-lying paths to the beach aren't as plentiful.


Newport with a ship's lights as it comes in

Other wondrous, nocturnal non-sandy moments can be had by hanging out on the long crabbing pier on the southern side of Newport's Yaquina Bay. With the sound of the waves in the distance and the lights reflected on the water, it's unforgettable. Bandon's boardwalk and the boardwalks at Coos Bay are also providers of glorious, almost esoterically-lit and romantic moments.

At Depoe Bay, wander the lookouts along the seawall or above the channel. It's well-lit enough so you can see the waves pounding the rocks below.

Once you get onto the beach at night, you'll find yourself mesmerized by the tides in this situation. This is the only time you can see mind-blowing sights like “glowing sand.” For photographers, glowing waves may be awaiting as well. Bioluminescent Phytoplankton: What Makes Glowing Sand On Oregon Coast, Washington

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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