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Safe and Sane But Surreal Fun on Nocturnal Beaches of Oregon / Washington Coast

Published 04/09/23 at 11:42 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Safe and Sane But Surreal Fun on Nocturnal Beaches of Oregon / Washington Coast

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(Oregon Coast) – At night, the Oregon coast and Washington coast take on a whole new atmosphere. If you stand there long enough, just gazing out over the beach access and into the dark, after a couple of minutes your eyes really adjust – or at least they begin to. At some point, you realize you're seeing things in a whole new light, in spite of the actual lack of light. (Above: Manzanita at night, Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

The majority of beaches along here (and on the Washington coast too) will become amazing. They reveal interesting aspects not seen during the day, even if it is harder to see the wonders around you. Wandering these is a sublime pleasure, and some beaches have various truly distinctive qualities after dark. It's like an alternate reality.

Shadows become more visible and show off little details. The surf becomes mesmerizing in a whole new manner, as white caps appear in greater contrast and those waves actually start to seem ominous and imposing in the dark.

Lincoln Beach just south of Lincoln City - Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Tread around any Oregon coast or Washington coast beach with a full moon out and it's downright magical.

However, there needs to be some words of safety said here.

First, don't even think about heading out in higher tides or certainly any storms. Don't touch a beach at night with those conditions. You can, however, have a rollicking time watching stormy waves in the dark from a safe distance, especially in your car.

One spot that is magnificent for this is Rodea Point near Depoe Bay. Even in slightly unruly conditions this place goes nuts, and the walls of water that erupt into the air are impressive, even slightly hair-raising. Then they make and enormous “WHAAP” sound as the water hits the jagged rocks. Rodea Point is like a spouting horn sometimes – but better. Read the description of Rodea Point after dark

Rodea Point at night, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Other places to park your car at night, and which are also safe for walking around, are those with parking lots at higher vantage points. The pullouts by Meyers Creek or Humbug Mountain on the south Oregon coast are excellent for this as well, along with the parking lot of Coos Bay's Sunset Bay, the viewpoints / sea wall at Depoe Bay, Oceanside, Cape Kiwanda, or the highway pullouts around Tierra Del Mar.

When it comes to sandy beaches, always stick to lower tide situations. When it comes to rocky ledges: just don't.

Some beaches are better than others for walking on in the dark. Even if you're armed with a big flashlight or two, really craggy, rocky places could be a recipe for disaster for either injuring yourself or getting walloped by the tide.

Photo of Bandon after dark. Photo Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts for more

So, keep to wide beaches with lots of room between you and the surf so you can keep an eye on it. Most places between Yachats and Florence - where there's a large amount of rocky structures - are pretty much a no-no, unless there's a good deal of sand between the tide and the vegetation line. Yachats' rocky slab-filled shores are definitely not a good idea after dark; they're best viewed from above. Stay on pavement there.

Boiler Bay - by Depoe Bay - should never be attempted at night, no matter how much lighting you have with you.

All this doesn't mean, however, that you have to stick to well-lit beaches. In fact, some of the best for nocturnal exploring are pitch black at night. But you will want to find beaches that are accessed easily, without steep, tricky trails meandering down that could cause you to fall.

Cape Kiwanda at night, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Most beaches in Lincoln City, Florence, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Gearhart, Pacific City, Oceanside, Seaside, Port Orford, Gold Beach, and Newport are easily accessible at night. Chunks of Newport, Lincoln City and Seaside are even quite well lit. Some are dimly lighted - or not at all - but still large enough to cause no worry about the tide. Up on the Washington coast, Long Beach and most everything between there and Ocean Park are low, easy accesses and wide beaches.

Many of the wider beaches at Bandon require a long stairway or somewhat lengthy path to get to, so you'll need a flashlight for that part.

However, to get the full effect, find a safe spot and stop using the flashlight.

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A full list of great beaches is just too numerous, but this is a good set of rules of thumb.

Another awesome benefit of wandering nocturnal Oregon coast or Washington coast beaches is you may get to see glowing sand. See what causes glowing sand on how to look for it: 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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