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The 'Secret Spring' on Oregon / Washington Coast: Orcas, Crowds, Prices, Most Photogenic

Published 04/18/23 at 6:22 PM
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

The 'Secret Spring' on Oregon / Washington Coast: Orcas, Crowds, Prices, Most Photogenic

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(Oregon Coast) – Right now in spring – from early April just before Memorial Day – is among the best times of the year to be out on the Oregon coast. Some locals have nicknamed it the Secret Season, not too unlike how “Second Summer” was the label initially stamped on the banner weather days of September through October (until the internet helped everyone figure that out). (Above: Oceanside in a striking late spring, Oregon Coast Beach Connection)

April and May present a different face of the Oregon coast – and the Washington coastline as well. This is when a host of interesting aspects of the beaches and shores of the region appear. More killer whales, less crowds, erratic weather systems full of surprises, wilder sea foam, lowest tides of the year, enticing lodging prices and even better sunset shots.

Horsfall Beach near Coos Bay, courtesy Oregon's Adventure Coast

A General Lack of Crowds. Weekends can still get quite busy, but often not as much. However, when May comes and the general weather improves the throngs and traffic can thicken. Still, many beach burghs become ghost towns through this period – and thus you'll find some tempting specials and lower prices for lodgings. Prices start rising again after winter lows, but there's still this intermediate time where some remain at winter rates or just slightly higher.

Long Beach, Wash. with not a soul around, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Head down to the south Oregon coast and you'll find practically non-stop deserted beaches. Locales in between towns like Coos Bay, Port Orford or Gold Beach are truly bereft of others.

Courtesy Brookings Fishing Charters

Whales and Killer Whales. Late March might've been the high-profile whale watch week, but gray whales keep migrating through for awhile. Among the most exciting cetacean prospects about now is the influx of killer whales, which are currently thought to pop over because they crave baby harbor seals that are abundant. There are a variety of whale groups on Facebook – including a killer whale sighting group – that can help you find them if they're about.

Arch Cape

Gnarly Minus Tides. Much of the year's lower tides can happen in April and March, but May and early June can see the absolute lowest. It can be jaw-dropping. In fact, the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Fest usually happens in late June to coincide with these extreme minus tides. Your favorite spots may be drastically altered for a time, like the Face Rock area of Bandon, Arch Cape, and especially Oceanside. Coos Bay's Sunset Bay may reveal ancient ghost forest stumps not normally visible, as can Netarts near Oceanside. However, these tides come back in, so keep a close eye on tide tables and don't get yourself stuck someplace remote.

Squalls in the distance on a spring day, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Crazed Weather Changes. Especially in April, weather is kind of out of its mind. Things shift like crazy, and that old axiom for the Oregon coast or Washington coast about “If you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes” is more true than ever. Squalls come in, leave, there's a bout of sun but you see more squalls on the horizon. [Why Spring Weather on the Coast is So Erratic]

Admittedly, it's hard to dress for the weather on these days. But it helps cause incredible sights like below.

Pastels at Rockaway Beach, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Now Is Most Photogenic Time of Year for Washington Coast / Oregon Coast. A lot of photogs don't agree, but many do – at least if they know about it. Spring creates unique cumulus cloud situations you can't find any other time of year, and these bring intense pastels along with thick cloud and breaks between them. When the sun pokes out, it's bouncing off numerous chunks of moist clouds and drenched layers of air, thus creating some unbelievable shades. See the full story Most Photogenic Time on Oregon Coast - Here's Why .

Gleneden Beach, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

Crazed Sea Foam Action. Spring storms can periodically kick up some eye-popping sights, like massive blooms of phytoplankton that create huge ocean suds. This time of year is when blooms can really kick in, often spurred further on by storms that churn the stuff up.

After all, it is the skeletons of phytoplankton that cause sea foam around Oregon or Washington's coast.

Your chances increase of spotting sea foam pull off all kinds of acrobatic stunts: like watching it fly in big clumps. On occasion it goes sailing across the highways, builds up on the beaches in gargantuan blobs, or in the case of the Devil's Churn near Yachats you may see it flying upwards, looking like snow going the wrong direction.

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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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