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Second Summer of Oregon Coast / Washington Coast Right Around Corner

Published 08/30/21 at 6:57 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Second Summer of Oregon Coast / Washington Coast Right Around Corner

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(Astoria, Oregon) – Prepare ye for the end – the end of summer, that is, and then yet another summer on Washington and Oregon coastlines. (Above: Port Orford, courtesy Manuela Durson - see Manuela Durson Fine Arts)

It used to be a rather big secret, but social media and the ways in which TV weather forecasts have paid it more attention have changed that. It's called “Second Summer” along the Oregon coast, and now that's being applied to the lesser-known Washington coast. That term means this is typically the best weather of the year along the beaches, thanks to a variety of meteorological elements that converge, creating the warmest temps of the year and the least amount of wind.

On top of it, there's also less crowds – although that has changed in the last decade until later in the coveted second summer. It's hands down the best time of year to be on the coastlines of Oregon and Washington. You may even see more whales because of it.

However, these great conditions are not a guarantee; it doesn't always happen like clockwork every year. There's a chance it may not happen this year or happen much. Yet in general, second summer runs from September through at least mid-October, if not longer in recent years.

Locals began referring to early fall / late summer as “second summer” a couple of decades ago, especially after those summers where it stayed mostly foggy and drizzly. Temps often linger in the 70s and the winds are far weaker, making it feel even warmer on the sands, if not downright sweltering. When you're at the waterline on the beach with the sun reflecting back and there's no wind, this can up the temperature by another ten degrees. Places further south like Gold Beach or Brookings sometimes cook in the 80s or 90s.

These lovelier conditions often lasted well into October, so even if many others have caught on and flooded places like Bandon, Coos Bay, Seaside or Westport in September, usually by early October the numbers drop off sharply and the roads are clearer. Lodging prices used to start sinking like a stone in September, but the increased numbers of visitors in that month has resulted in that happening more like early October now.

However, on weekdays, even in bustling September, you can have the roads and beaches to yourself a little more.

When it comes to lodging prices, often larger towns hardly see any drop in September because hoteliers know they can get the room nights now that the word is out. Weekdays tend to drop more, because not everyone can play hooky from work on a nice day. Look for better deals then. However, again these really kick in come October.

The science behind second summer is an interesting mix that involves some of what you instinctively might think: the whole “Indian Summer” idea, which definitely happens inland around Portland and Seattle. However, on the coast, the big difference is weather is often nicer than summer.

Primarily behind all this is the fact the ocean has been warming up all summer while the inland region begins cooling. This lessens the temperature differences between the two, which squelches that tendency for fog and decreases winds. The extreme differences in temperature between the coast and inland cause the atmosphere to suck moisture out of the sea towards land, bringing more fog.

Less winds from the north or west mean the warmer eastern winds come in more easily, which warm things even more. Part of that action is that they are heated up by coming down the west of the Oregon Coast Range or Willapa Hills of the Washington coast.

These weaker wind patterns from the north or west also allow warmer winds from California up here – yet another warming factor. You can sometimes feel the warm winds from the south hitting your face, and it's delightful.

Less winds and all these other factors mean calmer seas, which makes it easier to spot whales, but they're also more apt to come closer to shore because conditions aren't crazy. This time of year, currents also bring in more baitfish which often sends Humpback whales and sometimes more Orcas our way, especially on the north Oregon coast between Cannon Beach and inside the Columbia.

Look for more whales, and the occasional masses of drangonflies as they migrate during warmer conditions.

Keep an eye on Oregon Coast Weather and Washington Coast Weather during the week and weekends, and be prepared to head out on short notice.

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Brookings area, courtesy Oregon State Parks

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