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Ten Incredible Reasons to Not Miss Out on an Oregon Coast Winter

Published 12/28/2018 at 8:43 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Ten Incredible Reasons to Not Miss Out on an Oregon Coast Winter

(Oregon Coast) – As always, there’s so much more beneath the surface of the Oregon coast than you will ever realize. Both metaphorically and literally.

Winter on the beaches is a prime example, boasting a heady of roster of things to experience, both manmade and in the natural world.

Take a gander at ten of the best reasons to hit these beaches in winter.

Storm Watching: This is the obvious one. And early winter has been no shirker to the wild wave action. Massive waves roll in with tremendous, unforgiving force, and they essentially detonate in front of you rather than splash. Winds howl in banshee-like screeches, and the rain gets diagonal and especially rough.

It’s all spectacular and thoroughly mesmerizing. Many times, the waves are simply gargantuan even in otherwise calm, dry conditions, allowing you take it all in with complete comfort.

The best storm watching spots are areas with lots of rocky ledges and structures, and where you can watch from afar – like a parking lot. These include Seal Rock, Ecola State Park, Depoe Bay, much of Yachats, many beaches between there and Florence, Oceanside and numerous others. But the most awesome of storms cause even broad, sandy beaches like those in Seaside or Lincoln City to become a crazy show.

Even More Whales. Whale Watch Week may have already passed by the time you read this, but the giant watery beasts will still be wandering past in decent numbers until late January, when the migration generally ceases like clockwork. Then, around the end of February, they start making their way back again, and early March is again a stellar time to look for whales.

Latest Coastal Lodging News Alerts
In Seaside:
Includes exclusive listings; some specials in winter
In Cannon Beach:
Includes rentals not listed anywhere else
In Manzanita, Wheeler, Rockaway Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Pacific City, Oceanside:
Some specials for winter
In Lincoln City:
Some specials for winter
In Depoe Bay, Gleneden Beach:
Some specials for winter
In Newport:
Look for some specials
In Waldport
Some specials for winter
In Yachats, Florence
Some specials for winter

Secret Spring of February. Granted, this does not happen like clockwork. It’s simply something to keep a close eye on when February comes around. Many years – but not every year – February sees about 9 to 14 days of exceptionally warm weather that’s clear, windless and often in the low 60s. Most of it is spread throughout the month, not usually in one big run. It’s been nicknamed the “hidden spring” on the coast, and it’s often warmer at this point than during spring break.

Crabbing and Thick Crab Meat. This time of year is when crab meat is typically at its best, as they are plump and full of meat after filling their new shells with body mass since the molting season that happened earlier in the year. These juicy conditions last until around spring.

Catching the coveted crustaceans is open year round in the numerous Oregon coast bays and estuaries, but only during commercial crabbing season can members of the public snag them from the deep.

Currently, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife says crabs are indeed doing well in bays, even though commercial season is still yet delayed.

“Most bays report variable catch success,” ODFW said in its latest report. “Crab are filling out their shells, providing good quality meat.”

Low Sand Surprises. Up for stumbling over a bit of Oregon coast history, like a pair of cannon from the 19th century? An old shipwreck? Bedrock beneath the beach that’s millions and millions of years old?

Crazed wave action scours out sand levels around the beaches, although this differs greatly from beach to beach. The result is stunning finds, like the 100-year-old shipwreck that has appeared briefly in Rockaway Beach in recent winters, or ghost forest stumps some 4,000 years old that can make an appearance around Seal Rock or Newport. And then there’s those freaky “red towers” that sometimes show up south of Cannon Beach.

Keep hitting the beaches and keep looking. If nothing else, you’ll often notice rock structures showing you hadn’t seen before.

Photo Seaside Aquarium: stuff found in an "ocean burp"

Bizarre Beachcombing Finds. While low sand levels can reveal some crazy stuff, winter’s wave actions toss some even stranger objects onto the beach. You may find glass floats from Japan, or oddities with even odder names like ocean burps or whale burps.

Glass floats were for decades a steady and yet treasured find along the coast, but they largely disappeared in the `80s. A little known fact, however, is that January through March conditions are good for these to show up again.

Then there’s “ocean burps.” The technical term is detritus, and it means the ocean is casting some interesting objects from the depths onto the shores – things you don’t normally find on the beaches.

Keith Chandler, with the Seaside Aquarium, said these ocean burps happen under some very exact conditions, when the right mix of storms happen along with the right kind of ocean currents.

“It’s an upwelling of stuff from the ocean floor,” Chandler said.

Beachcombers will spot a brownish mass of wood and grassy matter from afar, but up close is a small treasure chest of natural oddities like cockleshells, hermit crabs, squid eggs, casings from other eggs, moon snail shells and somewhat rare rock finds.

“If you see a patch of dark brown on the beach, go look through it because you’ll find some cool stuff,” Chandler said.

Hotel Beach Bargains. It’s a bargain hunters’ dream out on the beaches, with extremely low prices at most lodgings and vacation rentals. The less expensive the lodging, the less it drops in price. But happily, the more spendy spots drop considerably more during the winters to reveal treasure-like deals. So, you can wind up with a pretty upscale hotel room for a steal sometimes. Many hotels and rentals are eager enough to fill a spot as to make further deals when you walk in. See more Oregon coast deals here.

Agate Hunting Can Be Prime. All this winter wave action scours out sand to reveal gravel beds, which are often chock full of agates and other remarkable treasures. Gravel beds that are revealed by low sand can suddenly shift, sometimes within the space of six hours.

According to agate writer K.T. Meyers, you absolutely have to hit the beach and look for yourself. “But then look 100 yards to the north and 100 yards to the south of you,” Meyers said.

Valentine’s, Oregon Coast-Style. Few things spell romance more than taking your relevant other to the beach. Romance specials abound at hotels and restaurants, and fancy dinners are the best precursor to some hand-holding walk on the beach – especially if the weather cooperates as it often does in mid-February.

See the Oregon Coast Romance – Valentine’s Day section for further information and suggestions.

Antique Week, Lincoln City. It’s more like almost ten days than a week, but who’s doing the math? It happens February 9 - 18 throughout Lincoln City this time around. It’s grown into one of the largest festivals of its kind in the U.S. City-wide antique sales, glass drops on the beaches, classic cars, museum exhibits – and this year a gigantic model railroad. Over 100 dealers will be found at over 15 antique store locations. From art, books and furniture, to pop culture, there are a variety of items to add to your collection. Lincoln City, Oregon. 800-452-2151. See the full website and info.

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