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Covering 160 miles of Oregon coast travel: Seaside, Cannon Beach, Manzanita, Nehalem, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Tillamook, Oceanside, Pacific City, Lincoln City, Depoe Bay, Newport, Wadport, Yachats & Florence.

Spring Break is here. Are you ready?

Oregon Travel Secrets: Weird Science, Spring Rarities on the Coast

By Andre’ Hagestedt

Wildly shaped driftwood appears on the shore this season

(Oregon Coast) - There’s a lot more to spring than spring break on the Oregon coast – especially this year, as numerous natural oddities and rare and not-so-rare natural events are making their appearances up and down the coast. To top it off, the latter half of spring cloisters what some have called the “secret season,” a unique time that holds a load of fairly unknown treasures in the natural world, as well as lower lodging prices and deserted beaches.

Oregon's coast is a different creature in the springtime, with numerous pleasures and aspects not always obvious. It's a mishmash of weather conditions, amenities you can't find at any other time, places to see with their own identity in this season, and wild, natural wonders you run a good chance of encountering.

'Ocean burp' in Seaside (courtesy Seaside Aquarium)

This year, the Pacific Ocean is really coughing up something somewhat unusual in the form of what is often referred to as “ocean burps, "according to Seaside Aquarium manger Keith Chandler. Periodically, the ocean churns up sundry items from its depths and dumps them onshore. Everything from live hermit crabs, cockle shells, squid eggs, shells from other freaky creatures and a variety of other things make it onto the beaches of Oregon in these episodes – and that’s exactly what’s been happening recently.

Chandler and his assistant Tiffany Boothe say the area has been the recipient of several “whale burps” lately, resulting in finds of bundles of straw-like material as well as other treasures on Seaside’s southern side, known as “the cove.” Chandler recently found 30 live cockle shells, numerous moon snail shells, and a few squid eggs, which are now on display at the aquarium and will hopefully hatch soon. For more on this "ocean burps," see 'Ocean Burps' Leave Oddities on Seaside Beaches)

Velella velella

Typically, this time of year means the occurrence of what are called “purple sails,” or velella velella, as they’re technically called. They look like small, purplish round jellyfish, with a small fin at the top. They often show up in spring or early summer, in great abundance, and usually start creating a pungent fishy smell while stranding on the beaches in such numbers. Boothe already spotted one on a north coast beach recently.

Manzanita from above

Seaside’s northernmost beaches are excellent for finding whole sand dollars. The area is usually quite deserted, so when storms or high tides drop large amounts of them, they go undisturbed. It is possible to see literally hundreds on that stretch of beach between the 12th St. beach access and the Necanicum River.

On the north coast, razor clamming is especially hot – from Tillamook Bay northward. Areas like Rockaway, Manzanita, Cannon Beach and Seaside are excellent for obtaining the delicious little critters. All you need is the right tools and a license, purchased from any sporting goods stores.

After years of being banned, clamming has been legalized on the central Oregon coast, from Newport’s north jetty northward. “Thick sandy shorelines have something to do with great razor clamming,” said Newport geology expert Guy DiTorrice. “They like to move around, so they need real sandy locations. Our cobble-strewn beaches at most locations here do not bode well for razor clamming as much as they do for cockles and steamers.”

Some of the year’s lowest tides can happen in March, April and May, with May having a tendency to be the lowest. This allows greater exploration of tide pools and other sights not always visible.

Stumps at Rockaway

On the central coast, this year’s enormous storms have scoured the beaches and created some strange sights. Lower sand levels mean the ancient, “ghost forest” stumps are visible again on beaches just north of Newport. “You can see them at Beverly Beach, at Moolack and south at Beaver Creek,” DiTorrice said. Perhaps 5000 years old or more, these are the remnants of a devastating earthquake on the Oregon coast that dropped an entire section of forest into the surf, where they did not decay normally because of the salt water. They look like small stumps in the sand, with octopus-like root systems trailing out from them.

There is a major “ghost forest” that’s visible fairly often at Neskowin, and a small patch of prehistoric stumps has been seen in Rockaway this year as well.

Agate Beach

Also in Newport, agates are again found at Agate Beach in Newport, thanks to the sand-scouring action of the season’s storms. They’ve been buried beneath the sand layers all along, and haven’t been seen there in about ten years.

These storms have made for exciting finds of driftwood as well as the “ocean burps.” Typically, years with a lot of storms not only lower the sand levels but dump odd objects onto the beaches as well. You’ll discover plenty of specimens with wild and beautiful shapes.

Awe-inspiring oddities can happen a little more often at this time of year as well, thanks to phytoplankton known as diatoms – the little creatures that create sea foam. Bill Hanshumaker, public information officer for the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, said these tend to bloom in greater numbers in the spring, and seasonal storms can result in incredible sights such as foam so frothy it moves like flurries of snow across the beaches and highways in April.

Flurries of foam, Cape Perpetua

Chandler said another kind of phytoplankton can also bloom in greater numbers this time of year: dinoflagellates. These little guys also glow in the dark when stepped on or disturbed in the water. Under certain conditions, this can create what's called "glowing sands" on the beach, where you'll encounter tiny, greenish sparks at your feet if you're walking near the tide line at night. However, Chandler cautioned late summer and fall is usually a better time to catch this unusual sight. (For more on central Oregon coast oddities, see Oregon Tourism Alert: Spring Rarities in Newport)

View from Old Wheeler Hotel

In Wheeler, just inland on the Nehalem Bay, Old Wheeler Hotel’s Winston Laszlo and his wife Marrane Doyle-Laszlo are preparing for spring and the small birds it brings.

“Yes, spring is in the air,” Laszlo said. “The sunsets are moving more and more into perfect position for viewing straight out the windows of the Old Wheeler Hotel. And even though it isn't exactly Capistrano, we are awaiting the return of the swallows and starlings to the hotel. Really, each year we enjoy watching these little critters industriously set up housekeeping in some of the best bird real estate in the country – under the awning of the Old Wheeler Hotel. We have actually, consciously, removed barriers to nest-building here so as to enjoy watching the resourcefulness of these creatures as they construct their own habitats and raise their young ones. It's a fascinating process! We also love to listen to their singing, although there is the occasional domestic quarrel.”

Spouting Horn at Depoe Bay

Then there is what is nicknamed the “secret season,” or the “secret spring,” on Oregon’s coast. It’s not unlike the increasingly popular “Second Summer” – where September and early October find the beaches at their warmest. Except that this “secret season” happens between the spring breaks of April and the end of May. Boasting lesser crowds, an interesting mix of warmer days and magnificent storms, lower lodging rates and other surprises, it means great deals and wonders of nature to be found in great abundance.

Many locals admit it is perhaps the most spectacular time of the year on the coast, yet it’s a time when fewer people venture out. When you combine the natural wonders with the empty beaches and better lodging deals, they often shake their heads in bewilderment why the area is left alone.

Moody spring day in Oceanside

March and April bring a crazed kind of weather, often switching back and forth abruptly between sunny and squalls within the same day, sometimes within a half hour. You get an interesting mix of increasingly nice days, with occasional winter-like storms still possible – periodically within the same day. Those storms create some wild possibilities, especially when paired with the larger blooms of phytoplankton. You then get a better chance of seeing sea foam pulling all sorts of strange stunts, like moving across the highways or even flying upwards, creating the mind-boggling sight of what looks like snow going the wrong direction.

Deserted, driftwood-covered beaches, Lincoln City

Meanwhile, May generally sees increasingly warmer winds and a greater occurrence of summer-like weather on the coast. The storms begin to lessen considerably, but the pleasant days don’t.

By May, there are lesser crowds on the beaches, which means no lines at restaurants, better traffic conditions and great lodging deals left and right.

Most lodging and vacation rentals don’t go to full summer prices until Memorial Day Weekend, and many still have specials running through into June.

Some examples:

At the incredible resort of Bella Beach near Depoe Bay, homes sleeping anywhere from two to around 10, winter prices range from $110 to $345 a night – somewhere between 50 percent and 25 percent cheaper than the high season rates of summer. But they are offering these rates through into May. On top of these rates, guests can rent three nights for the price of two at any of these homes until May 19. A Bella Beach spokesperson said: “A great example would be ‘Whale Tale,’ which is an oceanfront, two-story, three-bedroom, two-bath home with a small hot tub that you can get three nights for $500. Or get three nights at a two-bedroom, two-bath house with a hot tub for $366.” That special is not valid during the spring break weeks of March 24th through April 16th, but off-season prices remain during that time. The three-for-two special resumes after April 17 and runs until May 19. Some homes are pet friendly. Hwy 101 – between Lincoln City and Depoe Bay. www.bellabeach.com. 866-994-7026.

At the pet friendly San Dune Inn in Manzanita, prices slowly edge up five dollar per month until reaching their peak in August. Two can stay for $100 per night in May, or a family of four can sleep comfortably on $110 per night. They’re super family friendly and dog friendly, with all sorts of amazing freebies, like bikes, games, videos, etc., available. Special: dogs stay free during March and April. 428 Dorcas Lane. www.sanduneinn.com. 503-368-5163.

In Wheeler, on the Nehalem Bay, Old Wheeler Hotel oozes beauty and romance. Winter rates are still around until the end of April. Hwy 101 and Rorvick. www.oldwheeler.com. 877-653-4683.

In Newport, the Grand Victorian B&B is a striking beauty recently built to look and feel like a time trippin' jaunt to the distance past. Indeed, a graceful elegance fills this place. They're running a special throughout April and May: rent one of the B&B rooms or their vintage vacation cottage for three consecutive nights and the fourth night is free. 105 NW Coast Street,
Newport. www.grandvictorianor.com. 503-508-4820

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In Awe of AstoriaASTORIA
Where the Columbia meets the Pacific, Land of Lewis & Clark and loads of atmosphere & history
Serenity in SeasideSEASIDE
The Promenade, Tillamook Head, family fun & broad, sandy beaches
Cavort in Cannon BeachCANNON BEACH
A mysterious lighthouse, upscale yet earthy, a huge monolith, fine eateries & an art mecca
Annihilating  Beauty of Nehalem BayNEHALEM BAY
Manzanita's beaches, Nehalem and Wheeler's quirky beauty; laid back Rockaway
Time Trip Around Tillamook BayTILLAMOOK BAY
Garibaldi, Barview, Bay City, Tillamook & an oceanfront ghost town
Triple the Pleasure in 3 CapesTHREE CAPES LOOP
The hidden secret of the coast: Cape Meares, a lighthouse, Oceanside, Netarts and Pacific City
Miles & miles of unbroken beaches, Cascade Head, Neskowin and many manmade attractions
Divine Depoe BayDEPOE BAY
A spouting horn downtown, freaky hidden cliffs and whales, whales, whales
Nature in NewportNEWPORT
Time-tripping Nye Beach, a bustling bayfront, marine science-central and two lighthouses
Staggering Seal RockWALDPORT / SEAL ROCK
Pristine, even secretive sands and wild geologic landmarks
Aargh, there's no alliteration with Yachats - but it IS unbelievableYACHATS
Constantly dramatic wave action, a mix of the rugged & upscale
Unsurpassable Upper LaneUPPER LANE COUNTY
25 miles of deserted beaches & oodles of wonders
Fine Times in FlorenceFLORENCE
A lighthouse, ancient bayfront and miles and miles of fluffy dunes




STARFISH POINT is located on the Central Oregon Coast - in Newport - and offers only the finest in luxury condominium lodging. At Starfish Point, every unit is focused on the beauty of the sea and the beach.
All of the units boast two bedrooms, two bathrooms, designer kitchens, wireless broadband Internet, fireplaces, Jacuzzi’s and private decks - surrounding you in soothing relaxation. We have a friendly staff dedicated to high quality and superb customer service. 140 NW 48th Street, Newport. (541) 265-3751. (800) 870-7795.







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