written by Jen Sotolongo
The Oregon Coast may not be the kind of place where you soak up the sun while sipping an umbrella drink and that’s quite all right with Oregon residents. Instead, the Oregon Coast offers an array of adventurous activities that encourage visitors to truly explore the landscape. From surfing and paddling to clamming and tidepool hunting, the Oregon Coast won’t leave you yearning for a beach chair and colorful drink.
Oregon, and the Pacific Northwest in general, may not come to mind when it comes to surfing, but the Oregon Coast is actually a terrific spot for both beginners and advanced surfers.
Otter Rock, located right in between Portland and Eugene, offers a protected break with consistent 2-to 4-foot waves. The large stretch of sand allows surfers to spread out as they earn their sea legs. Stay at nearby Beverly Beach State Park for easy access to the shore and maximum attempts at riding that wave. Rent boards and take lessons from Pura Vida Surf Shop in Otter Rock or Ossies Surf Shop in Agate Beach.
A full wetsuit year round is essential, given the frigid temps of the Pacific, which range between 48 and 52 degrees.
The Oregon Coast is stocked with seafood delights such as crab, mussels, fish, and, of course, clams. Captain Cameron, based out of Lincoln City, takes guests to the mudflats of Siletz Bay. In addition to digging for clams, guides provide an in-depth education on regulations, harvesting and identification techniques, as well as tips for cleaning and cooking.
If you prefer to go out on your own, head to Kelly’s Brighton Marina in Rockaway Beach, a small town 15 miles north of Tillamook. They can ferry you across the Nehalem Bay to spend a few hours on the beach in search of Purple Varnish clams. Hand over your haul to Kelly’s, where they will soak them for twenty-four hours and cook them once they are clean. Those interested in crabbing can crab directly off the dock or rent a boat from Kelly’s. They will cook the catch for you when you are done. Camping and fresh seafood are also available at the marina.
All clammers over the age of 12 must possess an Oregon shellfish license, available in various stores or online at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. You’ll also need a bucket, shovel and gloves.
Make your low tide beach walks more interesting and fun by searching for tidepools. Tidepools are nature’s aquariums and can be found in residual seawater left behind in rocks and sand during low tide. They are filled with sea life including star fish, anemones, and crabs. Hopping from tidepool to tidepool is like finding hidden treasure.
Tidepools are found all along the Oregon Coast, but some of the best spots include Yachats State Park, the north side of Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence, Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park near Manzanita and Cape Arago State Park in Coos Bay.
Be sure to consult a tide table before you head out and hit the beach one to two hours before low tide. Leave what you find and be mindful of where you step.
The Oregon Coast is particularly special thanks to the Coastal Range, which means visitors can enjoy forested hikes with ocean views all along the coast. Options range from short and easy trails to double digit miles with significant vertical gain. All this means is that there is something for all abilities.
The Fort to Sea Trail is a 6.1-mile mostly flat hike that begins at Fort Clatsop and ends on the beach at Sunset Beach State Recreation Area. This can be done as an out and back or with a shuttle. During the spring and fall, Cape Lookout, located between Netarts and Pacific City, is one of the best spots to see migrating gray whales, among other wildlife. The five-mile trail is fairly flat, making it a good option for families. In the Southern Oregon Coast, hike to the top of Humbug Mountain. At 1,765 feet, Humbug is one of the tallest peaks on the coast, offering expansive ocean views from the top.
One of the best ways to explore the Oregon Coast is by kayak or paddle board. The Southern Oregon Coast features near-shore reefs, arches, and abundant wildlife viewing. South Coast Tours, located in Port Orford, offers several kayaking tours.
Kayak Brookings – Ocean Tour combines the best of the Southern Oregon Coast into one incredible paddling adventure. The beginner-friendly trip begins in the calm waters of the Chetco River estuary before entering the Pacific Ocean at Chetco Point, which protects the waters from wind and rough waters. Gray whales and Harbor Seals are common sights on this two-hour tour.
More advanced paddlers can opt for the Kayak the Arches Territory trip, which explores the sea caves, rock arches, and islands found in the remote Crook Point National Wildlife Refuge located in the Samuel Boardman State Scenic Corridor.