Fall on the Oregon Coast is a special time, as the cooler days and crisp evenings bring more active wildlife and peace and tranquility to popular beaches and trails. You can dine at your favorite restaurant without a long wait; and find parking and book a campsite that may otherwise be challenging in summer. You may even get some glorious sunshine during the fall and winter — it happens, a lot. If the weather sets in and you prefer to stay inside, however, there’s also plenty of indoor fun to be had. Here’s a roundup of our best bets for the cooler season.
Galleries: From to coastal-inspired modern art to blown glass and sculpture, the clusters of galleries in Cannon Beach come together for the Stormy Weather Arts Festival in early November each year. Now more than three decades old, the tradition also brings live music, theater and food events around town.
History: Anchoring Astoria’s riverfront boardwalk, the Columbia River Maritime Museum is a must-visit for storm watchers and maritime historians of all ages. Kids will appreciate the interactive activities and short 3-D film; grownups will find intrigue in the stories that define the Columbia River and make Oregon what it is today.
Games: Just south in Seaside, the old-school Funland Seaside Arcade on the Promenade brings a dose of nostalgia with bumper cars, pinball, skee ball, fancy new games, go karts and lazer tag as well as lots and lots of candy. Pizza and big-screen TVs make everyone happy.
Science: The Hatfield Marine Science Center is one of the most underrated but also engaging spots for science lovers, as visitors can stick their hands in a tidepool or an augmented reality sandbox; build a Lego structure to withstand a tsunami; and watch a live feeding of their Great Pacific Octopus. The center asks for donations only, as it’s part of Oregon State University’s research program.
Wildlife: One of the Coast’s most popular attractions, the Sea Lion Caves is typically very crowded in the summer but less so in the cooler months, which means you can visit with ease and enjoy the sights and sounds of these playful wild animals without distraction. And here’s a secret: Winter months typically bring hundreds of sea lions in the cave, before they head out to breed on the rock ledges in the spring.
Make your own art: If you’ve marveled at those hand-blown glass floats on the beach — where they’re deposited year-round by “float fairies” for you to find and take home — you can also try your hand at making your own colorful blown-glass creation. Book a spot at Lincoln City Glass Center, knowing that the glass has to cool overnight so you can pick up a day later or they are happy to ship it out to you.
Books: If you’re ready to curl up with a good book, you can certainly find one at Gold Beach Books, the Coast’s largest bookstore, which boasts two floors of 75,000 volumes including rare books and first editions. There’s also local art on the walls, and an onsite coffee bar that bakes fresh sticky buns and scones. Find a reading nook here or find some favorites to enjoy next to the fireplace.
Local art: Coos Art Museum, the third oldest art museum in Oregon and the only one on the Coast, is an unexpected hotbed of art, with seven galleries that feature 24 rotating exhibits. It’s also home to the Prefontaine Memorial Gallery, showcasing a private gallery of photos, plaques, cups, trophies and medals in tribute to the iconic track star and hometown hero.
Happy-hour storm-watching: Sip a hot toddy or linger over a bowl of oyster stew as you overlook the Pacific Ocean at Redfish in Port Orford. Giant windows overlook the water at this elegant yet approachable space, which prides itself on serving the freshest seafood the South Coast has to offer. Rain or shine, it’s a lovely spot to wrap yourself in the essence of the coastal winter — fresh local bounty with the scenery to match.
— Jen Anderson