Storm watching, crab-eating, a magical hike through a misty old-growth forest followed by a cozy evening by the fireplace — those are just a few of the things on our Oregon Coast bucket list this season. So what’s on your to-do list? Don’t worry, we’ve got your back. From Astoria to Port Orford, here are nine ways to ring in the winter on the Coast. Wherever you are, don’t forget to kick back, close your eyes for a bit and enjoy the sounds of the sea birds, the water and the loved ones around you.
1. Seaside: Lights, shopping and Santa
Nothing says holidays like a parade, and the Seaside Parade of Lights (Nov. 23, 2018) is a tradition that will leave warm, fuzzy feelings for weeks to come. Bundle up and watch floats covered in festive lights, join in the caroling, sip hot drinks and meet Santa and his elves — then cap your weekend with a day of boutique shopping and a trip to the arcade at the Carousel Mall.
2. Cannon Beach: Song, theater and tea
We love Cannon Beach in the summer, but wintertime truly brings out the best in everyone — and the city. Shop, dine and immerse yourself in culture during the annual Haystack Holidays events, which include shows at the Coaster Theatre Playhouse, choral concerts at Cannon Beach Chorus and free holiday tea at the Cannon Beach Library (Dec. 1, 2018).
3. Tillamook: Art, seafood and ice cream
The Coast is famous for its artists, and winter is an excellent time to tour studios and galleries. Explore the thriving scene at the Tillamook Downtown District Art Walk during its evolving Art, Accelerated — Blink, You Miss It event on the fourth Saturday of each month (Dec. 22, 2018), with merchants at their studios for meeting and greeting. While in Tillamook, stop into the brand new Pacific Restaurant for upscale comfort food favorites, such as Dungeness crab ravioli and lamb bolognese. Top it off with a waffle cone at the newly remodeled Tillamook Creamery (hooray for shorter lines!).
4. Lincoln City: Birds, kites and glass floats
Lincoln City is abuzz with whimsy in the fall, You can go on a treasure hunt for a handmade float along the beach through the Finders Keepers program (now running year-round). Bring a kite to fly at D-River Beach, one of the top spots in the world for kite flying. Or attend a bird-watching clinic (Nov. 10, 2018 or Dec. 1, 2018) hosted by the Lincoln City Audubon Society and watch your favorite coastal species take flight.
5. Depoe Bay: Whales, salty air and boat rides
Grab your binoculars, or borrow some — there’s never been a better time to catch the gray whales that migrate past the Oregon Coast each year. Trained volunteers will help you spot them at 26 watch sites along the Coast during December’s whale watching week, and understand the lives of these magnificent mammals too. The Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay is ground zero for this activity, but other spots are equally spectacular. If you want to get out further on the water, consider booking a whale-watching tour through outfitters such as Whale’s Tale Charters and Whale Research Eco Excursions.
6. Yachats:Lighthouse, trails and tide pools
The lush green Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, three miles south of Yachats, is home to 26 miles of connected trails through old-growth forest with trails ranging from easy to difficult; some are wheelchair accessible. Pick one that works for you and make sure to follow all posted safety guidelines. Try the .8-mile round trip to tide pools along the Captain Cook Trail for views of Spouting Horn, or the 2-mile round trip Giant Spruce Trail to see a 500-year-old Sitka spruce tree. Consider planning your trip around the annual Victorian Christmas Open House (Dec. 8-16, 2018) at the Heceta Head Lighthouse Keeper’s House, when the charming space is all decked out for the holidays, with tunes, warm drinks, goodies and Santa.
7. Coos Bay: Nature trails and sparkly lights
Join a guided hike with the hiking club South Coast Striders (Nov. 17, 2018), or choose a trail that winds through the forests, mudflats, salt marshes or channels at the peaceful South Slough Preserve and head out on your own. In the evening, make sure to see the Coast’s largest display of lights at the annual Shore Acres State Park holiday light display in Coos Bay (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve). Sip a warm drink as you walk through this special display of hundreds of thousands of sparkling LED lights, entirely organized by volunteers for 32 years in a row.
8. Bandon: Tree lighting, wine walk and shopping
Be part of the festivities in Old Town Bandon, one of the cutest districts on the Coast any time of year but especially during the holidays. The city’s free community tree lighting happens on its Night of 10,000 Lights (Nov. 23, 2018), which includes refreshments, caroling, photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a Nog Walk/ Cider Stroll/ Wine Walk (pick your pleasure) through local shops as merchants stay open late. Check out the wares at Bandon Mercantile Company, Second Street Gallery and Winter River Books for inspiration all around.
9. Port Orford: Chowder, chowder and more chowder
This fishing village is brimming with fresh seafood — namely steaming hot bowls of chowder. Start at a hearty bowl at Redfish restaurant, where cioppino is another tempting option. Find a more casual atmosphere but just as tasty chowder with bacon, carrots, potatoes and tender clams at Crazy Norwegians Fish and Chips, nearby. Griff’s on the Dock is a no-frills old-school joint in the parking lot of the Port of Port Orford, where the hot chowder comes with attitude and nautical knick knacks galore.
— Jen Anderson
Photo of Thor’s Well at Cape Perpetua by Joey Hamilton