The warmer months are a wonderful time to visit the Oregon Coast, since they bring pleasant weather, festivals, and more travelers—but as a Central Coast native, I can tell you the off-season is my favorite time to enjoy the beach.

Because the fall and winter bring colder temperatures and volatile but beautiful stormy conditions, a trip to the shore in the off-season is an experience like no other. I love the uncrowded beaches and the fascinating seasonal changes the colder months bring to the coast.

Beachcombing is my favorite beach activity — any time of year I love searching for agates, fossils, and other treasures. Though the summer months often bring many interesting finds, the fall and winter definitely yield the greatest prizes. Winter storms bring wind and rain that remove sand from the beaches to uncover agates, and the powerful waves bring in all sorts of materials.

I’ve found many egg-size agates, large chunks of jasper, fossilized clams and other ancient life encased in basalt, and even old-fashioned glass floats waiting on the sand the day after a storm. I like to look for uncrowded beaches with creeks gravel-like deposits, and my favorites are all along the Central Coast. There are especially great spots including Fogarty Creek north of Depoe Bay, Newport’s Beverly Beach, and Bob Creek Wayside just south of Yachats.

Of course, safety is a concern when the seas are rough, so be sure to check the tide tables, stay off the beach during storms, and never turn your back on the ocean!

When a storm is raging, it’s the perfect time to stay inside and stormwatch. I’ve seen spectacular sights all over the Oregon Coast, and I would absolutely recommend that off-season visitors settle into a cozy spot near a window during these winter storms. It’s an amazing experience to watch as the rain slides down the windows, the wind whips the trees, and the sky and sea become gray and ever-changing.

Oceanfront restaurants and homes are the best place to stormwatch, and if you’re from out of town you’re in luck because the off-season also brings cheaper lodging! Those of us who are lucky enough to live near the sea know that these storms offer some of the best entertainment available.

Another popular year-round activity at its peak in the off-season is whale watching. Beloved by all ages, whale watching is especially great here at the Oregon Coast. Though there are some resident whales offshore throughout the year, the annual gray whale migrations in very late fall and again in early spring are the best times to view the awe-inspiring animals. I like to head to Depoe Bay, famously known as the whale-watching capital of the coast, but whales can be seen from almost anywhere along the coastline if you’re patient and lucky.

Don’t overlook the charms of the off-season at the Oregon Coast! When I want the best beachcombing, the most exciting stormwatching, and the thrill of seeing whales, I know there’s no better time than fall and winter to take advantage of the ideal conditions for these authentically coastal activities.

Story by Melodie Seble, copywriter for Vacasa