This is a photo Kerri took of me fly fishing at Clear Lake on Mt. Hood. We often enjoy camping there during the summer months.
The forecast for the Oregon coast called for cool temperatures, heavy rain, and 65 MPH winds. Let’s go camping! That’s right, we love to camp and aren’t afraid to go any time of year. Well, as long as we can stay in a yurt during the cold and rainy season. Luckily, most Oregon State campgrounds have yurts and with enough forethought, you can reserve one. They are a really popular option and we usually reserve yurts for the fall and winter months in the spring or summer since they fill up fast. They come equipped with electricity, light, heater (important), bunkbeds, futon, and a table. You must cook outside, which is a good thing. I am sure they would all smell like bacon if people cooked inside.
So this last weekend we loaded up our vehicle with sleeping bags, food, beer, toys and games, and propane grill and headed towards Lincoln City. We initially planned on bringing our kayaks, but the thought of kayaking in 65 MPH winds and pouring rain sounded a little too extreme for this weekend getaway, so we left them safely in the garage. Maybe next time.
We arrived at the Devil’s Lake campground around 9:00pm and found the camp hosts asleep. Okay, where do we get our key? We made our way to the yurt and checked the front door and found it unlocked. Inside was our registration information with a note saying to get our key after 9am in the morning. We unloaded our gear and setup “camp.” It doesn’t get much easier than yurt camping. No tents to setup in the dark and the convenience of electric light and heat.
The next morning we awoke to rain. Lots of rain! I initially tried to cook our breakfast on the picnic table, but found it a bit too wet with the pouring rain. We have a portable canopy that if setup, it would have protected our picnic table and breakfast from the pouring rain. But, it was hanging out in our garage with the kayaks. So, I moved our propane griddle onto the front porch of the yurt and finished cooking under the shelter of the small porch roof. After breakfast we took turns going to the campground showers. Hot showers while camping! After spending the summer camping at primitive campgrounds where we had to boil our own water if we wanted a “hot shower,” this seemed like luxury.
With a break in the weather we decided to explore the Central Oregon Coast. We first went to the beach just a couple of blocks down the street and next to the D River, the world’s shortest river. The storms hitting the coast had created some massive waves and we had to be very careful as we walked down the sandy beach. But after having to climb up the sandy cliffs as a sneaker wave came all the way up to the cliffs edge and dangerously rolled the large logs around the beach, we decided it was time to get off the beach before we made the 5 o’clock news.
After our beach adventure we went to one of the Oregon coast’s most famous restaurants for lunch, Mo’s. Mo’s often has large lines and they will sit you right next to strangers. But the lines move quickly and the seafood is excellent and quick.
The rains and winds had started again so we decided to head south to Depoe Bay for some excellent storm watching. When the swells are large and coming from the right direction, they will pound against the rocky shoreline in Depoe Bay and shoot water up and onto Highway 101. Great entertainment! As we entered Depoe Bay we were lucky enough to find an angled parking spot right where the water will shoot up onto the highway. A great place to park if you want to see the show and not get soaked. Unfortunately, the swells were coming from the wrong direction and it was only creating a light spray as the waves crashed against the cliffs. We headed over to the Whale Museum, which sits at the entrance to Depoe Bay, the world’s smallest harbor. Inside, they have an assortment of whale bones and information on where to spot the whales.
Back at the yurt that evening, the winds and rains really picked up but we stayed warm and dry playing games inside. Throughout the night, the bands of the storm would roll through creating pouring rain and strong winds. Not a good night to be in a regular tent, but a perfect night to be camping in a yurt.
The next morning we had breakfast at another famous Oregon Coast restaurant, Pig ‘N Pancake, and then loaded up everything and headed towards home. Along the way we decided to stop at a few Willamette Valley vineyards and take some photos of the fall colors. The pinot noir grapes were still hanging on the vines and the sun would occasionally break through the clouds to create amazing scenery from the vineyards up on the hills. A perfect ending to a great weekend getaway.
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Renown for its beautiful evergreen forests, high tech industry, and liberal politics, Oregon also boasts some 363 miles of pristine publicly owned coastline that draws visitors from around the world.
Summer Sun…. and Crowds
The most popular time to visit the Oregon Coast is during the summer months. During summer, droves of tourists flock to the coast for vacations and day trips hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive Oregon coastal sunshine. “No Vacancy” signs are a common sight at hotels as well as heavy traffic clogging Highway 101 through the popular destination cities. Crowded beaches with tourists tempting the frigid 55-degree Pacific Ocean water always adds to the entertainment.
Although nice during summer, many have discovered that the summer months may not be the best time to visit the Oregon Coast. Even during the warmest summer months, the weather is often cool and windy with the occasional rain shower and days of heavy fog. In fact, many prefer the off-season (October – May) for the lack of crowds and strong storms that pound the coast with heavy surf and strong winds, which can make summer seem rather boring.
The off-season at the Oregon Coast offers some amazing storms with 30+ foot waves and 70+ mile per hour winds a common occurrence. Accommodations are heavily discounted making an ocean view room affordable for those who prefer to sit behind protective glass and watch the beach get hammered by powerful breaking waves and those who dared venture onto the beach run for their lives. Gone are the heavily congested streets and long lines at attractions and restaurants. If one is looking for peace and solitude or to marvel at the raw power of the Pacific Ocean, the off-season is the time to visit.
Where to Go
Astoria is the northern most city along the Oregon Coast. Although not technically on the ocean, it is set inland a few miles along the mouth of the Columbia River. Close by is the ever popular Fort Stevens State Park. The fort served as a defensive post from the early Civil War to World War II. The gun batteries and other fortifications are open for visitors to explore. The 3700 acre park offers a large campground, day use area, museums, bike paths, nature trails, as well as beach access with the wreck of the Peter Iredale. Also nearby is the replica of Lewis and Clark’s winter encampment, Fort Clatsop. Astoria is home to the impressive Columbia River Maritime Museum, Astoria Column, and the “Goonie House”, made famous from the 1985 hit movie “Goonies.” Astoria is a great place to visit any time of the year.
Seaside is the Oregon Coast’s number one tourist destination. As the closest coastal city to the Portland Metropolitan area, Seaside draws large crowds during Spring Break and the summer months. With seasonal amusement rides and pedal powered vehicle rentals, Seaside mainly caters to the summer crowd, but still offers plenty of available accommodations, shopping, and restaurants during the off-season.
Cannon Beach is a few miles to the south of Seaside and is overflowing with tourists during the summer months. Parking is often a challenge during the summer and the trendy art galleries, gift shops, and restaurants are crammed with people. During the off-season, parking is easy, hotels are available, and the shops are all yours.
Lincoln City is a long narrow city that hugs the coastline on the Central Oregon Coast. Lincoln City has a lot to offer the visitor. With long sandy beaches, a casino, and a popular outlet mall, there is something for everyone. Passing through Lincoln City during the summer can be a test in patience. Long lines of vehicles snake through town making driving anywhere difficult. During the off-season, travel through Lincoln City is easy and parking plentiful at the outlet mall and other shopping areas.
Newport sits on Yaquina Bay and is home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the ever-popular Rogue Brewery. Newport’s Historic Bayfront is a popular destination offering tourist attractions, shopping, dining, and you can watch the commercial fishing boats offload their catch. Having the largest commercial fishing fleet in Oregon, Newport’s fresh seafood is easy to find at the local restaurants and fish markets year round. For those with steady sea legs, whale watching and sport fishing excursions are always a unique way to experience the Oregon Coast.
Florence is the gateway to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. The dunes, some 300 feet tall, stretch 40 miles south of Florence and offer amazing recreation opportunities. For those seeking adventure, off-road vehicle rentals are an exciting way to explore the dunes. Just 11 miles north of Florence is the famous Sea Lion Caves where you can view sea lions and sea birds in the world’s largest sea cave. Florence’s small town feel can be the perfect getaway during the off-season for those seeking adventure, or solitude.
The Southern Oregon Coast offers breathtaking scenery and a road less traveled. Not nearly as touristy as the Northern and Central Oregon Coast, the off-season is sure to guarantee vacancies and a chance to explore the natural beauty at your own pace.
Where to Stay in the Off-Season
Hotels and motels are plentiful and offer large price breaks during the off-season.
Vacation Rentals are perfect for large groups or extended stays. Many vacation houses overlook the beach offering easy beach access, room to spread out, as well as front row seats for storm watching.
Yurts and rustic cabins offer the more adventurous a comfortable accommodation in one of the many State of Oregon campgrounds. Yurts and cabins are equipped with a bunk bed, futon couch, table with chairs, electricity, electric light, and heat. Visitors must bring their own bedding, food, and dishes. Outside you can find a picnic table and fire pit. Yurts and cabins are very popular and one should book reservations months in advance. TIP: For added comfort when staying in the off-season, consider bringing an electric space heater and extra sources of light.
Camping in the off-season is usually done in an RV or camper van. But a few brave souls still dare to tent camp. During stormy weather, sideways blowing rain is common and forces many tent campers into the safety of their tents. The happy tent camper comes prepared with a high quality tent and plenty of tarps and rope that can be used to block the wind and rain.
What to Do in the Off-Season
Storm watching is always a popular event at the Oregon Coast. With strong winds and massive waves pounding the shore, this is a chance to witness the Pacific Ocean at its finest. Often too dangerous to be on the beach during a storm, the safest place to watch is behind the protective glass of a beachfront lodging or restaurant. If you do want to experience the wind and spray first hand, a great place to visit is Depoe Bay. Depoe Bay is a small town located between Lincoln City and Newport on the Central Oregon Coast. As the waves crash against the rocky shoreline in Depoe Bay, water is splashed up and onto highway 101 soaking everyone in the vicinity. Be sure to come prepared with a rain poncho.
Hiking trails are to be found all along the Oregon Coast. If the weather is cooperating, a day hike is a great way to explore the coast.
Lighthouses are usually open to visitors for a small fee. These historic structures offer an amazing look into the life of the early lighthouse keepers and the importance of the lighthouses to keep mariners safe. Oregon’s lighthouses are very picturesque and make for a great photo opportunity.
Whale watching excursions by boat are usually available when the ocean conditions are not too rough. December brings the annual whale migration of gray, sperm, and humpback whales as they travel from Alaska to Baja Mexico. If you would like to see the whales without venturing out in a boat, look for the “Whale Watching Spoken Here” signs along the Oregon Coast. These are placed in areas where a knowledgeable volunteer is stationed that can help you spot whales.