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Epic Storms are Brewing on Oregon’s Adventure Coast!

It’s storm watching season on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston, and if you’ve never been, now’s the time to come.

Presented by Oregon Adventure Coast December 29, 2022

Almost too dramatic to believe, these storm scenes conjure up timeless images of Shakespearean classics or Dutch Master paintings.

On the right day, you’re bound to see some of the most incredible displays of the power and beauty of nature at the coast – roiling ocean surf, whipping winds that’ll bend you sideways and waves that explode like fireworks.

Singular storms

Thanks to a combination of geology, meteorology and just good fortune, Oregon’s Adventure Coast, is a prime setting for winter storm watching. High seas swell and heave as powerful waves collide with the jagged sandstone cliffs of Charleston’s Shore Acres State Park. The resulting sprays of ocean foam and mist thrill onlookers, who can gaze upon the spectacle from the safety of the park’s designated viewing area and storm watching hut.

But it’s not just Shore Acres. Stunning storm views can also be found from the bluff overlooking Bastendorff Beach and Sunset Bay State Park along Cape Arago Highway. The view from Lighthouse Viewpoint at Cape Arago State Park isn’t too shabby either.

January and February are the Height of Winter Storms

A powerful high surf being enjoyed by a colorful group of storm watching spectators at Shore Acres State Park.

If you’ve never been storm watching on Oregon’s Adventure Coast, you don’t know what you’ve been missing. You can experience the storied storms that have put us on the storm watching map. Pack your rain gear, boots, layers and binoculars. And don’t forget your camera. Remember, the best storms don’t just happen anytime, make sure to check our Facebook page for High Surf advisories and other conditions that can fuel a signature big-wave storm.

And once the storms subside, there's still plenty to see along this singularly diverse stretch of coastline. Bald eagles are plentiful; elephant seals and California harbor seals bask on Simpson Reef between Shore Acres and Cape Arago; and vast tide pools host crabs, sea stars, anemone and other creatures. That's before you even get to the whales: Resident gray whales surface between the reef and Cape Arago, while 15,000+ whales migrate to Mexico during the winter.

When you’re done outdoors, our three unique communities afford rich lodging, dining, sight-seeing and gaming venues.  As the day winds down, you can warm up, dry off, refuel and slumber, dreaming of the adventure you just had, and what tomorrow has in store.

The Perfect Storms

Nature merges land, sea and sky in this majestic scene at Shore Acres State Park.

Though storms on the Oregon Coast are impacted by weather, ocean conditions have a greater impact on just how explosive the waves will be when they come crashing into the cliffs. When conditions in the ocean create large swells, they translate into incredible wave action. Put simply – the higher the swell, the bigger the crashing wave. We’ve seen swells of more than 30 feet turn into wave crashes as high as 300 feet! But even a 16- to 20-foot swell can create some really powerful displays – when that wave collides with Shore Acres’ sandstone cliffs, WOW!

Tides can also play a big role in the drama of storms. Every year, the Oregon Coast experiences a handful of king tides, which are the highest winter tides each year. Experienced when the orbits and alignments of the Earth, moon and sun sync just right, king tides bring higher water levels and, as a result, the potential for more dramatic coastal storms.

When you plan a storm-watching trip to Oregon’s Adventure Coast, check our Facebook page for the latest High Surf Advisories and Warnings. You can also visit the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Tides & Currents page for accurate tide predictions and find ocean conditions through NOAA’s marine forecast service.

Staying Storm Safe

High surf reaches Shore Acres State Park from a southern California storm. This 2011 wave crash is the record holder for height - approximately 290 feet high!

Storm watching on Oregon’s Adventure Coast is an exhilarating experience. It’s also one that needs to be done with safety in mind.

11 tips to stay safe and dry!

  1. It’s the Oregon coast during heavy waves, so of course, it can get pretty wet. Make sure you pack quality rain gear to waterproof yourself and your loved ones. Light, waterproof jackets and sweaters help to keep the cool damp wind out. 
  2. Dress in layers as the temperature may fluctuate.
  3. If you plan to hike and explore, we encourage you to also bring hiking boots (waterproof ones are the best).
  4. You will most definitely want to snap some pics or videos of the storm. It is not a bad idea to invest in a quality digital camera that is completely waterproof.
  5. Binoculars can really enhance viewing of the spectacular waves.
  6. Be aware that some locations, like state parks, may charge a fee for access.
  7. Storm watching has more to do with the ocean conditions rather than the actual weather conditions. So, pay attention to storm watching recommendations.
  8. The safest areas to view winter storms are at the storm watching hut at Shore Acres State Park, the bluff overlooking Bastendorff Beach, Cape Arago State Park, and Sunset Bay State Park.
  9. Avoid the temptation to hike or climb into areas that have been marked off-limits. Fences and other barriers have been put in place to keep people safe.
  • If you’re walking on the beach, never turn your back to the ocean. Always be alert for sneaker waves and other hazards.
  • Come prepared to have a one-of-a-kind experience on Oregon’s Adventure Coast.

Want to find out even more about the best storm watching on the entire Oregon Coast? Visit Oregon’s Adventure Coast today!

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