Nature

Where to Go Storm-Watching on the Oregon Coast

From Fort Stevens to Shore Acres, Oregon's coastal storms are on dramatic display throughout the winter.

By Gabriel Granillo

A very large crashing ocean wave on a steep rocky shore under a gray sky

Wintry seas at Shore Acres State Park, near Coos Bay

The Oregon coast draws crowds each summer with daydreams of fresh seafood, road trip adventures, and unbeatable views of big water. In the winter, though, the coast draws a different kind of crowd, storm seekers and king tide enthusiasts from around the state, trekking to the coast to catch astonishing views of raging waters splashing on the shore. It's an Oregon adventure not to be missed, but it can also be a dangerous one. 

And for that reason, before we go into where to watch and where to stay, it's important to practice safety as you embark on your storm-watching adventure. Oregon State Parks has three tips: pick your spot, mind those fences, and watch your step with exploring post-storm. Remember to observe storms from a safe distance and be extra careful near cliffs and vistas. 

Don't forget to bring your camera and rain gear. Happy exploring! 

Fort Stevens

Fort Stevens is a former military installation originally established during the Civil War to defend the mouth of the Columbia River, but it wasn’t until World War II that the site saw combat (when shells from a Japanese submarine damaged part of a baseball field). Visitors now can explore the abandoned historic military site and the nearby Peter Iredale wreckage, and, during the summer, take underground tours of a gun battery used during World War II. During storm season, this ghost town is alive with waves. 
Where to watch: South Jetty Observation Tower (when it's open)
Where to stay: Reserve one of the 11 cabins or the 15 yurts available to visitors year-round at Fort Stevens State Park.

Cannon Beach

Cannon Beach is home to Haystack Rock. Other sea stacks might share its name, but this is the Haystack Rock that has been fully engraved in our minds thanks to a certain 1985 adventure-comedy. (Cue: "Hey, you guys!") Take a trip out there during any summer and you’ll find a flurry of folks taking photos with the big rock. (Real ones know the best view is from the Wayfarer with a nice glass of whiskey.) During winter, the waves replace the people, effectively saying, “It’s our time down here.”
Where to watch: Ecola State Park
Where to stay: Stephanie Inn

Cape Meares 

Cape Meares brings lovers of chubby little lighthouses and octopus-shaped trees (seriously, it's a 250-year-old Sitka spruce) all year long. Besides storms in winter, in the springtime spectators can watch migrating gray whales, as well as sea lions, dolphins, and porpoises, and late-spring into summer brings thousands of seabirds who nest in steep cliffs and offshore rocks. Don't forget to grab some cheese in nearby Tillamook.
Where to watch: Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint
Where to stay: Oceanside, Ocean Front Cabins

Lincoln City 

The Chinook Winds Casino Resort and Lincoln City Outlets aren't the only attraction here. Besides the stellar hikes in this area (Cascade Head, Drift Creek Falls, and the Knoll), Lincoln City is home to great storm-chasing locales. With king tide season in full effect, expect towering waves across the city's many oceanfront locations. After a day of storm watching, be sure to grab some grub at Mist Restaurant and Lounge at Surftides Hotel or Fathoms Penthouse. Both provide unmatched views of the ocean while you dig in on some seafood. 
Where to watch: Roads End State Park
Where to stay: A Vista d'Mar

Newport

Tons of attractions here for the weekender, from the Discovery Zoo to the Oregon Coast Aquarium to the Yaquina Bay Bridge to the sea lion docks. But, of course, you're here for big waves, which you'll find aplenty throughout the winter. A quick drive about eight miles north of the city brings you to Devil's Punchbowl, where you can watch waves slam into a hollowed-out rock formation. 
Where to watch: Yaquina Head
Where to stay: Agate Beach Motel 

Yachats

Before we go any further, it’s pronounced YAH-hahts. This small oceanside town is rife with possibilities for an exciting weekend winter getaway. The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area (the highest point of the Oregon Coast), the Smelt Sands State Recreation Site, and Thor’s Well, just two miles south of town, are must-dos, as well as a post-storm-watching trip to Bread & Roses Bakery and Yachats Brewing.
Where to watch: Yachats State Recreation Area
Where to stay: Overleaf Lodge & Spa

Charleston

This quaint fishing community in Coos County is home to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology and to restaurants where you'll find fresh seafood caught by nearby sports fishers and crabbers. Along the seaside road to nearby Cape Arago, winter storms bring swells of waves and phenomenal ocean spray for a full day of storm-watching wonder. 
Where to watch: Shore Acres State Park
Where to stay: Bandon Marina Inn

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