Locals know that the shoulder season is a great time to visit the Oregon coast. It’s not unheard of to have the entire beach to yourself. Fewer crowds means an easier time finding parking, a faster time getting into your favorite restaurants and overall more social distancing in general.
Book a hotel room with an ocean view for winter-storm watching when waves crest higher than any other time of the year. Hotels like the pet-friendly Surfsand in Cannon Beach even offer complimentary popcorn for the viewing. If the added space of a private cottage is what you need, Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa offers family-size cabins overlooking Cape Kiwanda in Pacific City.
So long as kids are dressed appropriately, the beach is still a great place to dig and build sand castles year round. Bring a kite from home or shop for one at one of many local kite shops and take advantage of the gusty breezes that can make for some epic kite flying. If the forecast calls for rain, the arcades, Seaside Aquarium or the Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria all offer interactive fun for kids of all ages.
There are many great food options along Oregon’s coast, but Astoria boasts more than its fair share of kid-friendly, foodie-approved dining destinations. Buoy Beer makes spotting sea lions super easy with a section of see-through plexiglass flooring right inside its restaurant. Enjoy breakfast, pastries or fresh baked bread at the Blue Scorcher Bakery & Cafe. Stock up on healthy snacks and let the kids try out the automatic hand-washing machine — think car wash for hands — at the local Astoria Co+op.
What to Pack
Aside from waterproof boots to keep beach toes dry and cozy, a set of binoculars will let you and the kids really see all the action while keeping everyone at a safe — and dry — distance. Use them to spot nesting seabirds, lighthouses, migrating whales and other marine mammals.
Pro Tips: From mid-December to mid-January, more than 25,000 gray whales will migrate along Oregon’s coastline as part of their twice-annual migration to Baja, Mexico. Oregon State Parks celebrates this special winter move with Whale Watch Week in late December with trained volunteers positioned at 24 designated sites, including the Whale Watching Center in Depoe Bay, to help visitors spot and learn more about Oregon’s largest marine mammal. And remember, never turn your back to the ocean! Sneaker waves — sudden, unpredictable water surges — are known to occur in winter months, usually from October through March.