People come from around the world to explore Lincoln City’s 7 miles of beautiful beaches to search for artisan glass floats. They are hidden on the beach by fanciful creatures known as “Float Fairies.” These treasures are very much prized, and many people have searched for years to find one. Known as “Finders Keepers,” the project was dreamed up by a local artist in 1997 who thought glass floats would be a great way to celebrate the new millennium. Lincoln City agreed and the inaugural season was 1999–2000. It proved so popular that Lincoln City has continued the program for more than 20 years now. Many places have copied but this is the only location where over 3,000 floats are hidden year-round.
Thank you to Explore Lincoln City for hosting me on a press trip where I got to experience this interesting destination. All opinions are my own.
Lincoln City Japanese Fishing Floats
Finders Keepers and the artists that create the colorful floats were inspired by the Japanese fishing floats that washed up on the Oregon Coast. Each float was handmade either by the fisherman or glassblowers. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors but most are in shades of green. The floats were lost at sea and Pacific currents eventually washed them ashore. Over the years, especially after storms, it was a popular past time to search for these treasures on the beach.
To learn more about Japanese fishing floats, visit the North Lincoln County Historical Museum, which has a large exhibit featuring the collection of Jim Watson who donated it to the museum. At the time of his donation, it was the largest and most extensive collection of Japanese glass floats. Nick Simpson was another local collector who created the museum’s exhibit with the Watson collection and added his own donation. The display spans many years as both collectors built their collections over decades of beachcombing, purchasing this unique collectible.
Lincoln City’s Float Fairies
Float fairies are surrounded in mystery. Lincoln City runs the program. The float fairies are city volunteers who go through the city screening process and are sworn to secrecy. They are very creative when it comes to hiding floats and maintaining their anonymity. “Being a float fairy means secretly spreading joy and surprise while honoring the pristine beauty of the beaches and shoreline. I still find myself enamored with Lincoln City’s coastal beauty. The part of being a float fairy I find most valuable is knowing others who share the same love could be rewarded with a beautiful float, and that float is a treasure supporting local artists,” said a float fairy.
Float fairies have high job satisfaction. “Being a float fairy means so much! It means I get an extra excuse to get out and enjoy our beaches. It means I get to be sneaky and have fun hiding things for others to find. Most of all, it means I get to be a little part of a big tradition in Lincoln City!”
Anyone can participate in Finders Keepers and, as the name suggests, if you find a float it is yours to keep. Each float is a work of art and is signed and numbered. Over 3,000 floats are hidden year-round. At certain times, usually around a holiday, there are bonus drops. The army of float fairies hide the treasures along 7 miles of public beach from Roads End in the north to Siletz Bay in the south. Start at the public beach access points. Float fairies hide at random times and locations, and they are the only ones who know where the treasures are placed.
If you find a glass float, call 541-996-1274, text “FLOATS” to 866-943-0443, or visit the registration page to register your treasure. You’ll receive a certificate of authenticity and information about the artist who crafted your float.
If you would rather register your float in person, stop by the Lincoln City Visitor Information Center at 801 SW Hwy 101, fourth floor, Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–5 p.m.
Basic Rules Of The Hunt
- Floats can be found above the high tide line and below the beach embankment.
- Floats are placed on the beach during daylight hours only.
- Floats are hidden throughout the day, not just at one time.
- Floats are out there everyday rain or shine. On rare occasions, weather and ocean conditions can create unsafe situations. Official notice of any cancellations will be made on the website and social media channels.
- Be mindful of the environment when hunting. Be kind to the coast.
- One float per person, per year. Spread the love!
Create Your Own Art Glass Float
If the elusive float evades your search, visit the Lincoln City Glass Center where you can book an appointment for a glass blowing experience and design your own glass masterpiece. In less than an hour, you will meet with an experienced glassblower and select your colors and pattern design. The artist will take you through the process step by step. Before you know it, you will have created a piece of art glass. Note the glass must cool down, so your new float won’t be ready for pickup until the next day. If you aren’t available, they can ship it home for a fee.
The Lincoln City Glass Center also has a gallery with a variety of lovely art glass for sale. Floats are very popular. These round spheres are colorful and capture light, making them a focal point for any room. Each one has a glass base to keep it secure when displayed. They also sell special lighted stands to place your float on so it glows, and you can see the unique colors in it.
Lincoln City’s Taft Historic District
Plan to stay in the Taft Historic District during your trip. People have been coming to the beach here since the early 1900s and it is easy to see why. There is easy access to the beach and the scenic Siletz Bay. From here you can explore the beaches on a long walk. You are walking distance to the Lincoln Glass Center and the North Lincoln County Historical Museum. It is also the perfect location to start your search for a Finders Keepers float.
I stayed at the quaint Looking Glass Inn. It is an older hotel, but you would never know it. Beautifully updated, the entire property is spotlessly clean. The rooms were very comfortable and mine had a lovely view of the bay and the sunset. This family-owned business has a perfect location across from Siletz Bay and the Pacific Ocean. A variety of room sizes are available. Also located in the Taft District is the oldest bar on the Oregon Coast, the Snug Harbor Bar and Grill. It was established in 1930. On an interesting note, the rough-hewn timbers and the tables and benches were created from huge cedar and old-growth fir logs found in the Siletz River. They were milled right on site. This is where the locals hang out. It has a fun vibe and a great upstairs deck.
Lincoln City has a Beach Wheelchair & Accessibility program. You can book the beach wheelchair from the community center, and it is conveniently located at the pavilion in Taft which is just down from the Looking Glass Inn. The website has all the information as well as accessible beach points. The program is complimentary. There is only one beach wheelchair, so it is important to make a reservation. You can use it just once during your stay so that it gives others an opportunity.
The Finders Keepers program is a fun way to explore the beaches of Lincoln City. It gives a sense of purpose to your walk as you enjoy the stunning scenery of the Oregon Coast.
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