The Oregon Coast is a magical place during winter. With crashing waves, migrating whales, and fewer crowds, the coast offers great escapes for winter weekends.
The 362-mile coastline is accessible to all thanks to the Beach Bill of 1967. Thus the Oregon Coast is often referred to as “The People’s Coast.”
My trip was sponsored by Travel Oregon, Travel Lane County, Florence Chamber of Commerce, Driftwood Shores Resort & Conference Center, and Heceta Lighthouse B & B. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Here are my five favorite winter weekend getaways on the Central and Northern Oregon Coast.
Enjoy the beauty and activities of Newport, located along both the Pacific Ocean and Yaquina Bay.
Oregon Coast Aquarium
Stroll the Historic Bayfront, stopping at shops and restaurants, and make your way to the docks to enjoy the antics of the seals. Spend at least two hours at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, ranked as one of the top ten aquariums in the nation. Here, you will experience the wonders of the water world. The touching pools are great for children of all ages! When you arrive, be certain to check the feeding and demonstration times. They are events not to be missed. Consider also “adopting” one of the residents! Check this link to learn more.
Hatfield Marine Science Center
Head over to the Hatfield Marine Science Center, the marine research center of Oregon State University. With all the activities, it is easy and enjoyable to spend several hours here as well.
At the dock in Yaquina Bay, you will notice the large NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) vessels. This operations center is the base for two research ships that serve the ships operating in the Pacific.
Crabbing From The Docks
Crabbing from the docks is popular and great fun! Contact the Newport Marina Store for a fabulous, two-hour dock-crabbing experience.
Newport Seafood & Wine Festival
A fun winter festival is the Newport Seafood & Wine Festival each February. This popular event draws folks from near and far. Accommodations fill quickly so be sure to plan.
Rogue Brewer’s On The Bay
By now, you would have developed thirst and hunger. Rogue Brewer’s on the Bay features a pub, brewery, distillery, cooperage, and great gift shop. Try a flight of beer and team it with steak bites. Delicious.
Mo’s Seafood & Chowder
On each trip to the coast, I enjoy the tasty clam chowder at Mo’s Seafood & Chowder. The bayfront has two Mo’s — the original dating back to 1946 and one overlooking the bay.
Clearwater Restaurant also overlooks the bay and the sea lions resting on the docks. We particularly enjoyed the seafood pasta full of shrimp, scallops, salmon, halibut, and cod served in a tasty Cajun cream sauce. Top off your meal with the cinnamon toast crème brûlée, which deliciously melts in your mouth.
Where To Stay
Newport Belle Bed & Breakfast
For unique accommodations, the Newport Belle Bed & Breakfast is tops! The 97-foot paddlewheel boat is permanently moored at the South Beach Marina. The five staterooms are spacious, the parlor is inviting and the three-course breakfasts are fabulous. There is also a daily wine and cheese event when the owners join the guests.
Florence beckons you with locations both along the Pacific Ocean and the Siuslaw River. Add miles of beaches, towering sand dunes, boutiques and antique shops, seven lakes within 15 miles, great seafood dining, Historic Old Town, and a unique botanical park featuring a rare carnivorous flower, and you have the makings for a fabulous winter weekend.
One of the locals mentioned, “The Florence area is where folks come to make memories and revisit treasured spots.” I concur with that. This is about my 20th visit to Florence. Here are some of my treasured memories of the area.
Exploding Whale Memorial Park
Discover the Exploding Whale Memorial Park. The riverfront park has beautiful views of the Siuslaw River and the iconic Oregon sand dunes. There is a great picnic area.
Strawberry Hill Wayside
Another of my favorite spots is Strawberry Hill Wayside, just north of Florence. This is an excellent spot for watching the sea lions cavorting in the waves and at low tide, for exploring tide pools.
Historic Old Town
The Historic Old Town is a favorite for strolling and enjoying local shops, restaurants, and ice cream!
Darlingtonia State Natural Site
Darlingtonia State Natural Site is located just north of Florence. This little-known gem is an 18-acre botanical park of the Darlingtonia californica, or “Cobra Lily.” The rare carnivorous flower is like a smaller version of Audrey 11 in Little Shop of Horrors!
The park is open year-round with parking and an accessible boardwalk, interpretive signs, a picnic area, and restrooms. This is a site not to be missed!
Sea Lion Caves
Sea Lion Caves, America’s largest sea cave, is just further north and is a great spot for viewing whales and the coastline.
Winter Music Festival Florence
The Winter Music Festival Florence, an annual event held near the end of January, has been named “the Coast’s Best Music and Arts Festival.” In addition to music and workshops, the event features local food and libations.
The Dunes Cafe
Enjoy breakfast or lunch at The Dunes Cafe, a popular spot with locals. The service is great and the breakfast food is delicious!
Waterfront Depot Restaurant
A local favorite for fine dining is the Waterfront Depot Restaurant. Located in Historic Old Town and right on the bank of the Siuslaw River, the Waterfront Depot has fabulous views, great seafood, and fine service.
Where To Stay
The Driftwood Shores is a favorite accommodation with spacious units overlooking Heceta Beach. Check the link for the live webcam. All units have ocean views and private balconies while some units have full-size kitchens.
The Market At Driftwood Shores
If you don’t wish to cook for yourself, visit The Market At Driftwood Shores for take-out meals, dining in, and a small grocery store. Bring your bathing suits and enjoy the indoor pool and hot tub. Enjoy beach activities like horseback riding or strolling the beach.
3. Depoe Bay
Known as “The Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” Depoe Bay is worthy of many visits, especially during the winter when 18,000 to 20,000 gray whales migrate along the Pacific from Alaska to the warm waters of Baja, California.
Oregon State Park Whale Watching Center
Start your visit at the Oregon State Park Whale Watching Center, located right on Highway 101 next to the sea wall. Here you can enjoy the observation camera, the exhibits, and talking with park staff. The best times to catch the migration are winter (mid-December through January) and spring (late February to March) when the whales return to Alaska waters.
Approximately 300 gray whales permanently hang out in the waters just off Depoe Bay. So any time of year is a fun time to visit the Whale Watching Center.
You can view the whales from land or enjoy a whale-watching cruise. We enjoyed a cruise with Tradewinds Charters, the office of which is located just across from the Whale Watching Center. Tradewinds also offers fishing and crabbing trips. Check Tradewinds’ website for recent fishing and whale reports.
The Horn Public House And Brewery
For a casual dining spot in Depoe Bay, enjoy The Horn Public House & Brewery. Located just across from the Whale Watching Center, The Horn sits on the corner, immediately north of the bridge. The location provides an amazing view of both the harbor and the Pacific Ocean. Stop by for a flight of craft beer, great seafood, and delicious pizza.
Tidal Raves Seafood Grill
For elegant dining, visit Tidal Raves Seafood Grill. Perched high on the ocean cliff, about a half-mile north of the Whale Watching Center, the view is fantastic and the menu is enticing. We enjoyed pasta rave, a delicious seafood feast served with linguine and creamy pesto sauce. We also shared a dish of coconut shrimp and a house salad. Tidal Raves is popular and no reservations are accepted. You can call ahead to check for the wait time and be placed on a list.
Where To Stay
SCP Hotel Depoe Bay
We enjoyed our accommodation along the harbor at the SCP Hotel Depoe Bay. The hotel is a small (13-room) eco-friendly lodge. SCP stands for Soul (personal wellness), Community (social good), and Planet (environment). The hotel is environmentally friendly, has a minimalist style, uses green practices, gives back to its community, and plants a tree for every guest stay.
Coffee and granola are available for breakfast. The community room is large with an inviting fireplace and beautiful harbor views.
Located just south of the town of Yachats, the Heceta Head Lighthouse and Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast are fabulous destinations for a winter getaway.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Heceta Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses along the Oregon Coast. Perched atop the 1,000-foot Heceta Head, you will enjoy jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean. The ground floor of the lighthouse is open daily. Do check out the tiny gift store.
Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast
Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast is the historic keeper’s cottage. A stay at the delightful cottage will be one made of memories. The bedrooms are cozy and the main floor has several inviting parlors with fireplaces. The big event is the seven-course breakfast! Plan for two hours for this gourmet feast. The breakfast is served family-style, so you can enjoy chatting with the other guests. If you prefer, you may request your own table. Right after the meal, there is a history talk. There is also a daily wine and cheese event.
Cape Perpetua Visitor Center And Day Use Area
Close by is Cape Perpetua Visitor Center and Day Use Area, the highest viewpoint on the Oregon Coast that is accessible by car. Marvel at the miles of ocean beaches and towering trees. With 26 miles of trails, the area is called the “Coastal Wonderland.” Stop by the visitor center to learn about the cultural and natural history of the area. The movie theater offers a choice of interesting videos that you can individually request. Your National Parks Senior Pass works here — otherwise buy a day pass at the kiosk by the visitor center.
5. Tillamook And Manzanita
Slightly inland, Tillamook County is dairy country. Watch for the well-kept country farms and fields filled with dairy cows. The small city of Tillamook sits at the confluence of three rivers and is the gateway to the Three Capes Scenic Loop, a 40-mile scenic drive along the Pacific.
A must-stop each visit is to the Tillamook Creamery. Enjoy the self-guided tour, which features stories behind life on a dairy farm and milk’s journey from farm to factory. Order the delicious Tillamook Ice Cream, either a cone or a flight. The flight is ample for two people. Stop in the store to taste some of the famous Tillamook cheese.
Tillamook Air Museum
A truly hidden gem in Tillamook is the Tillamook Air Museum, whose mission is to “interpret, preserve, educate, and honor the WWII history of the Tillamook Air Station and Hanger B.” One could spend several hours here — and then still want to come back for more. The Tillamook Air Museum website has more information on its aircraft collection.
Two of my favorite exhibits are The Hall of WWII, constructed all by one man who has recreated battles and displays to help teach about WWII and to honor all those who served the U.S. My second favorite exhibit honors all the contributions of women during the war. The display has the quote: “Let the generations know that women in uniform also guarantee their freedom.”
Off Shore Grill & Coffee House
We drove to the ocean-side village of Manzanita for dinner and lodging. Off Shore Grill & Coffee House is a delightful spot for dinner. We shared a beet salad — ample for two — and enjoyed the Steamer Clams and Duck Breast for entrées.
Where To Stay
Oregon Coast Cabins
Oregon Coast Cabins offers three types of accommodations: cabins, homes, and lofts. Ours was Loft 6 — The Neahkahnie, an amazing 1,100 square foot condo on the second floor, located in downtown Manzanita. We enjoyed two bedrooms, two baths, a gourmet kitchen, a huge living room, a gas fireplace, and laundry facilities. It is an incredibly luxurious accommodation!
The Oregon Coast beckons you for a delightful winter weekend. There are a variety of activities for all — whether you prefer storm-watching, whale watching, shopping, museum visiting, or great dining, there is something for everyone!
For more information on traveling to Oregon, check out these articles: