While summer is grand at the Oregon Coast, winter offers outdoor enthusiasts special adventures. Let’s also dispel winter rumors: winter does not mean continual rain. Weather is often mild, thanks to changing ocean currents and micro-climates. And the crowds are gone! Here are the top 10 winter activities, gathered from “coasties,” who really wanted us to keep them secret.
Locals await eagerly the first seasonal storms, not only because they have a front row view of Mother Nature, but also for the summer-like calm that follows, and the treasures that wash up on the beaches. Agates, yes. But grab a metal detector if you want to find gold.
While crabbing is always in season, winter brings the biggest bounty. Drop traps in the five bays from a boat, or catch from a dock. Take them home in a cooler or get one of the fish processing companies at a nearby dock to cook them for you.
The Tillamook Coast is a mecca for year-round paddle sports. Five estuaries are designated National Water Trails. But there are channels accessible only in winter when tides are at their highest. Take a guided paddle with Kayak Tillamook and discover the beauty of winter waterways.
If you want to see waterfalls in all their gushing glory, winter is the time to do it. The Tillamook Coast has several forest trails that lead to waterfalls. Wear waterproof shoes, not because the trails are particularly muddy or wet, but because the forest’s soft dewiness is in evidence everywhere.
Above water, the Tillamook coastline is beautiful. Under water, it’s a fascinating environment that the few who love to dive are lucky enough to see. Top spots are in Garibaldi, Oceanside and Tillamook Bay.
Tillamook County’s five main rivers start filling with steelhead in December. From north to south, the Nehalem, Kilchis, Wilson, Trask and Nestucca rivers are all top steelhead producers. And after a big rain, steelhead go from a fish of a thousand casts to one catch after another.
Cape Kiwanda attracts international surfers all year-round. You’ll find neoprene-clad wave enthusiasts in the water from dawn to dusk, even during stormy weather. If the ocean looks too cold for you, then grab a beer at the Pelican Pub and watch braver souls through the big oceanfront windows.
Winter campers find peaceful pleasures on the Tillamook Coast. Summer’s crowds have left, and those pitching trailers, RVs or setting up in yurts (and even a few tents) find themselves among kindred spirits. The beaches are wide open, and you’ll have trails to yourself. Bring a book, a journal and a cozy blanket, and let the stars be your reality show. Nehalem Bay and Cape Lookout state parks are open year-round.
The Dairylands Tour from Tillamook Eco Adventures gives you a cow’s eye view of local dairy farms and treats you to the storytelling skills of guide Brian Cameron. And Garibaldi Charters, which is also a fishing charter boat, brings the bays and estuaries to life with a close-up peek of water habitats.
Be warned: birdwatching is addictive, as is wildlife viewing. And winter brings a wealth of possibilities, from migratory birds that find the Tillamook Coast a perfect place to spend the season, to magnificent elk herds that navigate their way from forest to beach. Bring your binoculars and camera, and start at Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge. You won’t want to miss Kilchis Point Reserve’s new birdwatching station, either.