Cannon Beach and Haystack Rock on Oregon Coast

Oregon Coast in Winter: Things to Do and What to Expect (2023)

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Wondering if you should visit the Oregon Coast in Winter?

You definitely should! Visiting the Oregon Coast during winter is the best time to experience a different kind of coastal beauty with high crashing waves, whale-watching opportunities, and charming coastal towns with fewer crowds.

Having visited the Oregon Coast in both July and December, I can say that wintertime definitely had a more dramatic coastline due to the ocean storms. The weather was moderate, with the occasional rain, but overall it wasn’t a huge contrast from summer, which I thought was also cold and windy.

Visiting the Oregon Coast in Winter is excellent for photography, romantic getaways, and scenic road trips. In this article, we’ll explore why winter can be a great time to visit the Oregon Coast and what you can do to make the most of it.

So, put on your warm jacket and a beanie and get ready to discover the beauty of the Oregon Coast in winter!

Oregon Coast in Winter

While the summer months may draw sun-seekers and beach enthusiasts to the Oregon Coast, the winter season casts a spell of serene enchantment along this rugged stretch of Pacific coastline.

With fewer tourists, dramatic storm-watching opportunities, and a cozy ambiance that invites introspection, winter unveils a quieter, more contemplative side of the Oregon Coast.

Beaches are way less crowded on the Oregon Coast in winter

Pros of visiting the Oregon Coast in winter

  • Fewer crowds: Winter is the off-peak season, so you’ll encounter fewer tourists, allowing for a more peaceful and intimate experience.
  • Storm watching: Winter storms can be dramatic and awe-inspiring, providing a unique opportunity to witness the power of the ocean as waves crash against the rugged coastline.
  • Lower prices: Accommodations often come with lower price tags during the winter season, making it a more budget-friendly time to visit.
  • Whale-watching: Winter is a great time for observing migrating gray whales along the Oregon coast between December and March.
  • Cozy ambiance: The cooler, wetter weather creates a cozy atmosphere that’s perfect for snuggling up by a fireplace, enjoying hot beverages, and listening to the rain and the ocean waves.

Cons of visiting the Oregon Coast in winter

  • Weather: The weather can be wet and chilly, which may not be ideal for sunbathing or swimming on the Oregon Coast beaches.
  • Limited outdoor activities: Some outdoor activities, like hiking and beach picnics, may be less enjoyable due to the cold weather or occasional rain.
  • Reduced hours: Some restaurants, shops, and attractions may have reduced hours during winter or be closed for the season.
  • Potential for storms: While storm watching can be a highlight, it could also lead to travel disruptions and safety concerns.
View from Cape Meares Lighthouse

Is Oregon Coast worth visiting in winter?

Visiting the Oregon Coast in winter is definitely worth it as long as you are aware of what to expect in terms of weather and activities. While the weather can be chilly and wet, the off-season offers a special charm with its uncrowded beaches, dramatic winter storms, and excellent whale-watching and storm-watching opportunities.

Although the Pacific waters may be too cold for swimming, you can enjoy other activities such as beachcombing, exploring tide pools, and strolling along the beaches.

Indoor attractions like museums and art galleries provide respite from the weather, while seafood restaurants, cafes, and microbreweries offer comfort foods and drinks.

You can witness the holiday spirit and participate in holiday festivals and events as you explore the Oregon coastal towns in December.

Oregon Coast is only about a 1.5 to 2-hour drive from Portland, making it easy to include an Oregon Coast visit to any Portland itinerary of 3 days or more.

Oregon Coast Weather in Winter

Oregon Coast has a more temperate climate compared to Central and Eastern Oregon, and it rarely snows here.

But let’s not pretend it’s going to be all clear skies and shining sun during your Oregon Coast road trip in winter. Cool temperatures and a fair amount of rain characterize the weather along the Oregon Coast in winter. So be prepared for wet and cold conditions.

During the winter season, you can expect temperatures to range from approximately 45 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. Rain is quite common, and cloudy or overcast skies are prevalent.

Additionally, it’s not unusual to encounter occasional stormy weather with strong winds and heavy rain, especially along the coastline.

While the Oregon Coast in winter offers a beautiful and rugged landscape, it’s important to be prepared for wet and chilly conditions when planning a visit.

Another thing to note is that the weather on the coast can change quickly, going from sunny to rainy to sunny again in a single day. Having a foggy overcast is common, too.

Does it snow on the Oregon Coast?

Snow is relatively rare on the Oregon Coast. The region has a mild coastal climate influenced by the Pacific Ocean, which generally keeps temperatures above freezing, even in the winter. This makes Oregon Coast a great addition to any Oregon itinerary during the winter months.

The coastal areas of Oregon are more known for their cool, wet winters with rain and occasional stormy weather rather than snowy conditions.

If you’re seeking a snowy winter experience in Oregon, you’re more likely to find it in the state’s interior and mountainous regions, such as the Cascades or eastern Oregon. Even Southern Oregon places like Crater Lake National Park (popular for Crater Lake hiking) and Bend receive quite a bit of snowfall.

Can you swim on the Oregon Coast in Winter?

Swimming in the ocean along the Oregon Coast during the winter is not advisable. The winter months bring cold water temperatures and rougher sea conditions, which can be dangerous for swimmers.

Additionally, winter storms can bring powerful waves and strong currents, making the ocean hazardous. Rip currents, in particular, are a significant concern during this season. These swift-moving currents can pull swimmers out to deeper water, posing a serious threat to their safety.

So, what can you do on the Oregon beaches during winter? Consider beachcombing, tidepooling, or enjoying the coastal scenery from a safe and dry vantage point. Long walks along the beach are also a great option, although always be mindful of sneaker waves.

Winter Activities and things to do on the Oregon Coast

Now that you are well informed of what to expect regarding the weather on the Oregon Coast let’s dive into the wide range of activities and attractions you can enjoy on the Oregon Coast with fewer crowds in winter.

Romantic winter getaways

Winter in Oregon Coast has the perfect setting for a romantic winter retreat. Think romantic coastal walks and scenic drives, cozy accommodations and fireplaces, wine tasting, and intimate dinners at local restaurants.

Pamper yourselves by staying at a luxury resort or spa along the coast. Headlands Coastal Lodge & Spa is a luxury resort in Pacific City, nestled in the dunes overlooking Cape Kiwanda.

Oceanfront resort on a beach in Oregon

Salishan Coastal Lodge in Gleneden Beach is an upscale resort that features a full-service spa, championship golf course, and stunning oceanfront views.

If you are looking for a more secluded getaway in a glamping setting, try Bay Point Landing, which offers Airstreams and luxury cabins along the picturesque Coos Bay waterfront.


Whale-watching is a prime activity along the Oregon Coast in winter as the gray whales travel from their Alaskan feeding grounds to their breeding areas in Baja California.

These majestic marine mammals can often be spotted close to the shore, providing fantastic opportunities for sightings.

There are two peak seasons for whale migration on the Oregon Coast. The southbound migration happens in December around the holidays, and the northbound migration starts around March and is spread over several months.

If you are visiting during the winter peak season, you might be able to spot whales from pretty much anywhere along the coast. Several key spots along the Oregon Coast are renowned for their excellent whale-watching opportunities, and during peak season, there are volunteers there to answer all your whale questions.

What Statue and picnic tables at Depoe Bay waterfront
Depoe Bay Waterfront

Depoe Bay, known as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast,” offers numerous viewpoints and the chance to join charter boat tours for a more immersive experience.

Cape Perpetua near Yachats is another fantastic location, providing elevated vantage points such as Thor’s Well and Devil’s Churn. So are Cape Meares Lighthouse and Yaquina Head Lighthouse viewing areas. We saw some spouting whales from Yaquina Head lighthouse even in July!

Cannon Beach and Ecola State Park, with their iconic coastal scenery, are ideal for spotting whales from the shore.

For detailed information about this winter’s whale watching information, visit the Oregon whale watch website. Make sure to bring binoculars with you as the whales can be far off in the ocean.

Scenic Drives

The Oregon Coast is renowned for its stunning coastal scenery, and there are several scenic drives that offer breathtaking views of Oregon’s stunning coastline in winter.

Pacific Coast Scenic Byway (U.S. Route 101) runs the entire length of the Oregon Coast, spanning approximately 363 miles from the northern border with Washington to the southern border with California. It offers endless opportunities to admire the rugged coastline, sandy beaches, towering cliffs, and dense forests.

Some of the most gorgeous drives include the Three Capes Scenic Loop, Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, and the Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor.

Three Capes Scenic Loop is a 40-mile loop that takes you past Cape Meares, Cape Lookout, and Cape Kiwanda, each offering its unique charm and coastal vistas.

Cape Meares Lighthouse against ocean backdrop
Cape Meares Lighthouse against ocean backdrop

Along the way, you’ll have opportunities to explore sandy beaches, hike to viewpoints, and visit the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Three Capes Scenic Drive was my favorite along the entire coast, and I loved the small walks around Cape Meares – a great place to stretch your legs.

The drive to Cape Perpetua Scenic Area, located near Yachats, takes you to the top of Cape Perpetua, where you’ll find stunning viewpoints overlooking the coastline. The drive offers access to the Devil’s Churn and Thor’s Well, two natural wonders that are particularly captivating.

Samuel H. Boardman State Scenic Corridor is an incredible 12-mile stretch along the southern Oregon Coast with numerous viewpoints and hiking trails, showcasing sea stacks, hidden coves like Secret Beach, dramatic cliffs, and pristine beaches. It’s a true gem along the coast.

Oregon Coastal Towns

Oregon Coast is dotted with some incredible coastal towns and cities, each offering its own unique charm and attractions and making excellent overnight stops on an Oregon road trip or getaways on their own.

All of these towns have downtown hubs that are great for strolling, antiquing, souvenir shopping, exploring the art galleries, and trying local restaurants.

Astoria town and bridge

Astoria, perched at the northern tip, boasts a rich maritime history and is home to the Columbia River Maritime Museum and the towering Astoria Column.

Cannon Beach, famous for its iconic Haystack Rock, has a nice town with art galleries, boutique shops, and captivating shorelines. Cannon Beach is one of the most popular places to visit on the Oregon Coast. Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach, is excellent for hiking and gorgeous views.

Newport, my favorite town along the Oregon Coast, is a hub for marine science and is renowned for the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, along with its lively bayfront teeming with seafood eateries and cute local shops.

Sidewalk of Newport Bayfront

Depoe Bay is celebrated as the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast” and is known for its intimate harbor and exceptional opportunities for spotting migrating gray whales.

Florence, further south, allures adventurers to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area, where sand dunes stretch as far as the eye can see, offering thrilling dune buggy rides. Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence is another famous attraction.

Pacific City, nestled near Cape Kiwanda, is renowned for its stunning landscapes and the Pelican Brewing Company, where you can savor craft beers with a view.

Several towns along the Oregon Coast offer a range of holiday-themed activities and events during winter, especially during the holiday season. You will find holiday light displays, holiday festivals, events, fairs, and even Santa sightings.

Enjoy a warm bowl of Chowder

A warm bowl of soup like Clam Chowder, while cuddled up against a fireplace, is the perfect way to experience winter on the Oregon Coast! And try it in a Sourdough Bread bowl!

Being from San Francisco, I love all soups when served in these delicious bread bowls! If you are vegetarian, try broccoli cheddar soup instead, and tomato soup if vegan!

Mo’s Restaurants, found in many coastal towns, are known for their tasty clam chowder. Don’t forget to explore local cafes and diners for homemade seafood chowders and sandwiches. Popular options are Chowder Bowl in Newport and Gracie’s Sea Hag in Depoe Bay.

seafood, drinks, clam chowder, fresh warm bread, breweries – Pelican brewing

Explore Microbreweries along the Coast

Exploring microbreweries along the Oregon Coast is not just a thing to do; it’s a flavorful adventure that combines scenic beauty with craft beer culture.

Whether you’re strolling along the coastline or exploring quaint coastal towns, you’ll find an array of microbreweries offering unique brews that capture the essence of the Pacific Northwest.

What makes the experience truly special is the chance to savor these artisanal creations while enjoying oceanfront views or cozying up in a charming, coastal taproom.

Popular brewery hubs like Astoria, Newport, and Cannon Beach have earned their place on the craft beer map, often hosting beer festivals and events that celebrate the region’s brewing culture.

Pelican Brewing in Pacific City is renowned for its coastal-themed beers and stunning oceanfront views, and the brewery often hosts events and live music.

Public Coast Brewing in Cannon Beach serves up a variety of craft beers in a laid-back, coastal atmosphere. Their brewpub is just a short stroll from the beach.

Oregon Coast hikes

Winter hiking along the Oregon Coast is a serene experience that unveils the rugged beauty of this coastal region without the crowds of the peak summer season. While the weather can be wet and chilly, it’s also when the coast comes alive with dramatic storm-watching opportunities and lush, green landscapes.

The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area near Yachats offers a network of trails that lead to stunning viewpoints overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Don’t miss the challenging St. Perpetua Trail, which takes you to the top of Cape Perpetua and provides panoramic views of the coastline.

Cape Lookout in Oregon
Views from Cape Lookout overlook in Oregon

Neahkahnie Mountain hike overlooking Manzanita leads to the summit of Neahkahnie Mountain, where you can enjoy breathtaking coastal vistas. The winter season often brings dramatic storm-watching opportunities from this vantage point.

There are several other short and moderate hikes that you can explore in Ecola State Park, Oswald West State Park, and Cape Arago State Park for some stunning coastal views and rock formations.

Before embarking on a winter hike, it’s essential to check weather and trail conditions, as some trails may be muddy or slippery. Dress warmly in layers and be prepared for the changing coastal weather.

Oregon Coast Beaches

Visiting the Oregon Coast beaches in winter offers a completely different experience compared to the summer months. While the weather may be cooler and wetter, there are fewer crowds, and you might mostly see locals walking their dogs on the beach.

Beach and sea stacks at Pacific City Beach
Pacific City Beach

The dramatic storms that roll in from the Pacific Ocean during the winter offer awe-inspiring views of crashing waves and churning waters, making it an ideal time for storm-watching.

Some of the best winter beaches to explore include Cannon Beach, known for its iconic Haystack Rock and beautiful coastline that’s equally captivating in any season. Horseback riding is a popular activity on Cannon Beach, which can be enjoyed in winter.

Pacific City Beach is another gem, with its towering sand dunes and the stunning Cape Kiwanda on the northern end. Lincoln City’s Roads End State Recreation Site offers a serene setting with tide pools to explore and plenty of beachcombing opportunities.

Keep in mind that the coastal weather can be unpredictable during this season, so it’s essential to dress warmly and be prepared for rain.


Visiting the Oregon Coast in winter is a dream come true for photographers seeking dramatic and ethereal landscapes.

The winter season transforms the coastline into a photography paradise with its moody skies, turbulent seas, and lush greenery. The dynamic weather patterns provide an ever-changing canvas, making every visit unique.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

The beaches take on a rugged and serene beauty distinct from the summer months. Some of the best photography opportunities can be found at iconic locations like Cannon Beach, where the massive Haystack Rock stands as a powerful subject against the backdrop of roiling waves.

Pacific City’s Cape Kiwanda offers striking sand dunes and vibrant sunsets, while Cape Perpetua near Yachats presents rugged cliffs, tide pools, and old-growth forests waiting to be captured in stunning detail. The Oregon Coast lighthouses, like the Yaguina Lighthouse, also make for some stunning shots.

Visit Indoor Attractions

If your trip on the Oregon Coast is hindered by some rainy days, there are several remarkable indoor attractions that you can explore on such days.

Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport – Immerse yourself in captivating exhibits showcasing a variety of marine life, including sharks, otters, and colorful fish. Don’t miss the underwater tunnels for a close-up view of ocean creatures.

Columbia River Maritime Museum in Astoria – Explore the rich maritime history of the Columbia River region through interactive displays, ship models, and artifacts.

Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook – Experience the art of cheese-making on a self-guided tour, watch cheese production in action, and savor delicious cheese samples. Make sure to try some unique ice cream flavors from their cafe.

Tillamook Cheese Factory on Oregon Coast
Tillamook Cheese Factory on Oregon Coast

Tillamook Air Museum in Tillamook – Step back in time as you view an extensive collection of vintage aircraft, including World War II-era planes. The museum offers a unique glimpse into aviation history.

Whale Watching Center at Depoe Bay and other Locations – Learn about the migratory patterns and behaviors of gray whales through informative displays and educational programs. Many of these centers offer telescopes for whale watching in any weather.

Where to stay on the Oregon Coast during winter

Visiting the Oregon Coast during the winter season is ideal for cozying up in an oceanfront hotel room in front of a fireplace or fire pit, enjoying a glass of wine or beer or a warm bowl of chowder, and watching the waves crash to the shore.

View of the ocean from our Balcony in Newport
View of the ocean and sunset from our Balcony in Newport

We made sure to book oceanfront rooms during our visit to get the full Oregon Coast experience. Below are some excellent hotel recommendations for your visit.

Where to stay on the Northern Oregon Coast

Where to stay on the Central Oregon Coast

  • Depoe Bay: Inn at Arch Rock is oceanfront and is closer to the main town. Depoe Bay is a great place to stay for whale-watching in winter.
  • Newport: Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites is oceanfront with balconies and fireplaces. Perfect to watch the ocean from your room.

Where to stay on the Southern Oregon Coast

  • Coos Bay: Bay Point Landing for a glamping experience with Airstreams and luxury cabins.
  • Bandon: Bandon Inn is near the Old Town area, with easy access to shopping and dining.

Travel Tips to visit Oregon Coast during winter

Below are some travel tips to help you plan a memorable trip to the Oregon Coast in the winter season.

  • Check the Weather: Winter on the Oregon Coast can be unpredictable, so keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared for rain and chilly temperatures.
  • Road Conditions: Be aware of road closures and conditions, especially in more remote areas. Carry necessary supplies if you plan to travel off the beaten path.
  • Beach Awareness: Stay informed about local beach conditions, tides, and weather forecasts before heading out. Pay attention to any warning signs posted at beaches. Watch out for rip currents and sneaker waves, which can be especially strong during winter storms.
  • Pack Layers: Dress in layers to stay warm and dry. Don’t forget a waterproof jacket and sturdy footwear for beach walks.
  • Storm Watching: Witness the power of nature by watching winter storms from a safe distance. Depoe Bay and Cape Perpetua offer great viewpoints.
  • Check out Indoor Attractions: Visit museums, aquariums like the Oregon Coast Aquarium, art galleries, and cozy cafes to stay warm and dry on rainy days.
  • Plan Accommodations: Book accommodations in advance, especially if you’re visiting popular coastal towns.

Winter on Oregon Coast wrap-up

In conclusion, a winter visit to the Oregon Coast unveils a different side of its natural beauty and coastal communities. While it may not be the typical sun-soaked beach destination, the quieter ambiance, striking stormy landscapes, and opportunities to connect with nature make it a captivating and rewarding journey.

Whether you’re a storm watcher, a wildlife enthusiast, or simply seeking a peaceful escape by the sea, the Oregon Coast in winter holds its own unique allure and is well worth exploring, offering a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

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