One of the great delights when visiting Seaside — especially for families — is coming into contact with the otherworldly wonders of the ocean. If you know where and when to look, you’ll discover dozens of intriguingly bizarre creatures right at the water’s edge.
When to go
To plan your exploration, consult a tide table in advance to identify low tide times. To learn how to read a tide table, check out this primer. Ideally, you’ll want to venture out about two hours before low tide to give yourself plenty of time to search. As always, use caution near the ocean. Never turn your back on the water and be mindful of sneaker waves — large coastal waves that can appear without warning.
What you’ll discover
As the tide pulls back, a treasure chest of hidden gems are revealed on the beaches of Seaside. While you can make discoveries along any of its stretches of sand, I particularly like the beach on the north end of The Promenade at 12th Avenue. Here, I’ve made the rarest of Oregon Coast finds — a fully-intact sand dollar that survived the crashing surf of the Pacific. My sons gravitate to creatures like scurrying hermit crabs or washed-up jellies. But perhaps their favorite beach find at low tide is the alien-looking bullwhip kelp. Some kelp can be quite impressive in length, reaching more than 100 feet, if you care to untangle it.
Where to go tide pooling
The best spot for tide pooling in Seaside is on the far south side of the beach near Tillamook Head in a place called “The Cove.” Here, you’ll want to focus your search around the large rocks. Many creatures – sea stars, mussels and barnacles — clamp onto these rocks to survive the heavy surf. The rule of thumb is look but don’t touch, as disturbing these special creatures may kill them. You’ll also find sea cabbage, seaweed, sea moss and kelp. In the pools of water at the base of the rocks, look for small sculpins, hermit crabs and my favorites, sea anemones.
If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking at, use this Oregon State Parks species guide. Or pay a visit before beachcombing to the Seaside Aquarium. One of the oldest aquariums on the West Coast, it boasts a new Discovery Center with a touch tank filled with prickly sea urchins and sandpaper-like sea stars. You also can use the aquarium’s microscopes to glimpse the sea’s tiniest creatures. Best of all, the aquarium staff is on hand to answer all of your questions.
Then head out to the waterline to make your own discoveries. Just remember, take photos instead of souvenirs. Even empty shells provide critical habitat for hermit crabs, limpets and others. By using good beach etiquette, you ensure that all visitors will have something to see at the sea.