When you imagine a classic beach town, you probably picture something similar to Seaside, Oregon. Our town of 6,700 sits less than 90 minutes from Portland and offers a walkable downtown core full of restaurants, pubs, arcade games, carnival rides, and other family-friendly attractions that make it a fun and exciting getaway—no matter the time of year.
And while you’ll literally rub elbows with fellow visitors along Broadway every summer, winter just might be the best time to visit Seaside. Free from crowds, the quiet community offers great deals on comfortable accommodations, no shortage of natural beauty, and plenty of opportunities to see the rugged coast in a whole new light.
So if you’re considering a weekend getaway as the rains arrive, here are five tips for enjoying winter in Seaside.
1. Take Advantage of the Seasonal Perks
Winter means more parking along Broadway, fewer competitors for Fascination tables at the Funland Arcade, and a shorter wait for the world-class pork belly banh mi at the Osprey Café. You have the Prom to yourself while enjoying a sunset, and you won’t sit through several red lights on your way into town.
We know you love noshing on cotton candy over spring break and sticking your feet into the sand every summer, but we think you’ll also enjoy smaller crowds and a more intimate vibe that comes with the quieter, more laid-back winter season.
Better yet: The smaller crowds also mean off-season rates at your favorite hotels, motels, and B&Bs. So why not upgrade to that beachfront suite? You deserve it.
2. Warm Up With a Cup of Coffee
Is there any better feeling than warming up and getting cozy over a steaming cup of coffee? We think not, so we’d recommend spending a morning at one of Seaside’s relaxing places to grab some coffee.
With a funky blend of couches and lounge chairs, Seaside Coffee Roasting Company delivers a comfortable atmosphere that recalls a lived-in home. Local artwork lines the walls, vintage bicycles sit on display, and visitors can choose from numerous books and magazines for waiting out that passing rainstorm. It’s a great place to meet with locals if you’re looking to chat or get some inside info on the upcoming activities for the day. You’ll also find plenty of specialty drinks beyond just coffee.
Elsewhere, Beach Day Coffee sits at the foot of Broadway, mere steps from Seaside’s stretch of sand. In addition to the prime location, Beach Day Coffee features locally roasted coffee, espresso, and home-baked goodies in a bright, modern interior.
On the south end of town, the Osprey Cafe also has some of the finest espresso-based coffee on the North Coast. If the weather’s nice, it’s a great place to grab an Americano or mocha and go walk north on the prom or along the beach to the Cove.
3. Dig for Dinner
Head out to the beach on any given winter weekend, and you’ll see dozens of rubber boot-wearing clam diggers patrolling the shore, looking for dime-sized divots that signal a razor clam just below the surface.
According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the beaches between Seaside and the mouth of the Columbia River account for 95 percent of Oregon’s razor clam harvest every year. It’s easy for new diggers to join the fun: Once you’ve learned what to look for—divots and V-shaped streams in the sand, generally speaking—just get a license, a shovel or clam gun, bucket, and some kind of waterproof footwear…and start digging.
Clam diggers must keep the first 15 they catch—and, while cleaning takes time, it’s a fun way to experience Oregon’s famous seafood scene and embrace the “locavore” ethos for which the state is known. One quick note: Clam season is occasionally postponed due to an insufficient number of mature clams. Make sure it’s open season before you go.
4. Witness Nature’s Wrath (Safely, Of Course)
Forget the Kardashians: Mother Nature puts on her own reality show every winter as storms roll in off the Pacific Ocean and collide with the rugged Oregon Coast.
Some of those waves can reach 50 feet high–or taller–making the wide-open coastline at Seaside’s feet an ideal spot for winter storm-watching. Seaside has a few restaurants with a view, in addition to beachfront hotels and vacation rentals, so you’re never far from the action when the rain rolls in and waves crash into the shore.
Feel free to head out to the beach itself for the closest views. Just make sure you’re dressed for the weather and watch from a safe distance.
5. Watch for Whales
Whales regularly swim up and down the Oregon Coast, but winter is one of the best times of year to spot some of the 20,000 gray whales that migrate along the coast every year. While whales migrate all winter long, you’re most likely to spot a gray whale in December and January. And if you’re watching for that distinctive spout, there are few better outposts than Ecola State Park and Tillamook Head, which sits at the southern edge of Seaside.
If you’re up for a challenging hike, make your way on the hardy trail along Tillamook Head for wide-open ocean views—not to mention views of the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, also known as “Terrible Tilly,” which sits more than a mile offshore.
Written by Matt Wastradowski in partnership with the City of Seaside Visitors Bureau.