The warm beaches of California may seem inviting to those looking to get away from school for a while. But the Oregon coast offers much more to experience in sea life and scenery. In Lincoln City, just two hours from Portland, you’ll find beautiful rocky shores, bright sunny skies, tree-filled sea cliffs—and entire worlds hidden within its waters.
Between the months of March and June, as many as 18,000 gray whales swim past the Oregon coast. They calve during the wintertime in the warm waters of Mexico, and then in the spring they travel to Alaska, where their feeding grounds are located. Since Lincoln City is right on the coast, it is the perfect place to see the whales pass by as they travel north. Anna Redd, a native of Oregon who has been whale watching several times, describes it as “a completely amazing experience. Everybody should go at least once in their life to see these enormous whales coming up out of the water and slamming their flippers down,” Redd says. “It’s unforgettable.”
If you try whale watching from the shore, use a pair of binoculars and have an optimistic heart. But the best way to see these 40–52-foot-long creatures up close is to go out in a boat. “I’ve had times where the whales would approach the boat and even swim right under it,” says Redd. “Then they are only an arm’s length away.”
To get to good whale watching territory, the boat will need to go out at least five miles (and usually much farther) into open water. This means you will be out for an hour or two in strong, cold winds. Be sure to bring a wind-resistant coat and wear many layers so you can enjoy this amazing experience. A boat ride like this typically costs $18–30 for an adult, but as Redd says, it is “something you have to do if you’re in Oregon in the spring.”
While whale watching might be the main objective of your visit, you can have a hands-on experience with the sea life when you go to the beach. All along the shore are huge collections of tide pools, where you can catch tiny sculpin fish and crabs, touch the sticky multicolored anemones, and discover orange and purple starfish. The water of the tide pools warms up in the sun, so even if the ocean is frigid, you can wade right into these large warm pools near the shore.
Devil’s Punch Bowl
If you want to see some larger sea life, you can head over to nearby Devil’s Punch Bowl. This was once a sea cave, but the roof collapsed and the cave became a bowl-shaped enclosure filled with huge rocks. The Punch Bowl and its surrounding area are hot spots for finding seals because they like to rest on the rocks in the sun. If you tread carefully, you can get close enough to almost touch the seals before they slowly plop away.
After a long day on the water, head into the center of Lincoln City, with its long winding streets filled with small specialty shops where you can buy glass trinkets, saltwater taffy, and shells and souvenirs. You can also go to the city’s most popular restaurant, Mo’s, which is famous for its delicious clam chowder and cheesy bread. While it might be too cold to go swimming in the ocean this far north, the Oregon coast offers beautiful scenery and sea life that you just can’t find farther south. So when you’re planning a weekend trip to the West Coast, consider a road trip to somewhere a bit colder with adventures beyond California.
Seattle’s Puget Sound
If you can’t get enough marine adventure in the Pacific Northwest, consider a side trip to Seattle to take in the beautiful Puget Sound. Less than five hours by car from Lincoln City, Seattle offers many boating opportunities for both seasoned seafarers and land-lovers.
The Center for Wooden Boats
At any of the center’s three locations around the city, you’ll find information on Seattle’s marine culture and history as well as inexpensive canoe, kayak, and rowboat rentals. Prices start at just a $5 suggested donation to the center.
The Electric Boat Company
If you’d like to try your hand at crabbing or if you want to hop around the San Juan Islands at your own pace, you can rent a motorboat from the Electric Boat Company starting at $89 per hour with a two-hour minimum rental. Remember to pick up a license if you decide to try crabbing.
The Ducks of Seattle
These recycled World War II amphibious landing crafts are on a mission—to help you have a good time! Prepare yourself for a fun, wacky tour of Seattle both on land and in the water. Adult tickets start at $28.
Seattle Tours offers elegant and informative tours to suit the needs of nearly any visitor. Tours cost anywhere from $30 for a short tour of the nearby lakes to $166 for a five-course dinner and a perfect view of the city.