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Answers to Our Most Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Storm Watching

Answers to Our Most Frequently Asked Questions About Winter Storm Watching

Thu, Oct 28, 2021

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“Spectacular!” “Photos do not do it justice” “Breathtaking” “This is nature’s beauty at its best.” These are just a handful of comments we’ve heard visitors say after watching a winter storm on Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston. It’s a thing here, we call it storm watching season! The magnificent waves resulting from winter storms over the Pacific Ocean put on quite a show, sometimes soaring up to 300 feet when they crash into the rugged coastline. Winter Storm Watching is so popular with travelers, that we even have a special! Save 15% on lodging at participating properties with our storm watching lodging special until February 28, 2022!

We get a lot of questions at the visitors center about storm watching season. In this post, we’ll address our commonly asked questions.

What is Winter Storm Watching?

Winter storm watching is an annual natural event that happens during the fall and winter on the Oregon coast. When Pacific storms rage in winter, ocean swells of up to 35 feet frequently result in a magicient show as they crash into the rugged cliffs of our coastline. This video will give you a better idea of what this looks like:

Is Winter Storm Watching Dangerous?

Excellent question! It’s exciting to get close to the action, but it can become hazardous very quickly if you get too close or are not careful. While no viewing location is completely safe, there are designated areas on Oregon’s Adventure Coast (more about that below) where visitors are high above the water and can experience the storm at a distance.

Never turn your back to the ocean and stay away from surf zones and off of jetties, as these can be especially dangerous during a winter storm. Beaches may become hazardous due to dangerous surf conditions. Read Take Care Out There, Be Wave Safe and Enjoy Your Time on Oregon’s Adventure Coast for more important safety information.

Where are the Best Places to Safely Watch the Winter Storms?

Shore Acres State Park is considered the premier storm watching spot on the entire Oregon Coast. Perched on top of an 80 foot cliff, this location allows for a safer distance above the waves while enjoying fantastic views. The park also has a storm watching hut where visitors can view winter storms. Other storm watching options on Oregon’s Adventure Coast include the bluff overlooking Bastendorff Beach, Sunset Bay State Park and other parks along the Cape Arago Beach Loop.

So it’s not Safe to Watch From an Undesignated Area? What About the People in Your Photos?

The people in our photos are watching from designated viewing areas and are safe. The angle of the camera sometimes makes them appear closer than they actually are. Do not stray from these viewing areas for a better view. There is always risk involved whenever you are close to the sea, especially during unpredictable weather events, so we’ll say it again (we can’t say it enough): Never turn your back to the ocean and always watch from safe viewing areas. Be sure to read this post on how to safely view and photograph the sensational show the Pacific Ocean puts on throughout the winter months.

What are King Tides?

The King Tides are winter’s three highest tide sequences on the Oregon Coast. The dates for this year’s King Tides are November 5-7, 2021; December 3-5, 2021; and January 1-3, 2022. Some visitors watch the King Tides in hopes of a spectacular show, while others come as “citizen scientists” to photograph and document the effects of the high tides for the Oregon King Tides Project, now in its 12th year. You can find tips and suggestions online at the Oregon King Tides website.

How Do We Know When a Winter Storm is Rolling In?

Prime storm watching conditions tend to happen between November and March. Check the local, extended forecast and/or weather websites like National Weather Service, AccuWeather and Northwest Weather Network, and pack your bags when swells of 20-30 feet are predicted. You can also follow our Facebook Page to find out when winter storms are coming. Only Mother Nature can plan these wild winter storms, so we just have to keep an eye on the weather! For those who like to plan ahead, you might want to consider a trip to Oregon’s Adventure Coast: Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston when the King Tides are in.

Will I Get Wet?

We’re talking about the Oregon coast during heavy waves, so yes, it can get soggy. Make sure you pack quality rain gear along with light, windproof and waterproof jackets and sweaters to help keep the cool, damp wind out. Don’t forget rainproof shoes or boots!

Can Kids Enjoy Winter Storm Watching & King Tides?

Winter Storm Watching can be fun for kids, as long as they follow all safety precautions and watch the storms from a designated area. It is not safe to wander the beaches or explore hiking spots close to the water during King Tides or winter storms. Never let children play on logs, stand on rocks or driftwood. Be sure to obey all warning signs and barricades. Visitors could potentially be trapped suddenly by rising water and/or a sneaker wave, so plan an escape route and stay close to it.

Is Winter Storm Watching Safe for Pets?

Oregon’s Adventure Coast is a pet friendly destination and we encourage folks to bring their well-behaved four-legged friends. However, it is not a good idea to bring them during winter storms and/or King Tides. Your pet(s) won’t appreciate the sights and sounds of the crashing waves in the same way you would, and these storms could possibly frighten them. We’ve heard too many stories about folks experiencing rising water and/or a sneaker wave while hiking on the beach with their pets during storm season, so we advise leaving them home or boarding them in one of our local boarding facilities where they will be safe.

Other than Storm Watching, is there Anything to Do on Oregon’s Adventure Coast During the Winter?

There is never a dull day when you live near the mighty Pacific Ocean and there’s plenty to do in the winter! Research some itineraries or trip ideas, or follow Oregon’s Adventure Coast Facebook to source suggestions on the best spots to visit, eat, stay and explore. You can also find inspiration by following @travelcoosbay on Instagram & Twitter!

Other Tips

  • Binoculars can enhance viewing of the spectacular waves and for potential gray whale sightings in December and January.
  • Be aware that some locations, like state parks, may charge a fee for access. Shore Acres State Park charges a $5/vehicle fee. Be sure to bring cash or display your State Park Annual Pass!
  • Carry plenty of water and snacks, especially if you’re traveling with kids.
  • Bring a printed map in case cell service is limited in certain outdoor areas.

Want more ideas? Subscribe to our e-newsletter for travel ideas and inspiration on Oregon’s Adventure Coast delivered right to your inbox! For more travel inspiration, visit our Adventures page and our Trip Ideas page to discover all there is to do on Oregon’s Adventure Coast! Or request a visitor’s packet today.

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Editor’s Note: As the developments in Coronavirus (COVID-19) continue to unfold, please follow the direction of our public health authorities, including the CDC, Oregon Health Authority, and Coos Health & Wellness, to protect yourself, our community and our visitors.

If you are ready to travel, we are ready to welcome you back to Oregon’s Adventure Coast. However, if you are feeling ill or not comfortable traveling right now, we encourage you to stay home and stay healthy. Let’s all do our part to stop the spread of COVID-19. Click here for more information.

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(541) 269-0215
50 Central Ave, Coos Bay, OR 97420

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