Yes, the water is chilly here in the Northwest. But the waves can be as sweet as any found in California. And thanks to insulated wet suits (you’ll want 4/3 mm thickness or better), plenty of places to rent gear and a laid-back vibe, Oregon’s surf scene has exploded. Oswald West State Park — aka Short Sands — has a sheltered cove and a forgiving beach break that make it a welcoming spot for newbies. At Cape Kiwanda State Natural Area, take in views of Haystack Rock (one of three so-named sea stacks on the coast) and migrating whales. For group or private lessons, gear rentals and multiday surf camps, head north to Oregon Surf Adventures.
Some of the most incredible sea life on the Oregon coast is visible right along the shore. At low tide, neon-bright sea anemones, sea stars and crabs of all sizes become temporarily marooned in tide pools, to the delight of avid beachcombers and casual day-trippers alike. The pools at Tolovana Beach State Recreation Site sit beneath Cannon Beach’s scenic Haystack Rock and are often patrolled by knowledgeable park rangers. For DIY explorations, head to “the Cove” in Seaside. At the south end of the beach, various hidden pools teem with everything from purple urchins to acorn-like barnacles. Remember to consult local tide charts and watch your step in these sensitive natural areas.
For the original Oregon chowder spot, stop in at Mo’s Chowder. Classic and hearty, Mo’s soup swirls with bits of bacon and a dollop of butter, and has drawn legions of devotees for better than 60 years. (Expect a wait, even at Mo’s branch restaurants in Cannon Beach, Lincoln City and Otter Rock.) The masses haven’t quite caught up to the Tsunami Bar and Grill, but with a recipe flavored with shrimp, clams, crab, and a peppery kick, it’s only a matter of time before Tsunami’s secret is out. Bonus: Every order comes with a killer view of Nehalem Bay.