Oregon is celebrating 100 years of public beaches this year — and there’s no better place to celebrate than Siletz Bay.
Here, we found one of the best West Coast beaches for collecting sea shells. We picked up a few, and met grandmothers packing bags full of them. We met an Army veteran with a metal detector, combing the sand.
Driftwood laces the Pacific beach, where most of the shell-watchers walk.
Watch the tides, and you can walk along flat sand for hours. This is the south end of Lincoln City, one of Oregon’s most popular beach destinations.
Lincoln City has almost 8 miles of unbroken, public beach, best-known for kite flying, year-round.
At low tide, you’ll find people “clamming” all along the main beach. (Crabbing and clamming are so good here, the city offers classes in how to catch your own dinner.)
But a second beach, along a tiny “pocket” of Siletz Bay, draws more families, with dogs and youngsters too small for Pacific surf.
They’re drawn to a third, secluded beach, where no humans are allowed: Too many seals haul out here, and park rangers caution visitors from drawing too close, especially when there are pups and moms cuddling on the sand.
Some teens were camping on the beach near the seals’ haul-out, until park rangers stopped by to caution that overnight sleeps aren’t allowed.
We found Siletz Bay by accident, like most of our West Coast adventures.
It was January, and the forecast was for sunny, dry weather, so we were scouting for a hotel on the Central Coast to celebrate a landmark birthday.
We’ve stayed at many hotels along the Oregon Coast, so wanted to try something new. (We rarely stay at the same hotel twice.)
We booked the Looking Glass Inn with our two usual criteria: Location (waterfront) and price (preferably under $100).
First impression: Sweet!
At the front desk, we were asked if this was a special occasion and when we explained it was a 50th birthday, we got an instant upgrade — from a non-view room to an ocean-facing suite. Without asking.
Second impression: The suite had a gas fireplace, big windows facing the bay and ocean, separate living room with cosy couch, mini-kitchen, and a tranquil master bedroom. Again, we didn’t request anything more than a waterfront room.
Best feature: All the beaches are steps from the hotel.
We were walking in the afternoon sun minutes after check-in, enjoying the sand and driftwood.
Then, a light seafood lunch and Oregon beer.
When we returned to the room hours later, hotel management had left a little surprise in a red beach bucket.
Two splits of champagne, two flutes, and a little shovel and pail: Beach party!
This is the kind of generosity that always surprises us along the Oregon Coast.
When we thanked the staff the next morning over breakfast (it’s included), they were very kind, and explained that’s just the way their family-owned business always treats guests.
This, by the way, includes four-legged guests. There are dog treats and water bowls and other little luxuries for furry companions. The Looking Glass Inn means it when it advertises as pet-friendly.
SLEEP: Looking Glass Inn, 861 SW 51st St., just off Hwy. 101, Lincoln City, OR 97367; 800.843.4940/541.966.3996; lookingglass-inn.com. ($89-$129, week days, two-night minimum on weekends. The top price is for a two-bedroom suite.) Continental breakfast included.
EAT: Mo’s is an Oregon standard, so famous for its clam chowder that the stuff is shipped all over the world to clam-less diners. This is one of the better Mo’s eateries, with scenic windows and a spacious dining room (the original Mo’s in nearby Newport has shoulder-to-shoulder seating). Same hearty chowder; same friendly service. Recommended: Grilled salmon ($13.95), local bay shrimp salad in two avocado halves ($8.95), and Rogue Dead Guy Ale (only $5).
PLAY: If beachcombing and marine wildlife watching aren’t enough, drive a few miles south to Cape Foulweather, so-named by Captain Cook in 1778. This was apparently his reaction to the Oregon Coast, after sailing around Hawaii. We’ve seen humpback whales and pelicans there.
From the Looking Glass Inn, it’s a long walk or a short drive to the Siletz Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a jewel of the Oregon Coast for migrating birds, from plovers to great blue herons. Great driftwood sculptures — washed by wind and sea — dot the tidal mudflats here, drawing photographers in all seasons.
TIP FROM WEST COAST WEEKENDS: Thousands of shorebirds fill the salt marsh here in autumn and winter — so many that motorists along the Pacific Coast Scenic Byway stop and gawk. Elk, deer and river otters are common. We’ve been here many times in the off-season, and we’ve always been impressed by the mild weather and fantastic sunsets.