The Oregon coastline can be easily dismissed as a summer destination, deterring hordes of beachgoers from frequenting the seaside from December to February. But the winter in Gearhart holds magical appeal for those seeking the quieter side of the coast, the wilder side of nature, and the best of local seafood.
- Savor the Seafood
Starting with the seafood, winter is all about fresh mussels and shellfish on the Northern Oregon Coast. Coastal communities like Gearhart and Cannon Beach are prime spots for finding the best of the grub. Winter is the season for Dungeness crab and oysters, plus you can enjoy the clams found year-round in the area. Many folks enjoy fishing for their own right off the beaches and piers. But, if you’re looking for crab pots and seafood at a restaurant, these are the best:
Best Seafood Restaurants in Clatsop County:
- McMenamins Sand Trap Bar & Grill in Gearhart
- The Crabby Oyster in Seaside
- Bowpicker Fish & Chips in Astoria
- The Wayfarer Restaurant in Cannon Beach
- Maggie’s On the Prom in Seaside
- Scout for the Gearhart Elk
The local herd of Roosevelt elk is an icon of Gearhart, and this wildlife living in the village is easiest to spot in winter. With fewer cars and people around during the low season, they start to meander into town via the U.S. Highway 101. Due to conservation efforts, the endemic elk population has grown to nearly 200 head, so they aren’t difficult to spot. But please remember to observe them from a safe distance when they are in open areas. The elk are frequently reported near the Gearhart Golf Links, while the Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area near Seaside is also an excellent viewing option.
- Snuggle up for a sea storm
It may not snow very often in Gearhart, but there is certainly a distinct season during December through February. The storm season! A favorite pastime for locals is to snuggle up with a hot drink next to a bonfire and watch the storm swells rise over the Pacific. Beach bonfires are allowed in Gearhart, but you must acquire a permit, and you can’t burn driftwood, and must have a fire well away from coastal grass.
Places to find bonfires in Gearhart:
- Outdoor fire ring at Gearhart Hotel
- Vacation rentals at Gearhart by the Sea
Watch for Pacific gray whales
The Pacific gray whales raise their tails along the Oregon coast from mid-December to mid-January during the first round of their migration. Currently, as many as 20,000 gray whales from Alaska head south, searching for food and warmer seas for breeding. This potentially equates to 30 whale sightings per hour during the whale season. However, during this part of their migration, they usually stay about 5 miles offshore. Therefore, the best glimpses are often from higher up via designated hikes with ideal viewpoints.
Best hikes for whale watching in Oregon:
- Neahkahnie Mountain Viewpoint
- Clatsop Loop Trail
- Ecola Point to Indian Beach Hike
- Holiday events in Gearhart & beyond
Because it’s the offseason, Gearhart and the surrounding communities take on an incredibly nostalgic vibe. More or less, it’s the local’s season, but it’s also prime time for holiday gatherings, and there is certainly no shortage of those. Mosey around town to see some of these favorites:
Clatsop County holiday events:
- Window Displays & Holiday Lights from November 29-December 20th in Cannon Beach
- Lamp Lighting Ceremony at Sandpiper Square in Cannon Beach on Dec. 4th at 4 pm
- The annual Festival of Trees & gala on Dec. 7th starting at 10 am in Seaside
- Old-Fashioned Christmas at the Flavel House Museum in Astoria on Dec. 20th, 6-8 pm
- Holiday Foods Around the World: December 27th – 30th in Cannon Beach
- Tee off on the atmospheric greens
Gearhart is famous for golfing and that doesn’t change come wintertime. In fact,
Gearhart Golf Links remains open year-round, and the offseason is one of the best times to enjoy the popular greens all to yourself. Plus, the green fees are the lowest they’ll get all year.