The pacific northwest coast is not known for its picturesque winters, or the sublime beauty of its falls. Mainly, the falls are rainy, and you get at most, a few weeks of beautiful fall colors before the rain turns it all into mud and rotting leaves on the ground. And winters? Pretty much more rain, but a little colder. But like any enterprising area, bad coastal weather has been turned into a tourist-draw.
Namely, storm watching. Lots of places along the north-west coast have come up with storm watching packages for the fall and winter season. The idea is lovely, watching a storm rage off the coast somewhere warm, or even braving the storm for a little bit, and then retreating. Here’s ten places with great storm watching opportunities.
10. Mendocino, California
Mendocino, California’s a few hours north of San Francisco, a picturesque town in the summer, surrounded by redwoods and stunning beaches. The beaches range from traditional elongated crescent beaches to the strange, like Bowling Ball Beach, where the tidal action erodes and deposits large, bowling-ball shaped rocks along the low tide line. The climate lends itself to long Indian summers, so their storm season comes a bit later than others, lasting from December to February. But the wait is worth it- those beaches that are so picturesque in the summer? Become wind-tossed homes to waves of up to twenty-five feet in the winter! Mendocino’s also got a wide range of lodging options, so you’ve can take your pick, from inns in heritage houses to eco-friendly escapes to luxury hotels with included spas. And even better, Mendocino also has a range of vineyards, so you can pick up a bottle of something delicious to enjoy while watching the storm!
9. Monterey, California
Monterey’s a classic California beach town, with attractions from camping, hiking, whale-watching and a famous aquarium. However, they’re not unfamiliar with the storm watching trend. Locals reportedly call storm watchers ‘extreme beachgoer’s, which is really the best name for people who willingly go to the beach in near-horizontal pouring rain. The best option for storm watchers in Monterey is Asilomar Beach, in the state park. It’s a beach stretching 1.6 miles, giving you plenty of room to watch the clouds roil in. And if you get a calm day, Asilomar’s worth a visit anyways, since harbour seals hang out on the beach on calmer days.
8. Bandon-by-the-Sea, Oregon
Bandon-by-the-Sea’s a beautiful little town, with many beaches, that become theaters for the sky during the powerful winter storms. The best place to watch these storms is at Bullards Beach. It’s a twelve-thousand acre park two miles north of town, and calls itself “the storm watching Capital of the World”, which is always a good sign. The beaches are decorated by sea stacks, spires and other breathtaking rock formations, which enhance the spectacle of winter storms. These storms can come with hurricane force winds, and the force of the waves hitting the rocks and the shore can catapult spray up to 200 yards straight up, so be careful!
7. Depoe Bay, Oregon
Depoe Bay’s main claim to tourism fame is its whale watching, thanks to a pod of grey whales that stays in the waters off the shore for up to ten months year. But the geology on the little town’s coast makes for great storm watching in the winter. Alongside harsh winds and giant waves, Depoe Bay’s storms are further enhanced by the Spouting Horns, a pair of lava tubes in the coastlines that funnel great quantities straight up into the air.
6. Yachats, Oregon
Yachats (pronounced ‘YAH-hots’), Oregon is the perfect getaway town, tucked away between the forests of the Coast Range and the beauty of the Pacific Ocean. And in the winter, it becomes the perfect place to watch some storms (December to March especially). Yachats distinguishes itself from other storm watching hotspots with the violence of its storms, where it’s heavier storms are capable of flinging logs onto the beach, so storm watchers are warned to watch the storms from the crest above the beaches. Or, you could do away with raingear altogether, and watch the storm from one of the numerous ocean view hotels. The Adobe Hotel Resort has one of the most beguiling options: the Oceanside whirlpool suites, where you can watch a storm while soaking in a Jacuzzi. The storms in Yachats, like with Depoe Bay, gain a little something extra thanks to lava structures that line the shores, breaking the waves in exciting new ways. The stormy season also provides exciting opportunities for beachcombers, as the violent storms can deposit agates, eroded from the cliffs, on the beach.
5. Ocean Shores, Washington
Ocean Shores, in Washington, is a resort community with escape and luxury in mind. It recently opened its first five-star hotel, the Collin’s Inn, and it’s perfectly situated for storm watching. Built near the Ocean Shore Jetty, it provides a perfect vantage point to watch the storms roll in. And roll in they do: with winds of up to 100 miles per hour and waves that can reach up to three stories high! The strength of the storms owes a lot to pineapple expresses, where warm, moisture heavy atmospheric currents from Hawaii are blown towards the west coast, where the changes in temperature and pressure cause heavy rains and wind.
4. La Push, Washington
If you’ve seen Twilight, you’ve seen La Push’s First beach. It was there that Bella and Edward opened their hearts to one another …and really, the storms at First Beach are way more interesting. The storm watching season lasts from about November to April, and is stunning. The combination of rocky shores and sea stacks makes the storms off the beaches positively primordial. And if you just want to watch the weather, not experience it, there’re plenty of options. The best is likely the Quileute Oceanside Resort, a luxury hotel with thirty-three ocean front cabins. The resort even offers a storm watching package, which includes a free third night, and a coffee and chocolate gift-basket.
3. Cape Disappointment, Washington
Don’t let the name fool you- Cape Disappointment’s anything but when it comes to storm watching. The cape’s where the Columbia River and Pacific Ocean meet, which can lead to violent waters in storm season. Waikiki Beach, on the peninsula, offers some of the best storm watching in the state. You can stay in the Cape Disappointment state park itself, which rents a handful of yurts and cabins within walking distance to the beach. From Waikiki beach, you can watch the waves roll into the beach, or crash into the nearby cliffs, on top of which sits the historic Cape Disappointment Lighthouse.
2. Ucluelet, British Columbia
Ucluelet’s just a short drive from the other major hub of Canadian storm watching, Tofino, but it holds its own. The storm season for Ucluelet lasts from November to March. At the season’s peak, Ucluelet can get ten to fifteen storms a month. And these storms can be mind-boggling: seventy kilometers per hour winds, ten foot waves and sheeting rain makes for quite the spectacle. There’s plenty of options for where to stay in Ucluelet, from camping to resorts, meaning you can pick just how rugged you want to get. The nearby Wild Pacific Trail goes past Amphitrite Lighthouse, which apparently has water go over it, in particularly bad storms. The town edges on Pacific Rim National Park, and is nearby the Wild Pacific Trail as well, so you can wander some of British Columbia’s most beautiful scenery on calm days. Or you could browse the local shops, if you’ve had enough of nature.
1. Tofino, British Columbia
Tofino, on the far west side of Vancouver Island, has thrown itself wholeheartedly into the storm watching trend. While it’s already beloved by surf fans for its waves, the waters are a little different during the November to March storm season (peaking in December to February), and they earn their title as the ‘graveyard of the pacific’. Even on calm days, the effects of the storm season are visible, in the wind-warped trees along the shore. And when you’re done with the beach and storms, Tofino has a lot to offer, from fine dining to fascinating boutiques. Several of the hotels, offer storm watching packages, like the Wickaninnish Inn’s, which comes with guide books, a nature walk, rain gear and drinks.