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Beachcombing on the Oregon Coast

Published: June 21, 2019

Oregon's beaches are especially perfect for long sandy strolls because there are miles of pristine beaches with relatively few people. In 1967 Oregon's Beach Bill secured the public's recreational access to all beaches up to the vegetation line.

The scenic beauty includes dramatic cliffs, evergreen trees, rolling dunes, tidepools and wonderful wildlife. Birds swoop above or hop along the beach, seals or sea lions may be spotted lolling on rocks and during migration, whales spout or breech off shore.

Please do not disturb, feed or interfere with wildlife. During the nesting season of the endangered Western Snowy Plover, March to September, portions of the Siltcoos Estuary are under recreational restrictions. 

Sand dollar by Sally McAleer

The best time to beachcomb is two hours after high tide when the ocean has rolled away leaving new offerings scattered across the shoreline. Consult a tide table to plan an optimal experience. After a storm churns up the sea, items from deeper down or farther out may also be washed up.

What natural treasurers might you find? Driftwood, seaweed, smooth stones, bits of shell, the skeleton of a crab, sea glass, a bird feather or washed up jellyfish. If you are fortunate you might pick up an agate, fossil or piece of petrified wood. Rare glass floats are always an exciting find! And don't worry about any foam lingering as the water recedes. It is not soap or pollution, just organic material whipped frothy by the winds over the waves.

Beachcombing by Sally McAleer

Rockhounds should know there is a limit of one gallon per day for collecting along the Oregon Coast (and only three gallons total within a year). Permits are needed for collecting vertebrate fossils.  

Do not climb or sit on logs along the shoreline as they could roll unexpectedly. And always keep an eye on the ocean watching for sneaker waves.

Driftwood Dream Palace on the Oregon Coast by April Dimmick

Best Beaches for Beachcombing

Beach Clean Up

The popular past-time of leisurely walking along the sandy Oregon shore in search of sea glass, agates, driftwood, baubles and other bounty churned up by the sea now includes potential somber discoveries as items washed away in Japan's 2011 tsunami drift ashore all along the Pacific Coast from Mexico to Alaska. Beachcombers are urged to use caution and show respect when encountering marine debris.

Assisting with beach clean-up is always appreciated. Litter like plastic bottles, buoys, Styrofoam, plastic bags, cans or other garbage can be collected and recycled or appropriately discarded. Documenting large beach deposits with photos, noting date and location, and forwarding to is also helpful. If you encounter large debris or potentially hazardous materials like gas cans or oil drums, call the National Response Center at 800.424.8802. Do not touch them or attempt to remove them yourself.Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint Metal Detecting by Rick Marsh

Metal Detecting

Serious beachcombers enjoy metal detecting for a deeper dive into treasure collecting. Some areas along the beach require permits and some areas do not. Near Florence, the developed areas of Honeyman, the Siltcoos ATV area, North Jetty and Elk Creek Tunnel allow non-permitted metal detecting. 

Oregon State Parks has more information about metal detecting practices and places to go. Please note that when detecting, only small digging tools may be used - like ice picks, screwdrivers or small knives. Shovels are prohibited. All areas must be returned to the original condition after digging and finds with a value greater then $100 must be turned into the park service.

Child beachcombing on the Oregon Coast by Robert PetitAs always, beachcombing is a peaceful and meditative experience punctuated by many delightful discoveries of nature's little treasures. Tread lightly, enjoy the experience, and please leave the beach just like you found it, or even better! We are working hard to save the dunes and you can help.

Author: Taj Barnhart Morgan

Taj Barnhart Morgan is the Director of Content Strategy for Travel Lane County. A journalism graduate from the University of Oregon, Taj has two decades of special event management and hospitality marketing experience in San Diego, CA and Maui, HI. Passionate about mothering, and back to her Oregon roots, she is discovering the Eugene, Cascades & Coast region all over again through the eyes of her daughter.