There’s nothing like the child-like curiosity that comes from peering into the shallow waters of tide pools and discovering the vast ocean’s mysteries.
Scrambling across the rocks emerging from the water, you see starfish, sea-urchins, crabs, and fish–the wonders of the ocean are right in front of you!
Berty and I travel to the Oregon Coast nearly every month, and on every visit, we scour the coast to find the best places to see marine life up close!
Keep reading to learn more about the best Oregon coast tide pools, what kinds of creatures you’ll find, and how you can safely participate in this fun outdoor activity!
- What are tide pools?
- What is the best time to visit tide pools?
- Top Visiting Tips For Tide Pool Etiquette
- The 15 Best Oregon Coast Tide Pools To Explore On Your Next Coastal Vacation
- 1. Cannon Beach
- 2. Cape Kiwanda
- 3. Hug Point & Arcadia Beach
- 4. Cape Perpetua
- 5. Harris Beach State Park
- 6. Strawberry Hill (Florence, Oregon)
- 7. Seal Rock State Park
- 8. Yachats State Recreation Area
- 9. Devil’s Punchbowl / Otter Rock
- 10. Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint
- 11. Coos Bay (Cape Arago / Sunset Bay / Shore Acres)
- 12. Short Sand Beach (Oswald West State Park)
- 13. Short Beach in Oceanside, Oregon
- 14. Neptune State Park
- 15. Heceta Head Lighthouse
- 16. Bob Creek Wayside
What are tide pools?
Tide pools are isolated pockets of seawater found in the ocean’s intertidal zone.
Tide pools are created when rocks and geological formations like sea stacks trap ocean water when they recede.
At low tide, marine life endures the sun, low oxygen, predators, and an increasing water temperature.
At high tide, tide pool residents are bathed in fresh seawater but are more exposed to foraging fish.
These pools are a small ecosystem on their own and have prime living conditions for sturdy creatures that cling to the rocks like barnacles, snails, and mussels.
Tide pools are also perfect for microorganisms like plankton, due to the plethora of replenishing nutrients from the ebb and flow of sea waves, and crabs, who love to hide under rocks.
What is the best time to visit tide pools?
The best time to visit tide pools on the Oregon coast (and elsewhere!) is two hours before low tide.
Visiting tide pools two hours before the low tide will give you plenty of time to explore the area and leave before the water risese again and covers them up.
Make sure to check the tide charts before heading out to visit tide pools to figure out high and low tides for your specific destination and date.
Take a look at the Oregon coast tide charts here. (You’ll have to input your final destination to get the most accurate results)
Top Visiting Tips For Tide Pool Etiquette
Wear Water-Safe Shoes: Closed-toed shoes (like these water-safe ones) will protect your feet from getting cut on sharp rocks. As always, double-check your footing before committing to a spot to prevent slipping.
Step On Bare Rocks: This prevents killing any marine life that clings to the surface.
Leave Them Be! Do not collect wildlife or take anything from tide pools or the beach. Never force an animal off of its spot. If it doesn’t want to release its grip, leave it be.
Collect Garbage: Bring an extra plastic bag and collect any garbage you encounter.
Never Turn Your Back To The Ocean: Watch the tide for ‘sneaker’ waves and be alert to the ocean’s position at all times.
Peek, But Put Back: If you care to peek under a rock, put it back exactly how you found it to preserve organisms living on the shady underside.
What kind of sea life can I expect to see on the Oregon Coast?
In Oregon coast tide pools, you can expect to see a breadth of marine life!
Some of the most common tide pool residents include sea stars, sea urchins, anemones, barnacles, limpets, mussels, snails, hermit crabs, shore crabs, sand crabs, Dungeness crab, sculpin, sand dollar, nudibranch, and chiton, and sea slaters!
Other animals that can wash up on beaches near tide pools include jellyfish and other gel-like blobs!
If you’re lucky, you might even catch sight of a whale or harbor seal in the distance or hear the calls of sea lions lazing about the rocks of the Oregon coast.
The 15 Best Oregon Coast Tide Pools To Explore On Your Next Coastal Vacation
1. Cannon Beach
While Cannon Beach is known for the infamous Haystack Rock, this beach also has tons of wonderful spots for tide pools where you’ll find animals like sea stars, Giant Green Anemone, and crabs!
Some of the best tide pooling at Cannon Beach is at Silver Point (great view of Haystack Rock!), Indian Beach, and Ecola Point.
To access Ecola Point, hike an easy 1.25 miles from the main parking lot at Ecola State Park to the beach.
From the beach and during extremely low tides, you can also reach Ecola Point by walking from the south of the beach around Chapman Point.
Just make sure you leave enough time to exit before the tide comes in!
2. Cape Kiwanda
Found in Pacific City, Oregon, Cape Kiwanda State Park’s tide pools hold many creatures like Aggregate Anemone, Purple Sea Urchin, and Tidepool Sculpin!
At Cape Kiwanda, you’ll climb up a steep sand dune to the sandstone headland, featuring twisting rocks and crevices.
The closest access point for visiting tide pools at Cape Kiwanda is from the parking lot of the state park and venturing just north to the base of the sand dune.
There are also tide pools on the other side of Cape Kiwanda Natural Area, on the southern side of McPhillips Beach.
Make sure to stay on the safe side of the fences to avoid crumbling rocks and make it safely down to the beach!
3. Hug Point & Arcadia Beach
Found in Arch Cape, Oregon, Hug Point, and Arcadia Beach are two wonderful Oregon beaches with tide pools.
Hug Point Recreation Site offers easy access to the beach, just 5 miles south of Cannon Beach, and includes picnic areas, restrooms, a seasonal waterfall, and a walkway to the sandy cove beach.
Arcadia Beach is situated just north of Hug Point and can be accessed by a short, but steep trail in Arcadia Beach State Recreation Site right off of Highway 101 that cannot be missed!
The parking area is small though rarely crowded. It is situated right by the beach so your walk to the ocean will be short, but it is a little steep.
Some highlights of Arcadia Beach are sea stacks and sea caverns, which are exposed during low tide!
4. Cape Perpetua
Cape Perpetua is found along Highway 101 and can be easily accessed from the parking lot of Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.
5. Harris Beach State Park
One of Oregon’s seven Marine Gardens, Harris Beach State Park’s tide pools are abundant in sea life, including anemones and hermit crabs!
To see the tide pools of Harris Beach State Park, you can either walk along a short trail to the beach, which is found by the nearby campground area, or you can reach the beach from the parking lot of the state park.
Remember that because this area is protected, nothing can be removed from Harris Beach State Park!
6. Strawberry Hill (Florence, Oregon)
Some of the most common residents along the rugged beach of Strawberry Hill include anemones, sea stars, and harbor seals!
To reach Strawberry Hill, follow the walkway and stairs down to the beach from the parking area to reach a rock terrace jutting into the ocean.
From here, you can go left to explore the cove-shaped small beach or go right for a longer, but narrower shoreline with volcanic ledges, sea caves, cobbles, and sand.
7. Seal Rock State Park
You can access Seal Rock State Park’s beaches from a short trail that is steep in areas.
While you access the beach by trail, Seal Rock State Park features an ADA-accessible viewpoint at the midway point on the trail with views of the tidepools and beach!
Pack yourself some food, hop in the car and make your way to this pleasant beach for an Oregon coast picnic under shore pine, spruce, and salal.
8. Yachats State Recreation Area
Yachats State Recreation Area is a small town park that is right off of Ocean View Road.
To get to the beach at Yachats State Recreation Area, follow the steep path down to the rocky intertidal area where you’ll find tide pools full of sealife.
Not up for a hike? Take in the ocean views and maybe catch a glimpse of a whale spout from the easily-accessible viewing platform instead.
9. Devil’s Punchbowl / Otter Rock
At low tide, you can hike down to the shore and go into the Devil’s Punchbowl, which is a hollow rock formation created by the collapse of sea caves and eroded by the restless ocean.
The best tide pools are on the north side of the Devil’s Punchbowl to Otter Crest Beach/Otter Rock Marine Garden, where you’ll find intriguing geological formations, sea stars, and maybe a spotting of a whale as well.
10. Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint
Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint is a great tide pool location along the Oregon coast that is rich in Native American history and legend.
It is said that you can hear a maiden’s voice on the wind, and when standing on the cliff overlooking the ocean at Face Rock, you can see a face on the sea stack!.
To reach the beach, follow the well-kept trail and stairs to Bandon Beach and explore the boulders and sea stacks at low tide.
Specifically, take a look at the north side of Face Rock State Scenic Viewpoint to Coquille Point where you’ll find even more opportunities to explore tide pools!
11. Coos Bay (Cape Arago / Sunset Bay / Shore Acres)
Located in Coos County, Oregon, Coos Bay has numerous spots for getting in some good tide pool adventures.
Better yet, all three of these tide pooling locations in Coos Bay are very close to one another, so pack your bags for a fun day trip to these Oregon tide pools.
To reach Cape Arago’s tide pools, follow Cape Arago Highway out of Coos Bay for 15 miles to the south of Coos Bay.
You can access the beach at Sunset Bay from the parking lot of the park and by a network of easy trails that connects Cape Arago, Sunset Bay, and Shore Acres.
Featuring sandstone cliffs above the ocean, Shore Acres celebrates the beauty of the vast ocean. The shore here isn’t really accessible, but you can watch marine life at Simpson’s Reef Overlook, specifically, a rock dubbed “sea lion hotel” for its many mammal residents!
Shore Acres can be reached by the Cape Arago Highway or through the trail system that runs through all three of these parks!
12. Short Sand Beach (Oswald West State Park)
To access the cobbled shores of Short Sand Beach from the main parking lot of Oswald West State Park, walk under Highway 101 and down the trail, following Short Sand Creek.
Cross the creek on a railroad bridge to a picnic area overlooking the beach, where you can also access Short Sand Beach.
In the forests nearby the beach, you’ll find yourself among one of the best-preserved rainforests in Oregon, with ferns, Salal, Salmonberry, Western Red Cedar, Western Hemlock, and Sitka Spruce growing abundantly in the perfect coastal conditions.
13. Short Beach in Oceanside, Oregon
To reach the rocky ledges of Short Beach, you will have to hike 0.25 miles down a semi-developed trail of stairs to the beach.
To access the hidden cove along the southern end of Short Beach, cross through the tunnel at low tide to see the tide pools at Tunnel Beach (but take extreme caution as this trail doesn’t have direct access to the beach and you can easily get caught by the incoming tide at this secluded pocket beach!).
An easier way to access Tunnel Beach is from Oceanside Beach, and accessing Tunnel Beach to the north.
Here, you’ll find tons of starfish that live on the sea stacks, and if you’re lucky to catch extreme minus tides, you’ll see even more of the vast marine gardens!
Keep your eye out for some agates at Short Beach/Tunnel Beach as well to take home a wonderful beach treasure!
14. Neptune State Park
There are four access points to Neptune State Park from pull-offs on Highway 101.
The second pull-off at Neptune State Park is labeled Neptune (after Gwynn Creek), which leads to a gorgeous lookout above the beach where you can see Cummins creek and wildlife like sea lions, deer, and a variety of birds!
To access the beach from Neptune, walk south from the lookout to see a natural cave and explore the tide pools.
15. Heceta Head Lighthouse
Perched 1,000 feet atop Heceta Head, Heceta Head Lighthouse stands proudly above the crashing waves and towering sea stacks.
Heceta Head is a great location to get a picture of the past at the historic lighthouse and bed and breakfast, but it is also a beautiful spot for hiking and tide pooling.
Heceta Head’s tide pools are easy to access from the parking lot of the park and show up at extremely low tides.
Here you’ll find views of a large Highway 101 bridge, an arch-like sea stack (seen from the viewpoint by Heceta Head Lighthouse), tons of moss, and the usual colorful tide pool critters!
16. Bob Creek Wayside
Bob Creek Wayside is another fun coastal spot that features Oregon coast tide pools.
The closest access point to Bob Creek Wayside is at a turnout 10 minutes south of Yachats.
Bob Creek Wayside is a great place to tide pool because even if you’re late for low tide, the basalt rocks still remain accessible!
What are some of your favorite Oregon coast tide pools? Did we miss any of your favorites? Share them in the comments!