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Yachats, Ore.: Cozy on the Coast

Find waves, whales, and welcome in a seaside village south of Newport, Ore.

  • Gray whale near Yachats, Ore., image
    Photo caption
    A gray whale frolics in the chilly Pacific.
  • Overleaf Lodge hot tub, Yachats, Ore., image
    Photo caption
    The Overleaf Lodge soaking tub is a hot spot for watching wild winter weather.
  • Yachats River estuary, Yachats, Ore., image
    Photo caption
    The Yachats River estuary goes calm at low tide.

Sitting in the Drift Inn Café in Yachats, Ore., as I finish a salad studded with tender Dungeness crab, I’ve got a good view of two shows. In the woodpaneled dining room, a guy on acoustic guitar and a crystalline-voiced gal perform folk-tinged music new and old. Periodically, though, the competing sound of a squall lashing the front window makes all three dozen diners turn to watch the wild ocean. Tucking into a warm marionberry cobbler, I feel as snug as a clam in its shell.

Fall and early winter are great times to experience the cozy charms—dining, art galleries, musical gatherings—of this village of 690 on Oregon’s central coast, about 25 miles south of Newport. And for those who visit Yachats (pronounced YAH-hots) in December or January, wind, waves, and whales put on riveting performances.

While the cold-weather tempests are dramatic, the lulls in between allow for windblown strolls on the 804 Trail, which overlooks pebbly coves and basalt shelves dotted with tide pools. The path makes a fine lookout for spotting the gray whales that, starting in late December, pass by during their 10,000-mile migration. On the area’s many beaches, agate hunters make their best finds after winter storms.

Postwalk warm-ups are easy to come by. The clam-rich slumgullion chowder at Luna Sea Fish House comes fortified with shredded cheese. And smooth, brewed-by-the-cup java with a cashew-vanilla Danish at the Green Salmon Coffee House is guaranteed to stir up a second wind. There are indoor curiosities, too. In the historical museum, a 19th-century crazy quilt boasts elaborate hand-stitching. Specializing in Northwest artists, Earthworks Gallery offers amusing portraits of dairy cows looking like the creations of a bovine-obsessed Van Gogh. The professional photos at Wave Gallery include close-ups of storm-stirred ocean foam resembling whipped cream.

At the Overleaf Lodge, guests fall asleep a stone’s throw from the water. Those who stay there should bring their swimsuits—not for the beach but for the soaking tub, kept at 99 degrees and separated by nothing but glass from storms sweeping the Pacific. It’s a front-row seat that’s hard to beat.

Photography by Leah Hedberg (town); Bob Keller/Wave Gallery (whale); Brandon Cole/GTPhoto (Overleaf Lodge)

This article was first published in November 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.