The beach in January? Absolutely! Locals know you need to dress warmly, expect that if you wear a baseball hat that it will go flying off with the wind gusts, where waterproof shoes, gloves, and have a nice hot cup of coffee in hand, just because.
Winter weather can be a surprise – it might be socked in gray and cloudy, or it might be bright blue skies. Those in-between days are the best with stormy clouds mixed with sun breaks. They make for the best photos. Winds will stir up the foam in the water as it rolls ashore, making for puffy white blobs of bubbles scooting across the sandy beach. Different beaches seem to accumulate different objects -a few I’ve found for example is that Lincoln City beach seems to have a lot of river debris (sticks, grasses) Salishan beach gets a lot of logs, Pacific City a lot of sand and sea foam, Oceanside a lot of small rocks at low tide, Cape Meares had a lot of pelicans, Cannon Beach has more people, while Gearhart has more elk. Every beach has its own personality and you’ll want to explore them all and find your perfect beach!
This year, the drive over the coastal range has been pretty good – up until the winter storm that rolled in around January 8th. Driving to the beach from the I-5 corridor is generally not too bad in winter, but you will want to check with either TripCheck or ODOT for Oregon travel, or WSDOT in Washington for road conditions.
Approximate elevations at their highest point on the highway passes over the Oregon Coast Range:
Hwy 26 – Portland towards Seaside/Cannon Beach is about 1,500 feet
Hwy 6 – Forest Grove towards Tillamook is about 1,500 feet
Hwy 22 – Salem/McMinnville towards Pacific City is about 800 feet
Hwy 30 – Portland/Longview towards Astoria/Long Beach is 750 feet
Hwy 18 – Salem/McMinnville towards Lincoln City is about 750 feet
Hwy 20 – Corvallis towards Newport is about 750 feet
Hwy 126 – Eugene towards Florence about 770 feet
Hwy 34 – Corvallis towards Waldport is about 1,200 feet
Hwy 38 – Cottage Grove towards Reedsport is about 400 feet or less