If you’re on the hunt for the best tide pools at the Oregon coast then you’re in the right place.
A fantastical cast of ocean-dwelling critters make their colorful debut in tidepools across Oregon’s 362-mile shoreline.
Teaming with life, these tidepools are a diverse coastal ecosystem full of educational opportunities (and fun) for the whole family.
An activity that could easily take the entire day, tide-pooling is a great way to get everyone together for a day of unique natural encounters.
The pools are usually right on the beach and it takes no special equipment or knowledge, just curiosity and the willingness to poke around a bit.
These salty pools are a fun and hands-on way to open our eyes to the wonders that lurk beneath the ocean’s surface. But let’s cover a few helpful things to know before discussing the best tide pools in Oregon.
Tips for exploring the tide pools in Oregon
Before you go hopping around these magical little pools, there are a few things to note to make your experience as fun and safe as possible.
Timing is everything
The best time to visit the tide pools at the Oregon coast is one or two hours before low tide. This gives you plenty of time to explore the area before the tide starts making its way back in.
Be sure to check the tide levels before your visit to ensure the water is low enough to actually see and gain access to these pools.
Tide charts can be found online and at state parks. Tides of zero feet and lower are best for visiting tidepools at the Oregon coast.
You know the drill: Never turn your back on the water, keep close watch on children and pets, and head back to land when you notice the tide creeping back in.
Also remember to be gentle with the sea life you discover. These are fragile habitats that see a lot of foot traffic, so watch where you step and leave the creatures where you found them.
With these precautions in mind you’re ready for a day of some serious exploration.
Fortunately there are so many areas where tide pools are easily found that you’ll have no trouble finding one (or more!) to stop at no matter which area of the coast you’ll be traveling through.
Read below to discover our all-time favorite tide pools and the wacky critters you’ll find when you visit them.
Best Tide Pools on the Oregon Coast
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach
A bustling tourist town, Cannon Beach is a well-traveled area with plenty of excitement for the whole gang–especially down at the tide pools!
Haystack Rock, the icon of the Oregon Coast, teems with ocean life in the numerous tidepools found between rock piles at its base.
All of the most common tide pool-loving sea life are bound to make an appearance, including small crabs, a rainbow of sea stars, barnacles, and maybe even a small octopus or jellyfish if you’re lucky!
Out of the water, watch for birds like the adorably quirky puffin, a colony of whom lives on Haystack Rock and other nearby seastacks. They’re hard to miss with their bright orange beaks!
Visitors often report seal, sea lion, and whale sightings here, and your chances of finding neat shells or colorful agates in the sand are high.
Beyond the shore there are plenty of places nearby to stop for a bite to eat, stock up on salt water taffy, and grab some souvenirs for your family and friends who are totally missing out on your awesome Oregon coast adventure.
Ecola State Park
Located two miles north of Cannon Beach, When it comes to the best tide pools in Oregon, Ecola State Park is hard to beat.
Expect to find easy access to healthy tidepools and a opportunities to spot sea lions, seals and flocks of interesting sea birds.
Cape Kiwanda is an excellent spot to get totally lost in the fascinating exploration of tide pools. Marine gardens (areas with a high number and diversity of sea life) are featured here, allowing visitors to get a great look at common tidal zone creatures.
This is another hot spot for sea stars and anemones. Take a closer look between the swaying sea kelp and urchins to spot sculpins swimming and tiny crabs scuttling beneath rocks.
Make sure to loop up and take in the magnificent views of the ocean while exploring one of the best tide pools at the Oregon coast.
Once you’ve had your fill, explore all this prolific cape has to offer with a steep climb up to the top. Be careful though–the cliffs are made of soft sandstone, so keep away from the fragile, crumble-prone edges.
Nearby are two other capes, Cape Meares and Cape Lookout, both of which have some of the best tide pools at the Oregon coast.
Hug Point State Park
It’s no secret that Hug Point State Park is one of the best state parks at the coast, not least for the great tide pools in the area.
The picture-perfect sandy cove beach is engrossed by verdant hillsides full of towering sitka spruce and ferns. Walk closer to the cove (and seasonal waterfall).
Caves carved by the persistent sea and time make way for some of the best tide pools in Oregon. Take your time enjoying the pools — teeming with wildlife! — before parking yourself on a blanket for a proper beach picnic. The cove is a great shelter from the wind.
About 15 miles south of Coos Bay on the southern Oregon coast juts the massive headland of Cape Arago. This giant rock forms a little sandy cove where marine wildlife flock.
Take the short south cove trail to visit incredible tide pools full of plants and animals like sea stars, anemones, and urchins (fossils have even been found in the rocks here!).
Stroll along the sand to find shells and other washed up wonders as you make your way to the north cove trail. This trail brings you within viewing distance of the colonies of the playful (and loud!) seals and sea lions who live on rocks just off the coast.
Cape Arago is within a well maintained state park where plenty of opportunities to rest and regroup are provided, including public restrooms, picnic tables, and a gazebo for larger groups to gather.
The abundance of tide pools and wildlife in the area earn Cape Arago a spot on our list of the best tide pools at the Oregon coast, you won’t want to miss it!
Oregon Tide Pools Note: The north trail is closed from March 1-June 30th to protect seal pups.
Newport is a well-loved Central Oregon destination for a day on the coast. Visitors love to explore the famous Newport Aquarium with its extensive display of local marine wildlife, interactive tide pool touch tables, and totally wild glass tunnel that takes you right through a shark tank!
As fun as the Newport Aquarium can be for the whole family to get to know Oregon’s fishy friends, don’t miss heading out to the actual beach to discover tide pools for yourself.
Nearby Yachats State Recreation Area has a little something for everyone even if tide pools aren’t top priority. A slew of nature trails, grassy areas for kids and pets, and outstanding ocean views make this rec area a great stopover–or a destination in and of itself!
For the tide pool action make sure to take the rocky path below the viewing platform at low tide to search for anemones, hermit crabs, and sea stars.
If you’re headed out to the Lincoln City area on the central Oregon coast consider stopping at Fogarty Creek. Parking at a beautiful forested park right off the beach is your starting point for a variety of activities.
Spend some time walking along the trails and take the footbridge over the small creek that trickles out to the ocean. Enjoy a pack lunch sitting at a picnic table under Sitka spruce trees and give the kids time for nature play in shaded grassy areas.
Most importantly, don’t forget about the tide pools! Follow a well marked trail alongside Fogarty Creek that spits you out onto the beach.
From here you’ll be standing in a small cove with looming rocks that host a number of small tide pools at their base where you can find the usual suspects like sea stars, urchins, and anemones (which kind of look like slimy donuts, or is that just me?).
Be on the lookout for shorebirds like eagles, oyster-catchers, and cormorants who like to feed here. For rock lovers, plenty of agates have been found in the sand along the creek and sea shells are also in no short supply.
Short Sands Beach
A short and tranquil walk through picture-perfect overgrown forest leads you to one of the prettiest spots at the coast, Short Sands Beach.
This small cove is enclosed on both sides by dramatic cliffs, ensuring the kids can’t get too far out of eyesight while they’re playing in the sand.
A long time favorite beach for surfers, this area has become popular for all beachgoers, and for good reason.
Not only is parking easy and free, there are bathrooms throughout the park and trails with clear signage are clean and easy to navigate.
Likewise, Short Sand Beach is home to some of the best tide pools at the Oregon coast. The tide pools are located at both the south and north ends of the cove, a pretty short walk no matter which direction you go.
The tidal areas here host a wealth of sea creatures including hermit crabs, small sculpins (super cute fish), mussels, large anemones, and common plants like slimy sea moss, kelp, and algae.
There’s even a seasonal waterfall that flows down the cliff on the north side of the beach that’s fun to check out.
I only recently discovered the stunning Yaquina Head thanks to a biologist friend who was here doing research on the local sea lions. This natural area blew my mind at every turn: the views! The wildlife! The giant lighthouse!
Truly, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is a place I highly recommend visiting. If the awesome ocean views aren’t too distracting, the first thing you may notice when you arrive is the lighthouse–the largest in Oregon!
Standing at a colossal 93 feet, even the ocean itself will seem dwarfed in comparison. My favorite trail to take is down to Cobble Beach, a small shoreline studded with lots of smooth stones rather than just sand (you can walk to the rocks beneath the lighthouse to see tide pools filled to the brim with sea life of all types).
Volunteers are often stationed here to share their knowledge on the natural history of the area and answer any questions. Birds flock here by the thousands and can be seen roosting on offshore rocks.
Seals and sea lions love fishing in these shallow waters and often come right up to the shore, giving folks great views as they play, hunt, and dive through the gentle waves.
You May Enjoy Reading: 10 Best Spots for Wildlife at the Oregon Coast
If you’re starting your journey near the California border, this stop’s for you! Cape Blanco State Park sits right on the most southwestern point of Oregon on a prominent cliff overlooking the sea.
Tidepooling here on the north cresdcent beach end is a sweet treat for sea star lovers. Dozens of plump sea stars congregate on the rocks here–so many at times that they end up clinging to each other!
You’ll likely find sea stars of all sizes in a dazzling rainbow of colors ranging from warm reds and oranges to stunning jewel-toned purple and blues.
Tucked between the colorfully crusty sea stars you’ll find other rock-hugging creatures like barnacles, anemones, and limpets. Come for the tide pools but stay for…well, everything else!
This stunning state park offers camping, hiking, hiking, and bike and horse trails. The Cape Blanco lighthouse rises over the beach and is known for being the oldest lighthouse continually operated in the state.
You May Enjoy Reading: Learning About the 11 Historic Lighthouses at the Oregon Coast
Smelt Sands Park
As my father would say upon hearing the name of this place: “Whoever smelt it, dealt it.” Dad jokes aside, Smelt Sands Park near Yachats is a little known recreation site with great tidepooling opportunities for everybody.
Named after the type of fish (a cousin of salmon) who swim through here annually, the park is open year round to visitors. Walk the short nature trail (1.5 miles round trip) or take good ol’ dad here for some rock fishing on the beach.
Locals come here to explore the many tide pools here that burst with all of the sea life mentioned throughout this list. Sea stars, spiny urchins, jelly anemones, and plenty of other oddball marine creatures are packed into these small salty pools.
Explore to your heart’s content (until the tide comes back in!) and enjoy one of the best views of the sunset from the wide open shore.
If you’ve found you’ve worked up an appetite after a long day of beachcombing, stop by the infamous Luna Fish House for some local seafood to round out your day (and stomach!)
Found north of Brookings, Harris Beach is the southern-most site mentioned on this list of the best tidepools at the Oregon coast.
Vibrant starfish rubbing elbows with cheeky anemones and shy hermit crabs, the pools are teeming with wildlife.
To get to the highest concentration of tidepools, walk along a short trail directly to the beach. There’s several great trails to choose from, but I prefer to hike the South Beach Trail (half a mile).
Hatfield Marine Science Center
Here’s a hot tip from a local: for days when the Newport Aquarium is too busy, there;s an equally cool chance to learn about ocean wildlife super close by.
Right across the small bay from the aquarium is the lesser known Hatfield Marine Science Center, an extension of Oregon State University.
Trust me, it’s a phenomenal stop on a rainy day when heading out to the soggy beach sounds like more of a pain than it’s worth. An exciting place jam-packed with fun exhibits, the whole family will get a lot out of this educational and immersive experience.
The Hatfield center has tons of wildlife on display including crustaceans, an oyster tank that gives insight into oyster farming. There’s even a resident octopus living in the visitor center who loves to interact with guests!
Visit the Hatfield center for just $5 per visitor (children under 5 years old are free). Tickets are good from 10AM- 4 PM.
List of the Best Tide Pools at the Oregon Coast
In sum, here’s a list of the best tide pools at the Oregon coast.
- Cannon Beach
- Ecola State Park
- Cape Kiwanda
- Cape Arago
- Fogarty Creek
- Short Sands Beach
- Yaquina Head
- Cape Blanco
- Harris Beach
- Hatfield Marine Science Center
- Smelt Sands Park
Map of the best Oregon coast tide pools
Did you know that scientists believe we’ve only discovered about 1% of all the sea life in the world? The ocean is more unexplored than outer space!
True, most of us will never spend time deep sea exploring–it’s not exactly the place you head for a quick weekend getaway, after all.
Luckily for us landlubbers we can get an up close and personal look at some of the creatures who lurk in the deep blue sea by exploring tide pools at the Oregon coast. It’s a day full of adventures that last a lifetime, hope you enjoy!