Depoe Bay is a quiet little town that was absolutely perfect for the socially distanced vacation we were looking for during the pandemic, but it would be equally as perfect not during a pandemic as well.
If what you seek is stunning nature, gorgeous beaches, and a cute town, Depoe Bay is your place. If you want to explore larger beach towns, Depoe Bay makes a great jumping off point as larger towns are nearby too.
Here’s a list of the best things to do in Depoe Bay.
Explore the Beach
This goes without saying. You came here for the beach. Don’t miss the beach. Unlike other Oregon Coast cities we’ve visited, Depoe Bay doesn’t have just one long beach, but instead a few different beaches throughout town. We stayed close to Fogerty Creek State Park and loved exploring this rocky, interesting beach that had tide pools, a creek flowing down to the ocean, and agates. Just south of Depoe Bay, Devils Punch Bowl also has a big beach to explore, including inside the punch bowl if you get there at very low tide (just keep an eye on those tides because the Punch Bowl wasn’t connected to land when we saw it).
Go Whale Watching
Depoe Bay has got a great location for whale watching. Whales migrate through the area from March to May, and from June to September there is a group of resident gray whales who hang out within a half mile of shore to feed. Most times of the year, you can spot whale spouts off shore. We stayed at the Clarion Inn Surfider Resort in April and saw at least 10 spouts a day just by looking out the window of our hotel (which was thrilling, at least for me).
You can also spend time at the ORPD Whale Watching Center in town and watch for whales that come into the harbor (known as the smallest harbor in the world). If you really want the full whale watching experience, though, book a whale watching charter. If you don’t already have a company in mind, there are a few located on the main drag in Depoe Bay near the OPRD Whale Watching Center. Tradewinds Charters and Dockside Charters both offer whale watching and fishing charters.
Rent a Fishing Charter
Some of the same companies that take visitors out to see the whales also offer fishing charters. Fishing charters are great whether you’re an experienced fisherperson or you’ve never gone fishing before. They provide all the gear you’ll need. There are businesses in town that can help you clean your fish, if you need help, but anything you catch is yours to keep and eat. Common fish caught include lingcod, rockfish, and sometimes halibut and salmon.
Wander the Town – and Eat Salt Water Taffy
Depoe Bay’s downtown area is easy to walk. While it isn’t very big, there’s plenty of shops to duck in and explore. Buy souvenirs, toys, artwork, or – my personal favorite – salt water taffy. Ainslee’s is a stop not to miss. They actually make their salt water taffy right on sight (you can watch them through the window) rather than ordered from an off-site company as many salt water taffy shops do. While there’s nothing wrong with ordering from an off-site company (I nosh that salt water taffy, too!), Ainslee’s was super tasty and I accidentally ate all of what I bought within 24 hours.
Look for Agates
The Central Oregon Coast is home to several beaches known for agates, and Depoe Bay is one of them. We found a bunch of small agates and jaspers at Fogerty Creek State Park, especially on the left-hand side of the creek (there are beaches on both sides). Agate Beach is, obviously, also a great spot to look and it’s just a short drive from Depoe Bay.
Visit Devils Punch Bowl
I’ve visited several Oregon Coast towns, but one thing I loved about the Depoe Bay area was the rocky shoreline. All kinds of black, craggy rock structures make beachcombing here more interesting than along a big, wide-open stretch of sand. One of the most interesting of these rock formations is Devils Punch Bowl, just to the south of Depoe Bay. You’ll park far above the beach. You can walk straight toward the ocean and skip going down the giant set of steps if you simply want to look down into the Punch Bowl (which is what we did). The views from the lookout are great, you can watch for whales, and there are tables if you want to bring a picnic. If you go down the big set of steps near the parking area, you can explore the beach and sometimes even walk into the Punch Bowl, but I suspect the tide would have to be pretty low for that to happen. You can check tide charts here.
Visit a Nearby Town
Depoe Bay is ideally positioned as a jumping off point to explore the Central Oregon Coast. If you want to explore a bigger beach town, Lincoln City is just to the north and Newport is just to the south. Newport, especially, is filled with all kinds of beach town fun, from Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, to the Newport Aquarium, to the nearby Sea Lion Caves. If you’re visiting during the pandemic, just keep in mind not everything might be open or there might be restrictions.