Experience the Pacific Northwest Coast in Storm Season

by Nancy Mueller

When Northwesterners crave their next great nature fix after basking in summer’s glow, late fall and winter months bring one of the region’s best: experiencing the Pacific Northwest coast in storm season. A wonderland of wind-driven waves and blowing sea mist sets off a call to channel our own inner wildness in response. 

Yet why shed all creature comforts in the quest to embrace the elements? Here are four top storm escapes that combine the season’s most thrilling outdoor weather adventures with indoor pampering packages designed to enhance the total getaway experience.

Semiahmoo Resort, Golf and Spa in Blaine, Washington

Settle in for your storm-watching stay at Semiahmoo Resort, a family, pup-friendly, 300-acre retreat located just two hours north of Seattle. Uniquely situated on a sand spit between Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor, the site features panoramic vistas that stretch across the waters to Mt. Baker and White Rock, B.C., offering several choice vantage points for storm chasers. 

Start your adventure with the resort’s “Road Trip to Semiahmoo Package” featuring recommended stops along the way, such as a tour on Chuckanut Drive, a 21-mile scenic route, “the only place where the Cascade Mountains meet the sea.” Upon arrival, drop your bags in your water-view room, don your favorite waterproof clothing, then stretch your legs with an easy walk along nearby trails spanning the spit. While out and about, catch sight of wild waves as they roll across the bay. Extend your outside storm-watching adventure with a s’mores bonfire on the beach or head back to the cozy comfort of your seaside room. Enjoy such amenities as a private balcony or patio to entice you outside to brave the elements yet not too far from the warmth of your indoor sanctuary. If you’d rather snuggle up with a hot toddy while stormy weather swirls around you, forego the balcony for a fireplace instead. 

Warm up with a Semiahmoo Signature Massage, Vital Body Scrub or Botanical Radiance Facial for ultimate indulgence at the Spa or opt for a few laps in the heated year-round indoor/outdoor pool. Dining options range from grab & go from the Seaside Café & General Store to casual bistro food fare at Packers Kitchen + Bar to the Great Blue Heron Grill at the Semiahmoo Golf & Country Club. Of special note, late fall and early winter dining features a limited “Uncorked: Winemaker Dinner Series,” pairing local award-winning wines with seasonally inspired menus.

Insider’s Tip: Ask about the resort’s storm-watching package which has previously included a one-night stay in a water view guest room, together with a Semiahmoo keepsake blanket and mug, borrowed binoculars, and a hot cocoa and Bailey’s Irish Cream kit.

Reserve your stay at semiahmoo.com. Learn more about exploring the region at bellingham.org.

The Inn at Discovery Coast in Long Beach, Washington 

Why only read about the powerful storms pummeling the Washington coast when you can experience the tremendous force of Mother Nature firsthand? From a safe, respectable distance, of course. “In fact,” says Andi Day, Executive Director of the Long Beach Peninsula Visitors Bureau, “our winter storms are thrilling and a powerful reason to visit the Peninsula.” With 28 miles of western-facing Pacific Ocean beach bordered by Willapa Bay to the north and east and Columbia River to the south, it’s easy to see why the Long Beach Peninsula is a storm-watchers’ paradise. 

For dramatic views directly facing the Pacific Ocean, retreat to The Inn at Discovery Coast, located just steps away from the beach boardwalk. Opt for a cozy corner room in the main building to watch spectacular surf swells from nearly every direction of your sanctuary, even while you luxuriate in the two-person jacuzzi tub. Step onto your oceanfront deck for an invigorating spray of stormy weather, then snuggle up in front of the gas fireplace with your hot toddy of choice. Your stay comes with a complimentary breakfast delivered to your room with the option of adding special packages to sweeten your stay. 

Soak up the seaside ambiance with a dip in the property’s heated saline pool, “sweat it out” in the barrel sauna or book an aromatherapy massage at the Adrift Spa. Start your happy hour with a tasting of hand-crafted spirits at Adrift Distillers to ward off the winter chill. Order food to-go or continue your wave-watching adventure at Pickled Fish restaurant on the top floor of Adrift Hotel. Executive Chef Jake Martin sets a coastal vibe with his philosophy of “Good food, good music and good drinks.” Comfort food items reflect the wild-caught, locally foraged, grass-fed bounty unique to the Long Beach Peninsula. Regional wines and Northwest microbrews round out the menu.

Insider’s Tip: Plan your visit from November to January when king tides bring the peninsula’s highest tides and most extreme tidal fluctuations that coincide with a new or full moon. Cap off your storm chasing adventure with an excursion to nearby Cape Disappointment Lighthouse or North Head Lighthouse for spellbinding views of explosive waves sending sea spray as high as 100 feet into the air.

Book your adventure at innatdiscoverycoast.com. Plan your trip to Long Beach Peninsula at visitlongbeachpeninsula.com.

Stephanie Inn in Cannon Beach, Oregon

Haystack Rock

Walking into the lobby of the boutique Stephanie Inn, you’ll feel the weight of a pandemic year dissipate in a nanosecond. Breathe in, breathe out. Whoosh. Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If” captures the mood (“If you can keep your head about you when all about you are losing theirs, …”) as you peer through the inn’s library window at foaming, emerald ocean waves crashing against the shoreline. 

Located about 80 miles west of Portland, Cannon Beach, with iconic natural wonder Haystack Rock, has long been a family vacation destination. But a stay at The Stephanie Inn takes the kick-back beach vibe to a whole new level. Especially when here to witness the Oregon Coast at its most voluble, raging against… well, whatever needs most raging against at the moment. Laps of water become walls of windswept waves that churn, spit and curl, while inside the warmth of the inn, it’s time to unpack and unwind before dinner. 

Renown Executive Chef Aaron Bedard prepares a sumptuous culinary exploration featuring the most flavorful ingredients of the Pacific Northwest in a seasonal prix fixe, five-course dinner that comes with a choice of entree paired with exceptional Oregon wines. (On a recent visit, I enjoyed a marinated prawn Caesar salad; carrot-ginger soup; maple-glazed pork tenderloin with creamy polenta, sautéed chard, roasted root vegetables and flambéed apples; topped off with a petite creme brûlée paired with Abacela Port.)

To enhance your own storm-watch stay at The Stephanie Inn, ask for the “Sip, Savor, and Storm Watch Package” that includes your choice of a bottle of wine or non-alcoholic sparkling cider, two Stephanie Inn logo wine glasses, one bag of Stephanie Inn roasted, salted hazelnuts, and handcrafted chocolates. Reserve a luxury spa treatment, then settle back in your room to view crashing waves from your spacious deck or inside the comfort of your room.

Insider’s Tip: When making your reservation, be sure to share your preferences, including your favorite kinds of cookies (chocolate chip, please!) and scones.

Book your bliss at stephanieinn.com. Learn all about the charming village of Cannon Beach at cannonbeach.org

The Coho Oceanfront Lodge in Lincoln City, Oregon 

Farther down the Oregon coast, about a 90-minute drive south from Cannon Beach, The Coho Oceanfront Lodge sits atop a 50-foot bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The lodge caters to families and dog lovers, as well as couples in search of a romantic coastal getaway.

Designed with casual comfort in mind, all guest rooms are thoughtfully appointed with reclaimed materials. Amenities include complimentary continental breakfast and Wi-Fi access, LCD flat-screen HDTV with premium cable channels, eco-friendly bath products, a French press coffee maker with fresh ground gourmet coffee from Portland Roasting Company and an honor basket with snacks and bottled beverages. To optimize your storm watching experience and total relaxation, spring for the Sunset Suite with jetted tub. The suite comes with a fireplace for cozy warm-ups, plus a balcony offering unobstructed ocean views.    

Explore local cafés and restaurants, art galleries and boutique shops within easy walking distance of the lodge. Go for a workout at the fitness center or swim in the indoor pool, then warm up in the hot tub or sauna. Afterwards, bundle up, build a bonfire on the beach or sit around the oceanfront fire pits while sipping a glass of bubbly or cup of steaming tea. 

Book a special package when making your reservation or ask for availability at check-in. Selections are created to compliment the property’s fun, happy environment, so expect plenty of celebration packages of all kinds for families, couples, and Fido, too. 

Insider’s Tip: Bring your binoculars and head to Boiler Bay State Scenic Viewpoint, one mile north of nearby Depoe Bay, for more mesmerizing views of wild waves pounding rocky spurs.

Visit thecoholodge.com to book your stay. And visit oregoncoast.org to check out all Lincoln City has to offer.