It may be hard to convince everyone, but any time of year is a good time for exploring Oregon’s central coast.

The sun may not be shining on broad sandy beaches, the rain may be heavier and more frequent than in summer, the breeze may be a bit too strong for kite flying, but the Pacific surf continues to crash upon the rocks and roll into intimate coves.

U.S. Highway 101, the winding coastal thoroughfare, is especially picturesque between Lincoln City and Newport. It offers glimpses of lighthouses (Yaquina Head, for instance) and geological wonders (such as Devil’s Punchbowl), the keyhole harbor of Depoe Bay and the foreboding headland of Cape Foulweather. There’s plenty of opportunity for travelers to spend hours, if they choose, at any of these locations.

For me, however, the winter months are a time to cozy up with a good book, beside a roaring fireplace, as waves explode against cliffs cloaked in clouds. It’s the perfect time to enjoy three-hour, five-course dinners at atmospheric restaurants. And those months are ideal for discovering shops and neighborhoods that I somehow never found time for in the summer season.

Lincoln City

It seems there’s always something going on. This week, for instance — extending through Feb. 15 — is Lincoln City’s 25th annual Antique Week.

Among Oregon cities, Lincoln City, with a population of about 8,000, is unique. To the best of my knowledge, no other town in the state (and few in the nation) was created by the fusion of five separate communities into a single larger entity. Cutler City, Taft, Nelscott, Oceanlake (including Wecoma Beach) and Delake extend along 7 miles of U.S. 101, the Oregon Coast Highway. From south to north, they string from Siletz Bay to tiny Neotsu near the mouth of the Salmon River.

The homeland of the Siletz tribe (which now owns and operates the city’s Chinook Winds Casino) prior to the beginning of homesteading in the late 19th century, Lincoln City was incorporated on March 3, 1965. It was named for President Abraham Lincoln following a contest among local schoolchildren.

Coincidentally, at about the same time, a statue of Lincoln was being shopped by a world-famous bronze sculptor, Anna Hyatt Huntington (1876-1973). According to the Lincoln City Chamber of Commerce, Huntington had offered the statue of the 16th president, reading a book while riding his horse, first to the state of Oregon, then to the University of Oregon. Neither, however, was inclined to pony up the $25,000 freight cost.

Somehow, the new city of Lincoln City was able to pay the bill. Today, the Lincoln statue stands outside the Lincoln City Community Center, a block east of U.S. 101 on NW 21st Street. It has been named to the Smithsonian Institution’s “List of Outdoor Treasures.”

Tourism, not surprisingly, is the economic driver — from the casino, at the north end of town, to the Siletz Bay tidal basin, on the south. Water sports and festivals, from sandcastle contests to classic car shows, draw thousands of visitors from Portland, the Willamette Valley and beyond on any given weekend.

Kite festivals in June and October may be the year’s biggest events. They are held at the D River State Wayside, on the beach at the center of town. Here, the D River, certainly among the world’s shortest rivers, flows into the Pacific Ocean after flowing all of 440 feet (less than 0.1 mile) from freshwater Devil’s Lake on Lincoln City’s northeastern fringe.

Antique adventure

For lovers of antiques and collectibles, however, few festival seasons are more anticipated than Antique Week. From Taft to Delake, more than 100 dealers at some two dozen venues are offering special discount prices on many of their items. Some also have hidden gift giveaways.

In addition, 300 antique Japanese fishing floats (in daily allotments) have been concealed along the beach, where they may be found by curious beachcombers. And next Sunday, for Valentine’s Day, 14 red, heart-shaped glass pieces will also be hidden on the beach.

In the spirit of Antique Week, on a recent visit to Lincoln City, I prowled seven antique stores located from one end of the city to the other. I could have visited many more, as various thrift stores, hobby shops, bookstores, clock and coin shops and recycled furniture outlets are also involved in the February sale activities.

At Pop Culture Collectibles in Street Car Village Mall in the Cutler City neighborhood, I found an illuminated, fiber-optic, Coca-Cola bottle thermometer, which I could have taken home for $350. The same shop had boxes of unopened 1989 Topps baseball cards, any one of which may have contained a valuable rookie card for new Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ken Griffey Jr.

In Taft 2nd Hand Antiques, I found a 1923 cash register ($250) and an eclectic array of discarded memories, including Depression glass, fishing poles and an old butcher’s scale. Just up the highway, there was no mistaking the double entendre at a store named The Second Coming. Christian signs suggested that “He” may already be among us, but the store’s inventory was more mundane, with kitchen chairs hanging from the ceiling, a display of salt-and-pepper shakers along one wall, and one of the oddest collections of dolls (in various states of repair) that I’ve seen anywhere.

The Nelscott House was perhaps my favorite stop. With a warm greeting that included complimentary coffee and cookies, managers Greg and Tammy Fidel spoke with pride of their collection of Walt Disney memorabilia, from early Mickey Mouse images to souvenirs of contemporary movies. As co-owners of the beautifully kept former residence, along with Greg’s sister, Jeannie Clink, the Fidels displayed a wide range of other collectibles, while promising special giveaways during Antique Week.

The north side

North of the D River, in the heart of the Oceanlake business district, Granny’s Attic and the Rocking Horse Antique Mall sit nearly side by side on the east side of U.S. 101. Both offer a great variety of items from numerous merchants. One of them, clearly a fan of the “Star Wars” franchise, had a spacious section of Granny’s devoted to Yoda bobbleheads, Darth Vader lunchboxes and the like. Rocking Horse, meanwhile, mixed modern maritime gifts with true antiques; my eye was caught by a basket of blown-glass fishing balls, some still wrapped in nets, at the foot of a display of pirate flags.

Farthest north, The Little Antique Mall is not so little. With a huge back room a few steps behind its huge front room, it presented the wares of dozens of antique owners. Want a used wedding dress? A sign that once introduce a band called the “Screaming Armadillos”? This is the place to look.

This last destination is in the Delake district. Locals like to blame its name on early Finnish fishermen, who would tell people they were going to “de lake,” rather than Devils Lake. (That’s also how the D River got its name, or so it’s said.) That tale is told in more detail at the North Lincoln County Historical Museum in Taft. Visitors this week will be treated to an Antique Week quilt exhibition and background on the coast’s antique glass fishing floats.

Would-be beachcombers who may not be inclined to wander the sands in wind and rain have an alternative: They can spend an hour or two at the Jennifer L. Sears Glass Foundry or a couple of other newer glass-blowing establishments in the Taft area. At the Sears Foundry, under the direction of artist Kelly Howard (whose creations are sold across the street at Volta), a team of craftspeople walk visitors through the art of blowing and coloring their own floats, which then are cooled overnight and made available for pickup the following day.

Nye Beach

Twenty-five miles south in Newport, meanwhile, there’s no greater antique than the entire Nye Beach neighborhood.

While many visitors are drawn first to the city’s Bayfront district along the north shore of the Yaquina River, or to the Oregon State Aquarium in South Beach, those who appreciate the flavor of a bygone era eventually find their way to these turn-of-the-20th-century oceanfront precincts. For Nye Beach was once a seaside playground akin to Seaside, farther up the coast.

Although it was named for 1865 homesteader John Nye, the development of this beachfront area may be credited to developer Sam Irvin, who bought it from Nye in the 1880s. As early as 1891, vacationers were traveling by train, ferry and boardwalk (built to connect the beach with the Bayfront) to relax on Nye Beach. Campgrounds and small guest cottages began to spring up near the sand.

Irvin responded. In 1905, he built a log-cabin recreation center with a dance hall, a bowling alley and an outdoor horseshoe pit. He also built a resort hotel (no longer standing), which was joined in 1912 by the stately New Cliff House, now the Sylvia Beach Hotel. A saltwater natatorium was added that same year, and was rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire 10 years later.

The 1930s saw the completion of the Oregon Coast Highway, attracting even more visitors to the beach. With the outbreak of World War II, local citizens, armed with rifles and accompanied by dogs, patrolled the sands guarding against a marine invasion that never came.

By the 1960s, the Natatorium had fallen into disrepair and was demolished to make way for a beachside parking area. Only its bathhouse remains, as home to the Yaquina Art Association. Similarly, most of the historic cottages were replaced by hotels and condominiums. But construction of the Newport Visual Arts Center (in 1985) and Newport Performing Arts Center (in 1988) signaled a resurgence of pride in Nye Beach.

Cobbled lanes

The intersection of Northwest Third and Coast streets may be regarded as the heart of the district. Just down the block from Nana’s Irish Pub, a cement archway marks the approach to Beach Drive, a cobbled turnaround, just wide enough for a single vehicle, that leads to the parking area. A variety of gift shops, cafés and bars, including the Chowder Bowl and the Sandbar pub, line both sides of the street.

The Sylvia Beach Hotel, under the same ownership since it was rehabilitated by Goody Cable and Sally Ford in 1986, speaks to the historic spirit of the neighborhood. It was named not for its seaside location, but as “a tribute to Sylvia Beach, owner of Shakespeare & Co. bookstore in Paris during the ’20s and ’30s, and one of the century’s greatest patrons of literature,” according to a hotel brochure. Each of its 20 guest rooms is named for a famous author; all meals are served family style to encourage interchange between guests; and an attic library and reading room takes the place of any television.

Naturally, there are several new and used bookstores in the area. There are also boutiques and import stores, spas and tarot readers, galleries and wine shops. My favorites in the area are the Café Stephanie, a delightful breakfast-and-lunch café on Coast Street, and Sorella, a casual Italian café established last year by chef Justin Wills (of Restaurant Beck at the Whale Cove Inn).

For a rainy winter getaway, Nye Beach seems to meet all the requirements.

— Reporter: