Hunting for Sea Glass, Agates, and Fossils at Moolack Beach, Oregon

My wife searching for sea glass, agates, and fossils at water’s edge in Moolack Beach, Oregon. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400

Explore the Oregon Coast:

Moolack Beach just north of Newport, Oregon may be the best place to search for sea glass, agates, and fossils on the entire Oregon Coast. Then again, I haven’t explored every inch of sand just yet, but I can pretty much garuantee that Moolack is a good bet for your next beach foraging trip.

The landscape is unique in itself. The sand takes after its black sandstone underbelly, the tides constantly reshaping its look and feel as it tumbles millions of rocks and pebbles and glass specks onto the rocky shoreline. Tide pools form an fill with the pull of the moon, and ancient treasures surface from the shifting sands. Enormous petrified tree stumps emerge from the sand, still reaching for the sky thousands of years after death.

On these shore lines the past and present collide, only to be washed away by the waves, a crashing reminder of the future to come. Fortunately you can find some gems to carry with you.

Moolack Beach near Newport, Oregon is one of the best places to find sea glass, agates, and fossils. Photo by Clay Duda.
Moolack Beach, Oregon. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400

Beach Combing:

My wife’s an expert-level beach comber, but honestly I’m pretty bad at it. Maybe I just don’t have the patience for it. But surprise surprise even I was able to find a few pieces of sea glass and agates here at Moolack Beach. All you really have to do is look down and, odds are, somewhere in your field of view is a treasure worth bending over and picking up. The fossils seem a little more scarce, and Melissa found the only few we stumbled across during our visit.

Time it to catch an outgoing tide (which we didn’t do, go figure) for the best action. The receding water opens up tide pools and leaves shinies stranded on the open sand. You’ll have first nabs at them. It so happened that we hit the beach at coming up to high tide on our outing, but there was still plenty of digging to do and several other beach combers were out scouring the rocks along bluff’s edge and picking over tide pools.

Searching for agates on Moolack Beach, Oregon. Photo by Clay Duda.
A rock on the beach. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400

What Makes it Great:

Moolack Beach stretches about 5 miles, bordered to the south by Yaquina Head and to the north its sand meshes with Beverly Beach. There’s no official boundary between Beverly and Moolack, but for some reason there seems to be more trash that washes up to the north. There may be agates and sea glass hiding in the sands at Beverly Beach, but good luck finding them scattered among thousands of tiny pieces of plastic. At least that was the case on our last visit. The ocean is a strange and powerful place, but I can only imagine why it dumps so much debris on Beverly and leaves Moolack nearly pristine. But if you do happen upon some rubbage during your walk, please be a dear and pack it out with you.

Yaquina Head to the south is a protected natural area and lighthouse managed by the federal Bureau of Land Management. (I personally love that lighthouse because it helps me figure out where I am in the world when I’m out working on the crab boat.) There’s a lot of history here, and if you’re looking to do some epic tide pooling while in town then this is the place for you. It’s well worth the $7 fee per vehicle to get in. Come up to 3 hours before low tide for the best access. You’ll likely see a bunch of life like small fish, mussels, snails, hermit crab, urchin, and a ton of other strange things that live in the salt water.

Even further south is Agate Beach, a place you might think would be a good bet for beach combing given its name. There’s cool stuff that washes up here, no doubt, but it may not prove as lucrative as some other beaches nearby. The jetties at the mouth of the Yaquina River have dramatically reshaped the coast line here, pilling huge mounds of sand on top of many of the agates people used to scour here.

The bluff overlooking Moolack Beach on the Oregon coast. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400
Some guy’s car in the parking lot at Moolack Beach. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400

Getting There:

Moolack Beach is located about 5 miles north of central Newport along Highway 101. There are several small parking areas that allow access to the beach, usually by a short trail down to the sand. The main parking area is next to the Moolack Sholes Inn, and if you’re looking for an address to punch in your GPS or a place to stay then there ya go. All the parking areas are small, so if it looks crowded, fear not. Just find a place to park and head on down. The beach is a lot bigger.

There were only 2 other cars parked next to the Inn when we went in mid-January, but there were several other (very friendly) beach combers picking through the rubble.

Where the rocks meet the sea. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400
Where the rocks meet the sea. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400

Looking South:

From the main parking area next to Moolack Sholes Inn, we headed south towards Yaquina Head. Of course you couldn’t actually see Yaquina Head because of all the low-lying fog that day, but I’m pretty sure it was there in the not-so-far distance. The trail from the parking lot follows a small creek or drainage down to the beach, where it opens up to sand.

Pretty soon the sand collided with rock, washing up piles of small pebbles along tide pools. Large rock outcroppings appeared, some bashed by the rising tides as waves crashed and spurt into the air. Never turn your back on an incoming sea — we had to keep a watchful eye and run from the waves more than once. Again, going on an out-going tide is best, but make the most of what you’ve got and stay safe.

Black sandstone adds a lot of character to the beach here. Huge slabs rise from the sand, a rock that’s soft enough to crumble with your finger tips. The dull grays make other colors pop, like the deep green trees and the orange dirt exposed on the bluff.

On days like this you can wander through the fog for hours, something new and unique materializing from the void. Think of how much more there is to discover. But eventually the rocks in your pocket start to soak through and weigh you down, and you head back for the car to explore another day.

Melissa's haul for the day. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400
Melissa’s haul for the day. Olympus OM-2 // 28mm f3.5 // Lomography 400



Clay Duda is a freelance journalist and photographer. People usually pay him to write things. Here he does it for free.