Life In A Tide Pool: Not As Easy As It Looks

Sea Stars in a row

We’ve had the pleasure of living at the beach on both the east and west coast of the US. We’ve lived on the coasts of both Florida and Georgia. But previously (in a crazy game of “let’s see how far we can move”), we lived in the small, coastal town of Newport, Oregon.

The coasts are radically different, and one of the things we love about each coast is its unique animal habitats.

Our beach in Georgia has sea turtles, horseshoe crabs, and black skimmers, and we enjoy seeing each of them. But the Southeast Coast doesn’t have one of our beach favorites … tide pools.

Oregon Tide Pool

Photos of anemones and sea stars in these intertidal zones give the impression that their home is a calm, quiet and safe place; when actually, the opposite is true. They may be soft to the touch, but they have to be tough to survive.


The critters must be able to cope with a constantly changing environment.

tide Pool

Fluctuations in water temperature, salinity, huge waves, strong currents, exposure to midday sun, and hungry predators are just a few of the threats these animals face every day.

Oh, and then there’s being completely submerged at high tide …

Sea Star and Anemone

… then totally exposed to air at low tide.

Sea Star

Yep, no sissies in the tide pool.

Happy Trails,


Photo Credits:
1. By Jason Hollinger via Wikimedia Commons
2. By Thomas Shahan via Wikimedia Commons


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

67 thoughts

    1. I grew up a long way from the beach Chris, but I can imagine that growing up on the coast would be neat. Living on the coast provides time to appreciate the beach for more than sun, surf, and a place to catch a few rays. ~James

  1. I love the ocean James. I wonder if it was growing up on those land locked prairies that did it. Your photos remind me of my trip with my Mom to the west coast of Vancouver Island. There the poor starfish were dealing with low tide and snow. Definitely not easy in a tide pool. 🙂 Really enjoyed your post.

    1. We haven’t visited tide pools north of Oregon Sue, but snow on a sea star is another indicator of how tough these interesting critters are. I wonder how far up the west coast the tide pool animals survive? We’ve been as far north as Juneau, AK and didn’t see tide pools there. ~James

    1. Thanks Bronwyn. I had a tough time getting decent photos of tide pools. If the sun is too bright, the reflections are an issue, and if it’s cloudy, the photos are dark. I hope your kids enjoy the photos. ~James

  2. When I was a tour guide I lead two different tours that went through Newport and St. Simon’s Island. Beach side living is the way to go.. although I would lean towards living in Newport- excellent clam chowder and beers that way! Tide pools are amazing.. I enjoy exploring them with my husband and kids.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog Tieshka. Tide pools are like mini-science labs and I find them incredibly interesting. I can imagine that your kids would love tide pools. All the sea life in colorful, slow-moving, and neat to look at. ~James

  3. I love Newport, Oregon. You captured the sea life very well. Tide pools are indeed interesting and we love to check them out here on the west coast of BC.

    1. Newport was our first experience on the NW coast Darlene, and it was a real change for us (after St. Augustine, FL). I envy your easy access to tide pools. Visiting and studying them could be a fun and interesting hobby for me. ~James

    1. We loved the Oregon coast Carol. It was so different from our experience in FL. And I love fact that the entire coast is a State Park, so it’s totally accessible. We spent a winter there, and with good rain gear, storm watching was lots of fun. ~James

  4. Great pictures – I am sure the tide pools (we call them rock pools in the UK) are a metaphor for life or something, I just haven’t figured it out yet.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. We lived in the UK, and unfortunately, didn’t manage to see any rock pools. Do you know the closest place to London to see rock pools? As to the metaphor for life, you’re spot on – at least in a Darwinian way. In a tide pool it truly is survival of the fittest and natural selection in action; on a twice-daily basis. ~James

  5. I love searching tidal pools. My house is about an hour and a half from the coast and I go several times a year. I’ve even found small lobsters under the rocks in our tidal pools. It’s a great way to spend a day!

    1. That sounds like fun Laura. We’ve been to New England a couple of times, but because of tide timing and bad weather, we only had one good pool visit. Seeing a lobster would be very cool. One thing we noticed with the Oregon tide pools was that they were fairly dynamic. Every trip, even to the same spot, showed different animals. ~James

  6. Love the pictures. And didn’t know you were in St. Simons. Should have looked at the About page more closely. In my opinion, any beach is fun to visit. There’s always something afoot!

    1. We’ve just celebrated our second anniversary on SSI, and it’s a great place to live. We came to the island for a one month rental, and stumbled into a great deal on small condo. We weren’t looking for a house, but our condo here is a great example of “chance favors the prepared mind.” The island has a great quality of life and the condo is the perfect “lock-it-and-leave-it” place. ~James

    1. We spent 6 months in Newport LuAnn, and it was a wonderful experience. It was so different than FL, and Oregon has an incredible diversity of geography and wildlife. Newport is interesting because it’s a working fishing village, and isn’t too touristy. One point about it (and most of the towns on the Oregon coast), because they’re on the west side of the mountains, traveling east to access a bigger city (Portland/Eugene) can get to be a long trip. Ultimately, after our time there, Newport felt a bit isolated. This isolation isn’t for everyone, but if you’re happy with that, it’s a neat, little place (Oh, and the Rogue Brewery is there!!). ~James

      1. Having a bit of remoteness always looks good when you are in a place for a short time but I can imagine it would get to be a bit of a drag when you have to travel long distances to pick up basic ‘stuff’. Before we settle anywhere I think we should experience different seasons and sit awhile.

  7. Speaking as a native of Oregon, Newport is my favorite town on the coast. The aforementioned Rogue Brewery is one of many reasons: Yaquina Bay, the bridge, Dungeness crabs, Nye Beach, the Whale’s Tail, Sylvia Beach Hotel, Canyon Way Bookstore…

    …but wait! You didn’t tell people that it rains there. A lot. Most of the year. Gotta mention that, otherwise the town would be overrun by Californians.

    1. Tom, we have many fond memories of our time in Newport. We had a small apartment high on the hill overlooking Yaquina Bay (with wonderful, wild marion berry bushes in back). I always had my binocs at the ready to keep tabs on the fishing boats and sea lions. Also, the Coast Guard has a station there, and we could watch their search and rescue practice from our balcony. Very cool. I did a weekend volunteer gig at the Rogue Brewery music festival which was sweet. And just to name drop, David Ogden Stiers (Winchester from MASH) had a big house on the beach there. On one of my morning jogs, I passed Loretta Swit strolling on the beach. Not too shabby. ~James

      1. We were on SSI on Sat night and Sunday so missed the parade – looks like such a fun and patriotic event! We watched the Brunswick fireworks from our dock on the 4th:)

  8. I love tide pools, James, and can spend hours staring down into them. In a short time, they come to life and you can begin to see all of the action. Happily, Oregon tide pools are only an hour and a half away for me. 🙂 As to how far north tide pools go, I spent time last summer with my grandkids on Kodiak Island, Alaska checking out the tide pools. –Curt

    1. As I said to another commenter Curt, I could get to be a serious tide pool hobbyist. I’ve seen time-lapsed photography of tide pool movement, and it’s pretty cool. Thanks for the info on Kodiak; I should have thought to ask you first. That’s a surprise that they exist that far north, given water temps. I assume that the water gets a bit chilly in winter. ~James

  9. They are lovely pictures. How are the star fish doing? I heard that they were having some serious problems out there.

      1. Excellent point Leslie, I should have thought of this. Anything beyond basic biology is way beyond my pay grade, but looking at the nuclear fallout map, and the timing, this explanation would seem to be a logical place to start. The only fly in the ointment is that the syndrome has shown up on the east coast as well, but the eastern version may be bacterial instead of viral (??). Maybe because this syndrome naturally occurs every decade or so, its just a case of the fallout exacerbating the effects. Surely someone has thought about this and is working on exactly that theory. ~James

  10. Excellent post and photos. Lucky for me my coffee was reheating in the microwave. I would have spewed it all over my keyboard when I read the last line. A perfect ending for this interesting piece. ❤

    1. Thanks Tess. As you’ve probably heard, the Oregon coast can be rainy, cold, and tempestuous in winter (much like both coasts of Canada). But the summers are delightful, and the beach and coast were so different from what we had experienced, it was a wonderful experience for us. The tide pools were just icing on the cake. ~James

  11. Love the photos. One of my favorite visits to the west coast was at low tide where I saw these great little creatures on the rocks and in the little pools of water for the first time. Looking forward to going again.

    1. I love the barrier islands and marshes of the SE Coast, but I really miss the tide pools. They are a window into a world that seems so delicate and special. And unlike other wildlife viewing opportunities, in a tide pool the critters aren’t going to skitter out of sight. ~James

  12. Lovely (as always). Reminds me of school camp at Kaikoura, studying rock pools……a looooong time ago. Was great fun. I remember the sea anenomes were deep red there. Being near the sea is what I miss most being away from NZ.

    1. I didn’t know Kaikoura Keiry, and after checking it out online, it looks like the perfect place for rock pools. I also checked the webcam, and today, it looks cloudy and cool there. Did you have earthquakes there as a child? I really enjoy the anemones as well, and I have to force myself to not to touch them. Did your class get to touch? ~James

      1. Hi James, actually I grew up in
        Kaiapoi a bit further south of Kaikoura. Yes we had earthquakes, mostly minor. Kaiapoi was a badly affected in the big earthquakes though. These days Kaikoura is the place to go for Whale Watching tours. Really interesting area.

  13. I grew up on the beach, and crave the coast constantly. But now living in San Miguel, I miss it even more, as in Mexico we couldn’t be further from two amazing coast lines. However, it will make an exciting honeymoon, right?

    1. Steve a quick check of the map shows that you are slightly closer to the east coast than the west, but Puerto Vallarta is due west. This might present a tough choice. But neither should be a long trip. ~James

    1. Thanks for reblogging our post Diane. Tide pools are beautiful, and we appreciate you’re help in passing the photos and information along to your readers. ~James

  14. Oh I know these tide pools well – wish we had them plus seals and sea lions on the east coast. Wonderful things wherever you live!

  15. Seeing these beautiful critters in their tide pool habitats reminds me of the first time I saw a tide pool, along the Oregon Coast two summers ago. Shawn and I were lucky enough to be hosted by a park ranger friend who’s quite knowledgeable about them, and we strolled the beautiful beach several times during that visit. Such a pretty part of the world; thanks for bringing back those memories, Terri & James.

    1. Thanks Tricia. As you may have gathered from my post, I really enjoy tide pools. And even though they look like a simple puddle, as you know, they are a complex ecosystem. I envy your access to a knowledgable expert to understand the dynamics. ~James

    1. Thanks Joanne. The tide pools in Oregon were my first experience, and they were so much fun. It’s particularly nice to live close enough to be able to return time and again. ~James

    1. Fascinating is the word. I could spend hours jumping from rock to rock, and gazing into the pools. Of course, the old back reacts after a while, and I get the tide pool stoop, but it’s worth it. ~James

    1. Marie, Congratulations on your award – richly deserved. 🙂 And thanks so much for your kind words. We’re honored to be in this group of great bloggers – some we know, and others we look forward to checking out. All the best, Terri & James

    1. Moving to Guam; how exciting! I’ve never been (it isn’t one of those places where you just “drop” by), but the online photos look wonderful. Our first overseas move was to Khartoum, Sudan – very, very, different from Guam – but we were giddy with excitement. Best of luck with the move, keep us posted, and let us know about the tide pools. ~James

  16. Tidepools are mysterious, fascinating places. Your photos make me want to reach out and dip my fingers inside.

    1. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by the blog. I absolutely love tide pools and could spend hours gazing into them. There aren’t many places to see them in the US, and when I’m close, I always go out of my way to see them. ~James

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