Things To Do In Newport
Newport is located along a 60-mile stretch of gorgeous beaches in central Oregon. The city was first incorporated in 1882, but can trace its history to 1862. The Yaquina Bay was perfect for shipping, and the great oyster beds made a luxurious export to the expanding settlements further south. The area soon became a popular fishing and tourist destination and Newport was born.
Today, Newport is the home of Oregon's largest commercial fishing fleet, and the main draw of the city is still seafood and beaches. There are more state parks and waysides here than in any other part of Oregon. The beaches vary from stone beaches to soft sand, dramatic ocean breakers to calm bays, and colossal boulders and outcroppings to gentle tidal pools. Visitors will also enjoy the many historic locations and proximity to other attractions.
When To Go:
The best time to visit Newport is July through August when you have the greatest chance for sun. Most of the year is mild and wet, but you get a brief reprieve during the summer. Fall (August to November) is moderate with some beautiful scenery and crisp weather. The wettest season is winter from December to January, yet many visitors love the extreme stormy conditions and big waves. Spring brings new plants and frequent rain, and while the temperatures warm up slightly from the winter months, it can still get pretty chilly with the cold air coming off the water. In short, there is something for everyone, just pick your season and remember that coastal weather is always changing so be ready for anything!
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What to see and do when you are in Newport…
Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is one of the state's premier tourist attractions and has been named one of the ten best aquariums in the country by prestigious publications such as Forbes Traveler and USA Today. With extensive exhibits and hands on displays, the aquarium is more than just fish in a tank. Four permanent displays highlight the plants and sea life along the Oregon coast. Changing displays that address other sea life are placed around the permanent collections. An indoor “tide-pool” has a plethora of sea life that may be touched such as sea stars and sea anemones. A 21st century institution, the aquarium has a lot that you can take with you to continue your learning. Online exhibits with videos, interactives, and downloadable items are available anywhere you have an internet connection.
The largest and best known exhibit is “Passages of the Deep” featuring a walk-through tube with sharks, rays, and many species of fish including halibut and ling cod. A cave features a giant Pacific octopus.
In addition to fish and invertebrates, the aquarium also has the largest outdoor aviary in North America with many sea and shore birds including the Puffin and Oystercatcher. Other outdoor displays have sea otters and seals.
The aquarium overlooks Yaquina Bay. Visitors can climb down to actual tide pools, enjoy the native sea life, or simply stroll along the beautiful beach.
Set below a sea cliff, this popular vacation spot has been a tourist haven since the 19th century. Winds and sea swells attract kite fliers and surfers alike. The large tidal movement leaves plenty of tide pools to be explored, and the outgoing tides leave behind plenty of clams for the clam diggers. The beauty of the location has not been overlooked by photographers and artists that often frequent the beach.
Along the cliff there are a number of higher-end shops and eateries as well as public restroom facilities. Because of the frequent winds coming off the water, it is best to bring a jacket and even a hat with you even in the summer.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
This historic lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and gets half a million visitors a year. One of the most visited lighthouses in the United States, it was built in 1873 and is still in operation today having been fully automated in 1966. The lighthouse, which was originally made in Paris, France, is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet tall.
A short walk from the lighthouse is the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center. The center provides information about the lighthouse, the local tide pools, and the flora and fauna you may encounter. The center also has exhibits showing the history of the lighthouse and the area.
Tours of the lighthouse are available except on Wednesdays and many holidays. Even if you don't take a tour, the view is phenomenal, especially at sunset.
Hatfield Marine Science Center
Set next to Yaquina Bay, the Hatfield Marine Science Center is a research facility run by Oregon State University and several state and federal agencies. A public exhibit is open year-round with tours, lectures, and interactive displays.
A giant Pacific octopus is one of the highlights of the center. Public feedings are quite interesting. There is also an interactive tsunami display where you can create a giant wave that smashes down on a lego building. The tide-pool exhibit is a great place to learn about the local habitat while having some hands-on time with sea creatures.
What makes the center different than many other places is its focus on research and information. While there are many things for children, adults will be kept interested in the myriad displays addressing what is going on in our oceans and coastal regions.
The Newport area is famed for its seafood, especially its crabs and clams. You do not have to go to a restaurant to eat, either. For the price of a license, you can catch as much as you can eat and more. The region's crabs are mostly the tasty dungeness and red rock crabs.
The crabs can be caught from many docks, off the shore, from a rented boat, or as part of a charter. If you do not know how to use the various traps, you may want to go with a charter or get some training first. It is really quite simple, and most people can learn to do it in a matter of minutes. There is normally a small charge for renting equipment if you want to fish off of the local docks.
Crabbing can be done all year, but is best during the outgoing tides in the fall when the crabs are most full of meat. Be sure to read the rules and regulations so you don't violate any of the rules regarding what can and cannot be kept.
If you have never gone clamming, Newport is the place to learn! Yaquina Bay is one of the best bays in the entire state for clamming, and there are plenty of experts and enthusiasts who can help you out. Some are quite protective of “their clamming grounds” but most are quite friendly and enjoy the camaraderie.
Put on your short pants and water shoes, grab a shovel or rake, and head out to the shores during the low tide. Whether you are searching for gapers, cockles, littlenecks, or butter clams, you can find them all right on the beaches of Newport. Be sure to get a license before you go, and read the rules concerning limits carefully.
Every spring the gray whales migrate with their calves from their winter birthing waters in Baja to the feeding grounds in Alaska. They pass right past Newport. Whale Watch week is normally the 2nd or 3d week of March, though the entire months of March and April are prime season to see these glorious monoliths. Whales will continue to pass by through the summer, but their numbers decline steadily the further into the year it gets.
Charters and whale watching tours are found all up and down the coast, but you can often see the whales and their telltale spouts right from the cliffs and beaches.
The Oregon coast is a terrific place for bird watching, and Newport is one of the best places on the coast for this classy classical pastime. If it's songbirds you're after, they can be easily found in the Yaquina Bay State Park. Walk through the park and even out onto the jetty and you will not be disappointed. Bayfront road provides great views of many ducks, shorebirds, and even eagles and herons as they come to the mudflats to dine during low tide. South beach is known for its fine viewing of loons, cormorants and ducks.
Paths lead out from the Hatfield Marine Science Center onto The Estuary Trail, a 3,000 foot trail with observation shelters and informative signs. The estuary is home to numerous waterfowl. The Oregon Coast Aquarium has paths for viewing sea birds up close such as Puffins, Guillemots and the Rhinoceros Aukelt. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a great place to view murres, cormorants, Puffins, and other sea birds as they nest in the rocks and cliffs during the spring and summer.
The beaches not only provide a great place to walk, fly a kite, or watch the sunset, but you can build sandcastles, swim, or look for rocks. Beaches with names such as Agate Beach, which make you think of rocks right away, have been picked over for years and are not as bountiful. Other beaches such as South Beach, however, still provide a great place to collect rocks and shells during the low tides.
Most of the agates, shells, and sea glass specimens found are not very big, but they can be found in great numbers. You may or may not find rocks big enough to set in jewelry, but if it is the experience or the memories you are after this is a great way to spend your morning.
The Oregon coast has many famous seafood establishments, and Newport is no exception. While you can no longer dine for pennies, you do have a choice of “hole in the wall” eateries with some great food, or fine dining with all the trappings including a gorgeous view of the Pacific Ocean. Whether you are looking for crustaceans or fish, surf and turf, or a good chowder you will find it in Newport.
Of course, with Newport boasting the largest commercial fishery in the state, you can always head down to the historic pier and buy your seafood right off the boat. You can normally find it for cheaper than you can get it in the store, and it is as fresh as fresh gets. Crabs, halibut, tuna, rock fish...all you need is a pot or grill and the right seasoning and a feast will soon be underway.
If you are worried about going to a dirty old fishing pier, do not worry. The pier in Newport is part of the historic district and is meticulously cared for with a lovely boardwalk, viewing platforms, and benches. Many fine restaurants and dozens of shops selling souvenirs and Newport's famous salt water taffy can be found on the opposite side of the boardwalk. The walkway itself is a memorial to those who have lost their lives at sea. Hundreds of plaques with the names of the men, vessels, and dates are set in the planks to remind us that the sea has never been tamed.
While it does not have the reputation of California, Hawaii, or Fiji, Oregon has some good surfing. The water is not as warm, but the waves can get huge. Whether you are a beginner or an advanced surfer, you will find something to your liking. Three of the better known surf beaches are:
Agate beach which has beach-breaks and is popular with long-boarders. It is a good beach for beginners, but can provide some swells large enough to draw in the more advanced as well.
South Beach which has a place called “The Box” that is liked by the locals throughout the summer. It has mostly beach-breaks, but a long-board contest is held there in september. South beach does have some strong currents and there are sharks.
Florence South Jetty which can be found a short distance outside of Newport. The Jetty will set you up with great swells in the summer and huge swells in the winter. If you don't mind the cold, you will find great waves, but this is an advanced only beach due to swell size, strong currents, and moderate shark danger.
Oregon Coast Glassworks
If you love art, or are just hoping to have a souvenir that is truly special and not another magnet or T-shirt, you really need to stop by Oregon Coast Glassworks. Not only do they have numerous custom, hand-made glasses, goblets, jewelry, and sea life that you can buy, but you can blow your own glass, too!
If you've never worked with molten glass before, schedule a class and learn how to make unique colored glass vases, floats, bowls, etc, and then do it. You will be guided through the process of making your very own artistic creation. The process takes about an hour and your work can be picked up the next day after it cools.
In the fall, typically October, the streets of Lincoln city (just north of Newport) are almost as packed as the colorful skies. People come from far and wide to see the Lincoln City Kite Festival held over 2 days and featuring kite making, demonstrations by experts, and some of the biggest kites in the world. Adults and children alike will enjoy making and flying their kites on the sandy beaches with great updrafts.
The great thing about this festival is that when the event is over you still have your kite, and the beaches, wind, and glorious weather are still there. The kite festival is a great place to hone your skills, get tips from the pros, and prepare for the many weekends of great kite weather that remain.
Yaquina Bay Bridge
The Yaquina Bay Bridge is one of the most recognizable structures in Newport. It is one of five bridges built by master bridge builder Conde McCullough in the 1930s, and one of 11 major bridges along the Oregon Coastal Highway. The 600 foot arch-style bridge was completed in 1936. The iconic bridge has been featured on the covers of numerous magazines, pamphlets, brochures and guidebooks through the years and is synonymous with the Oregon Coast.
Created of cement and steel, the bridge has wooden pilings that are sunk 70 feet into the sea floor. The ends of the bridge have elaborate staircases that take pedestrians safely to observation areas where they can look out over the Yaquina River and Yaquina Bay. The bridge is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
For a treat, take pictures of the bridge from the historic bay front and several other vantage points, and then walk out onto the bridge and take those photos in reverse. Your perspective from the bridge is magnificent and the view of the bay at sunset cannot be beat. For the true artist, grab a heavy coat and head out onto the bridge when the fog is still heavy in the morning. It is a great place to watch the fog lift as the first rays of morning bleed through.
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