The coast of Oregon is one of the West’s most outstanding road trip destinations. It’s a virtually nonstop succession of geographic eye candy. But it’s also not just a pretty face. It urges visitors to get out of their cars and roll up their sleeves. The possibilities for active involvement include hiking, beachcombing, tidepool exploring, surfing (bring a wet suit), whale watching, camping, kayaking, clam digging, crabbing and fishing for salmon and halibut.
Newport is my favorite spot on the coast. It has two big advantages. First, it offers virtually all the activities mentioned above. And second, it has the infrastructure to support visitors without coming across like an all-out tourist trap. It’s not the coast’s biggest city – the population is around 10,000 – but it offers easy access to everything people like about the Oregon coast, including a wide choice of accommodations, a roster of good restaurants (fresh seafood!) and lots of shopping. The city is on the shore of beautiful Yaquina Bay, which US 101 crosses on a graceful bridge. The picturesque downtown area fronts right on the bay next to the commercial harbor. Stroll along Bay Blvd. in late afternoon, and you’ll hear the constant roar of sea lions, dozens of which congregate on the jetty just offshore. Trust me – they are LOUD.
The top attraction is the Oregon Coast Aquarium, which is home to more than 15,000 animals. Nearby is the Hatfield Marine Science Center, operated as a research facility by Oregon State University. It also has live animal exhibits. Just up US 101 from Newport is the Yaquina Head Natural Area, featuring a graceful lighthouse. Nice beaches are close by. Newport is a great place to bring kids. Or not. For more information, visit www.discovernewport.com
You could easily spend 4-5 days here. Two should be the minimum. If you absolutely must keep your visit to a couple of hours, use that time for a nice seafood lunch and a visit to the aquarium. Newport is about 1 ½ hours from Eugene and 2 ½ hours from Portland. That’s close enough to spike visitation on nice weekends. Summers are fairly busy seven days a week. You’ll need advance room reservations, and you can expect rates to be on the high side. If you’re headed north, keep in mind that population, traffic and travel costs will increase as you get closer to metro Portland.