Central Oregon Coast
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Go here if: family-friendly amenities and attractions are tops on your list. With Newport as the central hub of this central coastal area, you’ll have easy access to such things as the city’s world-class aquarium.
Travel time: about five to six hours from Seattle
A world-class aquarium makes this central beach town a big draw for families
With its Yaquina Bay oyster beds, Newport has been a travel destination since its official settlement in 1866. Today, a big attraction in this town—the unofficial halfway point on the Oregon coastline—is the Oregon Coast Aquarium (2820 SE Ferry Slip Road; 541.867.3474; aquarium.org; $11.95–$18.95). Once home to Keiko the Killer Whale—a.k.a. Free Willy, who was freed in 1998—it’s among the 10 best aquariums in the United States, according to a USA Today ranking. One of its most distinguishing features is “Passages of the Deep,” an underwater portal that traverses a small section of open ocean water where visitors can experience undersea living.
Fans of marine life also flock to Newport for the Hatfield Marine Science Center (2030 SE Marine Science Drive; 541.867.0100; hmsc.oregonstate.edu/), originally established by Oregon State University and now a major hub of marine environmental research. A visitor center focuses on hands-on learning.
But Newport isn’t only about marine education. The town’s central location and active port make it a culinary mecca for seafood—capitalized on at Mo’s Restaurant (622 SW Bay Blvd.; 541.265.2979; moschowder.com), which has been selling clam chowder for 60 years (now with six locations, including Cannon Beach, Lincoln City, Otter Rock and Florence). Mo’s simple, fresh, reasonably priced fare, served up on red-checkered tablecloths, gives it a casual and authentic vibe.
Oysters are still a part of the Newport experience and can be purchased daily from Oyster Farms, Inc., where the shellfish are harvested on Newport’s Yaquina Bay (6878 Yaquina Bay Road; 541.265.5078; oregonoysters.com). Purchase oysters and the fixin’s at the farm’s retail store. Or stop by Local Ocean Seafood (213 SE Bay Blvd., Newport; 541.574.7959; localocean.net), a public and wholesale fish market specializing in high-quality, locally caught seafood. Owner Laura Anderson's goal is to connect fishermen with the customers who eat the catch—and they take that goal quite literally. Each fish product is tagged with local catch information: catch location, date, the vessel on which it was caught—even the captain of the vessel. Local Ocean Seafood also operates a classy, glass-encased restaurant adjacent to the market (213 SE Bay Blvd., Newport; 503.574.7959; localocean.net). Wash all that seafood down with beer from the Rogue Brewery(2320 OSU Drive; 541.867.3664; rogue.com),(Laura Shinn) famous for its tongue-in-cheek-named beers, like Dead Guy Ale. Serious chuggers of gourmet hops and barley will want to visit the brewery, complete with a full bar (Brewers on the Bay) with views of Yaquina Bay (daily tours at 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 5 p.m.).
Get Literary at the Sylvia Beach Hotel
The 20-room Sylvia Beach Hotel on Newport’s Nye Beach (267 NW Cliff, Newport; 888.795.8422; sylviabeachhotel.com; from $115)—named for the proprietor of the Left Bank’s Shakespeare and Co.—is all about literature. Each room is named for an author (Agatha Christie, Mark Twain, Jane Austen) and then the rooms are categorized as best sellers (with views of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse), classics (close to the ocean, with fireplaces and decks) and novels (cute, but no view). There is a third-floor reading room, where guests can chat over a fire and a puzzle—and plan for breakfast the next day in the hotel’s restaurant, aptly titled Tables of Contents. This is the genuine, quintessential Oregon coast experience—a quirky beach hotel where the best way to pass time is to snuggle, relax and be inspired by the stormy sea.
Breakfast at the SeaQuest Inn B&B
The SeaQuest Inn Bed & Breakfast (95354 Highway 101 S, Yachats; 800.341.4878; seaquestinn.com; from $150 in summer, from $130 in winter) lives on a solitary bluff off Highway 101, about 20 minutes south of Yachats. Even from the outside, the inn embodies mellowness; cedar shakes and driftwood art create a Good Earth ’70s vibe. Quirky? Yes. Relaxing? Absolutely—and on top of the homey, cozy rooms with comfy beds, SeaQuest Inn has the best breakfast on the coast.
Find your inner Frodo on the Oregon coast Hobbit Trail
In between Washburne State Park and the Heceta Head Lighthouse (on Highway 101, at milepost 177.2; if you spot the sign for the Carl G. Washburne State Park, you’ve gone too far) is a somewhat hard-to-find—but easy to complete—hike that leads to the beach below, affectionately named the Hobbit Trail. Why? The earthen tunnels, mushrooms, twisted Sitka and moss-covered branches that make up the path are almost spiritual in nature. That, in combination with small rock sculptures and drawings left behind by Eugene hikers, makes the trail seem like it was built by Bilbo Baggins and friends. You’ll certainly have to do your share of ducking under branches, but the mystical secrecy of the journey makes it worth the effort.
This article was orginally published in May 2008