The Central Oregon coast is without a doubt home to some of the most stunning scenery you’ll see on the Pacific Coast.
Long sandy beaches just made for beachcombing. Salt-water taffy stores by the dozens. Seals splashing in inlets as the tide comes in. Clam chowder. Fresh shrimp. Tasty Dungeness crab. It’s impossible to have a bad time on the coast. Even storms become beautiful as angry waves crash on the beach.
The central coast from Lincoln City to Newport, a distance of less than 25 miles, will keep you as busy as you want to be for days.
Lincoln City claims it has the shortest river in the world within its boundaries. That would be the D River, just 120 feet long, as it journeys from Devil’s Lake to the Pacific Ocean. It’s not a very deep river and by the time it reaches the ocean, river water barely covers your feet. Still, it’s cool to tell people you waded across a river! There’s beach access to the lake just south of the Highway 101 bridge across the river.
Keep heading south on 101, past quaint gift shops, candy stores and beachfront hotels until you get to what used to be the city of Taft, but is now incorporated into Lincoln City. Turn west at the stoplight and head down to the old pier where you can go crabbing if you’ve got the pots. Or eat your crab at Moe’s, a chain of seafood restaurants along the northern half of the coast. Get a window seat and watch the seals frolic in the cove.
The Oregon coast has some stupendous sunsets. If your hotel room doesn’t have an ocean view, not to worry. You won’t miss out if you get yourself to the Fathoms Lounge on the top floor of the Inn at Spanish Head. The hotel is built on the beach, backing up to a cliff. The penthouse bar offers views that go on for mile upon mile.
Going south on Highway 101, you’ll come to several beaches, a couple of which have campgrounds, and Salishan resort with its award-winning golf course. Soon you’ll be at Depot Bay, which bills itself as the “whale watching capital of the Oregon coast.” Sometimes the whales are even visible from the sea wall, which runs the length of the business district.
On the other side of the highway, you’ll find boutiques, seafood restaurants and lots of salt-water taffy shops. Go ahead, try a free sample. Stores entice shoppers to buy the chewy candy by offering a sample; some shops offer more, and it’s your choice of flavor. While the traditional peppermint, vanilla and chocolate are still available, be daring! Try mango, cappuccino or pina colada.
Depot Bay sits on a cliff overlooking the bay. It is a fishing town from way back, with several businesses offering charters so you can go deep-sea fishing for salmon, halibut and lingcod.
There are two Newports: Old Town Newport and New Newport. Old Newport is more picturesque, but New Newport has the fabulous Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Follow the signs leading from Highway 101 to Old Town Newport. The old town sits at the bottom of a steep hill. The harbor side is filled with canneries and a few restaurants. The other side of the narrow street has boutiques, gift shops and seafood restaurants and pubs. Tourist attractions include a Ripley’s Believe it or Not museum and an Undersea Garden. But a favorite attraction with tourists is watching big, fat sea lions as they lounge their life away on a dock a cannery built especially for them. Directional signs to the seals are limited, but you can find them easily just by following the barking sounds. The seals make their home on this dock most of the year, but leave for a few weeks in the spring. Locals say they can tell when the seals have left because the town is quiet.
Tip: Parking spots in Old Town Newport can be difficult to find, especially on weekends or during tourist season. Grab the first one you come across and then plan on walking.
After you cross the bridge over Yaquina Bay on Highway 101, be on the alert for directional signs to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. The aquarium is a marvelous place to learn about Oregon’s sea life, including the Giant Pacific Octopus, which can weigh as much as 600 pounds. Or take a walk through the aquarium’s Passages of the Deep, an underwater walkway that brings you up close and personal to ocean creatures. The aquarium also provides an opportunity to get acquainted with sea birds and sea otters, as well as fish and other creatures that inhabit the swamplands of South America. Whatever you want to know about sea life, you’ll find it at this aquarium.
Newport has been a popular beach resort with Oregonians since the 1800s. Visit local lighthouses or an artist’s studio – Newport has a vibrant visual arts community. Just a few hours in Newport and you’ll find out why it’s a great place to visit.