By Mary Charlebois
Newport’s Yaquina Bay Bridge is mesmerizing. Appearing and disappearing at the whim of wind, tide, and fog, the bridge has a thousand faces. The art deco and gothic structure are one of the most recognized spans along Hwy 101.
But there’s more to the bridge than her changing looks. Under the arches and towers are spots to soak-up local marine wildlife, maritime history, marine science, go fishing, try crabbing, take a hike, hit the beach, or tour a brewery.
Newport is a coastal Oregon town, situated at the mouth of Yaquina Bay, river, and wetlands. Newport is a hub for all things maritime. This small town has been connected to the sea and wetlands for generations. It’s flawless for a long weekend adventure under a bridge.
PLAYING UNDER THE BRIDGE
Oregon Coast Aquarium – You won’t want to leave this stunning water world. The exhibits are exceptional. Two walk-through glass tunnels inside immense fish tanks are mesmerizing. Displays change regularly and feature different aspects of local marine life. During my visit a cave-like exhibit detailed ship-wrecks in the area.
The aquarium is home to creatures that live in and around the local ocean, river, and wetlands. Otters, sea lions, pelicans, and seabirds of all types are resident in natural habitats. In the tanks, you’ll see countless species of ocean dwellers including octopus, squid, and plenty of shellfish.
Plan a trip to coincide with feeding schedules (available on the aquarium website), or lively talks and demonstrations from the animal’s caretakers. Several unique aquarium experiences are offered. Try diving the tanks, underwater photography, or overnight camping in the tank tunnels.
In addition to exhibits, there is a fine-art gallery, gift shop, and café. The aquarium also host special events like weddings, birthday parties, and business meetings.
Hartfield Marine Science Center is operated by Oregon State University. Adults and children are invited to immerse themselves in the marine sciences and learn about the natural world.
View exhibits or participate in hands-on activities to learn about resources and issues facing the coast and the environment.
An octopus and his lair are the official 8-armed greeter. Inside exhibits teach viewers about the marine world. Tidepool touch tanks, a tsunami wave tank, an erosion tank, and a sustainable fisheries exhibit are very popular.
Outside see small submersible research vehicles, whale skeletons, and debris from the 2011 tsunami, and of course, the bridge.
South Beach State Park – Next to the Yaquina Bay Bridge, South Beach State Park stretches several miles down the Oregon coast. The park offers a variety of outdoor activities.
There’s a paved trail providing a picture-perfect place to jog, walk and cycle. You can rent bikes at the park hospitality center during the summer months.
There is an equestrian trail, horseshoe pits, playground, and a 9-hole disk course. Kayak tours, interpretive programs, guided hikes, and JR Ranger activities are available every day during summer.
Rogue Brewery – The brewers on the bay have brewery tours, the full line of Rogue brews (40 taps), Rogue Spirits, a gift shop, and a full-service restaurant. Take a tour, have lunch or dinner, or just chill with a cold Rogue.
Port of Newport Public Fishing Pier – Great for crabbing, fishing, or just watching the boats go by. Take your gear, a chair, and a picnic while you catch the evenings dinner.
Bayfront – The Newport Bayfront is a lively area skirting the Yaquina Bay. Both commercial and pleasure fishing vessels are docked here. Seals and sea lions lounge on floating docks, jostling one another for space.
Visitors jostle one another for space to play, eat, drink, and shop. It’s a colorful and fun area with an old beach and boardwalk feel.
This area is terrific for strolling and exploring. I love the murals painted on the buildings. Most depict sea-life and maritime history.
The Pacific Maritime Heritage Center does an excellent job showing the long history of area man and sea. Galleries offer local artisans marine-themed paintings and sculptures. Other fun tourist experiences like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Oregon Undersea Gardens, Whale watching tours, sunset tours, and sea lion watching are plentiful.
Bay Boulevard is lined with seafood eateries offering everything from street to 5-star food. Plan a stroll along the streets and down to the docks and have a progressive dinner. Cocktails and apps at one place, an entrée at another, and dessert at a third. It’s a great way to get to know the local food scene.
My favorite is Mo’s, a seafood institution since 1946. Famous for their clam chowder and oyster stew, everything is fresh and appetizing. I fell in love with their creamy coleslaw. They add bay shrimp, giving the big salad a lovely beachy taste. The slaw came with my lunch, a mixed seafood platter. Excellent with an ice-cold beer.
There are many outstanding accommodations in and around Newport. I suggest Embarcadero Resort for three reasons, location, location, location. Wrapped around the NE side of Yaquina Bay, the views from every room are stunning and changing hourly with weather and tide. The Yaquina Bridge and bay provide exceptional photo ops.
Embarcadero has accommodations from single rooms to two-bedroom penthouse apartments. All have bay views, modern décor, and all the amenities you need. It’s within an easy walk of Bayfront. On the property, you have access to a marina, fishing, cycling, hiking, dining, bar, shopping, spa, hot tubs, and sauna. In summer the area is busy, make reservations in advance.
Newport is in central coastal Oregon on Hwy 101, about 2-hours from Salem or 3-hours from Portland. A vehicle is the best way of getting there. GPS is advised.
Plan a long weekend in Newport and stay under the bridge. This beautiful oceanfront town is warm and welcoming with plenty to do. Just right for a long weekend.
All photos by Mary Charlebois