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Newport Oregon

April 14, 2014 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

It’s a coastal resort town of four distinct districts, two lighthouses, several man-made attractions of renown, numerous glistening beaches, a bustling bay and a boatload of history.

Newport started over 150 years ago as two different villages connected by a rickety plank over a muddy road: one was the resort of Nye Beach, which became known as the “honeymoon capital of the world” by the turn of the century. It slowly grew into a mix of quaint, beachside homes and shops, a rugged bayfront filled with fishing boats, and a center for marine science research, alongside its large array of attractions and distractions for tourists.

Now, because of its burgeoning commercial crabbing industry, it actually trademarked the term “Dungeness Crab Capital of the World.”165057_num694348_600x600

In recent years, Newport categorized four distinct areas of town that have different flavors: the “Deco” district (referring to downtown and the Yaquina Bay Bridge), Nye Beach, the Bayfront and the South Beach area. But there is technically much more to the area, especially if you consider the beaches north of Nye Beach and of Yaquina Head.

Double the Lighthouses Pleasure

One lighthouse sits above the mouth of Yaquina Bay, called the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse; and the other sits on the end of Yaquina Head and is named after that premonitory.

The Yaquina Head lighthouse is the tallest on Oregon’s coast, clocking in at 93 feet high. It was first lit up in 1873, sometime after the name of the headland was finally switched from Cape Foulweather (and the cape ten miles up the road received its current name).

There are no keeper’s quarters for this one. They were built in 1873 but demolished in 1984.

There are 114 steps up to the very top, which guides let you briefly peek into. The view from here is astounding as well – even if it’s only for a second. It’s open seasonally to visitors.

Its light still flashes today, visible for miles around.

At Yaquina Bay, what looks like an ancient home surrounded by some sort of compound is the older lighthouse of Newport. It was only used for three years, until the big one at Yaquina Head was built.

After sitting in a state of decay for many decades, locals rescued it sometime around World War II, and it eventually became one of the town’s more interesting, hands-on attractions. It actually was a home to the lighthouse keepers for its brief run, and now visitors can see guides dressed in period garb, running around the house and telling its story.

Nye Beach and Newport’s Sands

Of all of the historical tales of the Oregon coast, Nye Beach is one of the most interesting. It started out as a tourist resort, where families would pitch tents for weeks on end during the summer – if they didn’t have access to a cabin. Then Dad would show up on the weekends on what they called the “daddy train.”

The district fell in and out of repair over the century, and for much of the latter half of the 20th century was home to bohemians and artists of all kinds, often living in rickety shacks, or one notoriously wild hotel that eventually became a stunning B&B.

In the 1990’s, a steady rebirth began, and Nye Beach reworked itself into a charming mix of beach Americana and old Europe vibe, filled with upscale and hip bistros and innovative retail spots

Some of that art heritage remains, with the Newport Performing Arts Center, art galleries and a thriving live music scene close to those waves.

This is where the beach begins, however. There’s a few miles of it between the baymouth and Yaquina Head (that beach is known as Agate Beach). On the northern face of Yaquina Head begins another several miles of even more pristine beaches, like Beverly Beach State Park and Moolack Beach. Many of these are hotspots for surfers. But when winter storms scour sand levels below a certain point, you may find tons of agates or see startling remnants of forests over 2,000 years old (nicknamed the “ghost forests.”)

Deco District

This is the “downtown” area along Highway 101, filled with interesting shops and restaurants, and hosting numerous lodgings as well. It was named for some of the art deco design in the buildings near the bridge, as well as the famed Yaquina Bay bridge itself – which was designed by Conde B. McCullogh.

It’s now a buzzing area full of refurbished buildings, where modern amenities meet a 1920’s look, and a revitalization that continues to evolve into new surprises.

Historic Bayfront

It’s a cavalcade of activity here, as fishing vessels wander in and out, past the numerous tour boats – all visible from the plentiful docks that line the main drag. Some lodgings and several restaurants here allow you a front row seat to all this, along with the abundance of large, barking beasts – the sea lions – that lounge all around the bayfront.

The smells of a fishing industry are all around you as walk these antique sidewalks, moving past massive murals that depict the bay’s fishing heritage and a nearly endless variety of museums or gift shops filled with all manner of curiosities.

Crabbing from a dock is popular here – or visit Mariner Square, take the fisherman’s memorial boardwalk for an interesting stroll, and buy and eat the freshest seafood on the coast. Deep-sea fishing or whale watch tours abound here.

South Beach

Across the atmospheric Yaquina Bay, the South Beach area houses two magnificent facilities for fun with science: the world famous Oregon Coast Aquarium and the academically revered Hatfield Marine Science Center. Both allow visitors an upfront view of amazing marine life.

At the aquarium, numerous awe-inspiring sea life occupy dozens of enormous tanks, including an unforgettable oceanic ballet of huge jellyfish. The Passages of the Deep is a glass tube where you can walk under the sea and glimpse all sorts of creatures in their natural habitat, including sharks.

The Hatfield is actually more geared to research, but it too allows visitors to get up close and personal with an octopus, check out undersea volcanoes, learn about coastal weather and so much more. Behind the scenes, there is some cutting edge research that has made big finds in the realm of undersea volcanoes, phytoplankton, medicine – and it’s world famous for its whale research.

Near the two facilities are found more colorful curiosity shops, eateries and this side of the bay is a magnet for public crabbing.

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