This summer has almost been too hot to handle and residents of the Willamette Valley will use any excuse we can to escape to cooler climates, if only for the day. Better yet—we don’t need an excuse to visit the coast. With some of the best beaches on the West Coast located only an hour’s drive away, we should escape to sand and sea as much as possible. Even the most passive Pacific Northwesterner will brag about Oregon’s beautiful coastline. Why? Because all 363 miles of it is for the public to enjoy.
Head North or South, But Start in Newport
Highway 101 is your oyster! This busy highway might cause you to slow down and take your time, but just look out the window and enjoy the endless ocean views. Take a trip to Newport to start your coastal journey. Arguably the closest city to Corvallis with beach access, Newport is home to lighthouses, sea lions, and sandy shores aplenty. Popular beaches include Nye Beach, Agate Beach, and those at a number of state parks.
This seaside community of around 10,000 residents is home to not one, but two historical lighthouses.
The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse can be spotted atop a bluff perched over Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site. The lighthouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1871. Inside the lighthouse, visitors are greeted with a blast from the past and period-appropriate décor, including an intricate piece of wall art made out of human hair.
Climb to the tippy top of the lighthouse on a tour. Tours are free by donation and the lighthouse is open to the public every day except major holidays. The lighthouse is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the end of September, and from noon to 4 p.m. from October through Memorial Day.
The 93-foot-tall Yaquina Head Lighthouse is a shining star of Newport’s coastline. This lighthouse can be found at the end of the road at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Purchase a Bureau of Land Management visitor’s pass for the day to take a closer look at this light tower. Tours are also available. For an added bonus to your visit, take a peek at the nearby tide pools and walk along the wobbly surface of Cobble Beach. Sea lions, gulls, and seals are also known to frequent the nearby rocks lining the shore.
For more marine life encounters, stop by the Sea Lion Docks at Port Dock One, located along SW Bay Boulevard. The sounds of sea lions can be heard as soon as you hit Bay Boulevard so you shouldn’t have any problems finding the place.
Newport’s historic Bayfront is also lined with restaurants and bars to suit everyone and anyone’s taste.
Good eats can be found at these spots:
- M & P Authentic Thai Cuisine – This restaurant, located at 836 SW Bay Boulevard, is operated by a sweet Thai couple and the food is just as good as the ambiance and customer service. Try the pad Thai and the lettuce wraps or their can’t-be-beat lunch specials, which come with soup, an appetizer, and a main dish.
- Mo’s (original location) – This is the spot to get your chowder fix. Mo’s, located at 622 Bay Boulevard, serves up a full menu of fresh seafood offerings to fill your belly while you stare longingly at the Pacific Ocean.
- The Coffee House – Yes, there’s coffee. There’s also freshly baked loaves of bread, blueberry pancakes bigger than your face, irresistible pastries, killer lattes, and omelets that would fill up anyone’s belly. This is a tried and true spot to nurse a morning hangover. You’ll leave full and happy.
Café Mundo – Found along NW Coast Street, Café Mundo boasts world cuisine, a funky atmosphere, and live music on most weekends. Be sure to try the tempeh tacos and the fish tacos. You won’t regret it.
Panini Bakery – Located across the street from Mundo, Panini has what is perhaps the best pizza found on the central Oregon Coast. Cookies, muffins, and sandwiches are also on the menu.
Rogue Brewers on the Bay – Across the Yaquina Bay Bridge, you’ll find a beer-lover’s oasis. Located along SE Marine Science Drive, Brewers on the Bay offers up standard pub fare and a full list of famous Rogue beers. This location is also home to the Rogue Brewery and Rogue World Headquarters. Drink on!
A Few More Spots to Visit
South Beach State Park – While you’re on the other side of the bridge, drive a few more miles down Highway 101 and visit this state park. There is usually plenty of parking and a few miles of calm coastline. You can take a paved path to various sections of the beach and out to the South Jetty. Use caution and check the tide tables before your visit. This is just one of the area’s dog-friendly beaches.
Oregon Coast Aquarium – Encounter an octopus, watch otters and seals swim, or view the many varieties of exotic fish. The Oregon Coast Aquarium is family-friendly and makes for a great date spot, too. Be sure to stop by the Sea Bird Aviary to see a variety of seabirds, from tufted puffins to common murres.
To the North
There’s lots more to explore beyond Newport. If you head north, be sure to make stops in Depoe Bay and Lincoln City.
Depoe Bay is home to the Whale Watching Center and the world’s smallest navigable harbor.
Lincoln City is divided into a collection of smaller districts. In this quiet but kitschy city you should plan to make stops at the Lincoln City Cultural Center and a wide selection of local glass studios, where artists give live glassblowing demos.
To the South
South of Newport, you’ll find great spots like Ona Beach and Seal Rock. Visit the Port of Alsea for a day of paddling or watch people try their luck at fishing and crabbing. Be sure to stop by local shops for candy, books, or beach souvenirs.
Head another eight miles down the highway to Yachats. Deemed “the gem of the Oregon Coast,” Yachats is weirdly wonderful and the people are wonderfully welcoming. There are plenty of beaches, guest lodging options, or quiet spots to grab a bite to eat in this tiny town. (The crowds thin out after the summer season. The lighter crowds make a day visit much more enjoyable.)
Just a few more miles down 101, you’ll find Cape Perpetua. Cape Perpetua is a lovely mix of mountains, an ancient, lush rainforest, and spots to catch breathtaking coastal views. A day pass is required, but it’s worth the money. Purchase a day pass at the Cape Perpetua Visitor Center, or use your Northwest Forest Pass to avoid buying a day pass.
Now, go stick your feet in the sand and search for sand dollars before summer’s over.
By Abbie Tumbleson