"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." Bilbo Baggins

PNW 2023 Part 3 – Central Oregon Coast, Newport

As we continued up the coast, we made an extended stop a few miles north of Newport and just a short 75 miles from Winchester Bay.  We love this area! During our last two visits we spotted a lot of whales and hoped to replicate our luck again this year.  The Oregon coast is lined with lighthouses and there are three of them close to Newport.  There is also a lot of fishing in the area which increases our chance for more fresh seafood.  Lucky us on all counts! We also planned for a couple of coastal hikes we had not been able to do on previous visits. Another bonus! The weather forecast was for great temps and we looked forward to a wonderful week.

Newport is one of the more major cities along the coast.  An active fishing port with tons of fishing boats and multiple fish mongers (that was a new word for me, by the way).  Their historic bayfront is the hub of their fishing activities. It is home to two lighthouses, one of which still active.  We stayed at Pacific Shores Motorcoach Resort.  Only motorhomes are permitted and have to be longer than 25’. Each camp site is privately owned and only rented out when they are not in residence. Ironically it turned out to be “Owner’s Week”so the place was full and we were lucky to get in.  Our site had a view of the ocean and Yaquina Head Lighthouse out the front window and we watched quite a few gorgeous sunsets and even some whales.

The Oregon Coast is well known for Gray Whales, especially during the migration in the spring and fall. There are a few pods of whales that do make the area home for the summer, and we were on the hunt to see them.  Our go-to favorite place is Depoe Bay.  Pronounced “Depot”, it is a small village right on Hwy 101 and stakes a claim as having the smallest harbor in the world. There is a stone seawall right along the road and it is one of our favorite viewing spots.  As Jennifer is not really a boat person, we did all our whale watching from shore, but there are lots of opportunities to go on a whale watching tour in anything from a boat to a rubber dingy!

This year we had a couple of highlight viewings.  We saw two breaches where the whales jump high above the water and dive back in, the classic whale pose and we saw quite a few tail dives where the whale dives deep enough so that its tail comes up out of the water as it dives deep.

There are numerous other viewing locations in the area including Boiler Bay, just north of Depoe Bay, and Rocky Creek.  We had been to Boiler Bay previously, but Rocky Creek was a new place for us. There is also a nice whale viewing area linked to a park, Depoe Bay Scenic View Area is just north of town and we saw some whales there as well.

We also drove the Otter Crest Loop, a nice scenic drive along the coast and over another McCullough Bridge, the Ben Jones Bridge, on our way to Cape Foulweather.   The Cape was named by Capt. Cook in 1778 when he had to anchor his ships out at sea, exclaiming it as the nastiest weather he had ever encountered.  Winds can blow over 100 mph in the winter, so we think the name is an apt descriptor!  There is a small gift store and viewing building up on the bluff and whales can be seen from above. Very unique to be able to see their whole body, although we did not see any during our visit this time.  We did see them last time we were there in 2020.

But Newport was more than just whale watching.  We visited two local lighthouses;  Yaquina Head and Yaquina Bay.  Yaquina Head Lighthouse is still active and it is the one we could see from our motorhome front window at our RV site.  There is a great interpretive center at the main parking lot and a nice half-mile walk to the lighthouse.  It is not open for touring but there are some great views there.  It is well known for its large nesting area of Common Murres.  While we were there, we also saw tons of seals and sea lions and we even saw a couple more whales.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is at the entry to Yaquina Bay which is the mouth of the Yaquina River and the home of Newport Harbor.  It is unique for Oregon coast lighthouses as it is made of wood and was incorporated into the keeper’s house.  It only had one keeper, who had a family with 7 children.  You can tour the house, but not go up in the lighthouse portion. It was very interesting to see how the family lived.  The house was quite large and must have seemed like a mansion in 1871. It was decommissioned in 1874 but reinstated in 1996.

Newport also has another of Conde McCullough’s bridges, the Yaquina Bay Bridge.  It is almost a twin of the bridge at Coos Bay. Elegant and beautiful!

We took a drive to hike to Heceta Head Lighthouse about 45 miles south of Newport.  There is a coastal trail through some thick forest with tall old growth Sitka Spruce trees and ferns everywhere, almost like a rain forest.  The trail is about 3-miles out-and-back and goes up and down along the coast from a roadside trailhead to the lighthouse.  The most unique part of the trail was coming up on the light house from above it.  There is an overlook adjacent to the lighthouse that is even in height to the main light.  We could see the glow of the light in the lens as it turned.  We were able to go into the lighthouse, but not climb up into the light.  It is almost a twin to the Umpqua Lighthouse we toured in Winchester Bay.  In fact, is has an identical winding staircase.  The old lightkeeper’s house down the hill is now a bed and breakfast.

The nostalgic part of this trip was hiking the Hobbit Trail to Hobbit Beach.  As a couple of Lord of the Rings nerds, we could not pass on that.  It gets its name from the overlapping trees which create small tunnels fit for a Hobbit.  We looked for Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, but did not see them ☹ There were also some great views of Hobbit Beach from the Heceta Head Trail.

We spent one of our days exploring the Newport Bayfront area and an excursion out to an Oyster Farm.  The Bayfront is the fishing business part of Newport where all the Fish Mongers are with quite a few restaurants and artsy shops.  There is a big marina there as well.  We did find a nice place to see the seals on the rock jetties.  Our excursion along the Yaquina Bay and the river took us out to Oregon Oyster Farms.  This place was in the middle of nowhere but was “the” place to get fresh oysters.   Unfortunately for us, with it being summer, the temperatures were too warm to have fresh raw samples, but we did bring home a ½ pint of smoked oysters we ate that night for supper on crackers with cream cheese and capers.  We also made a quick trip out to Toledo, as we heard they have a neat old downtown and a train museum.  The museum was closed that day and the shops seemed to have moved on. 🙁

No visit is complete without a thorough exploration of the local restaurants and we did our share in Newport.  Georgie’s gave us an opportunity for a beachside view and some fresh crab again.  They have a unique automated window washing system which rinses water from the top and collects it in gutters at the bottom, running every 30 minutes to keep the views clear and we had freshly caught fish and chips at the Southbeach Fish Market.  Newport also has a couple of breweries.  Rogue is a big local brand and shipped all around the PNW so we opted for Newport Brewing instead, a small local spot with a wonderful little restaurant and good food.  I got an anchor beer flight, which came on a serving board shaped like an anchor.  Fun! Their beer was outstanding and I especially liked the Rockfish XL (English Oatmeal Stout).

Newport also gave us another opportunity to watch some wonderful Oregon Coast sunsets.  Watching them out the front window was a treat!

Newport was another great stop with some familiar repeat places and several new ones as well.  We are glad we decided to make it an extended stay and will keep it as a repeat visit location for our future trips.  But all good things come to an end and before we knew it, it was time to move on to our next stop further up the coast, Cannon Beach.

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