For over a century now, the small seaside town of Newport has brought visitors pouring to its shores with the promise of unique sights and stunning coastal scenery.
Newport’s historic bayfront serves as base not only for commercial fishing fleets, with a plethora of seafood restaurants serving their catches, but also as home for hundreds of barking sea lions too. In town you’ll find plenty of fun alongside the delectable food – souvenir shops and tourist attractions like Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Aquarium, and out of town you have the famed historic lighthouse to discover!
Head to Nye Beach if you like a buzzing art and theater scene, while nature-, hiking-, biking-,horseback riding- and photography lovers will adore the choice of coastal trails to explore. And don’t forget the residents – you can meet some of the Pacific’s best loved marine animals up close at the Oregon Coast Aquarium, Hatfield Marine Science Center, or by tide pooling on the beaches.
With so much to discover, and so much spectacular scenery to be photographed and picnicked in, Newport definitely makes for a great destination to head to. Let’s find out more.
1. Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!
While you’re in Newport, you should definitely pay Ripley’s Believe It or Not a visit, one of the town’s most unique destinations. Little changed since it opened in 1986, and cheesy tourist trap it may be, Ripley’s is actually great fun for kids and the young-at-heart. There’s an incredible assortment of 500+ artifacts, oddities, strange art, and interactive games inside to entertain the curious for hours on end. Our favorites are the shrunken heads, vampire killing kit, illusions and light installations. Some are serious wonders, others are just silly; all are a delightful surprise and come with info boards to explain them.
There’s also an art garden to enjoy. And we recommend adding the quirky wax museum to your ticket.
Where: 250 SW Bay Blvd. #4535, Newport, OR
Open: Daily, 10am – 7pm.
Ticket: Adult: $25, Child (4-11): $20.
2. Yaquina Bay Bridge
The Yaquina Bay Bridge is an arch bridge that spans Yaquina Bay south of Newport. One of 11 bridges on the Oregon Coast Highway (Hwy 101) designed by Conde McCullough, this is the most famous, and opened in 1936 to replace the last ferry crossing on the highway.
You can walk or drive across (avoid the walk on a windy day if at all possible!). One of the best places to get a great photo of it is from the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse parking lot.
Fun Facts About Yaquina Bay Bridge
- It took two years to build.
- It cost $1,301,016 ($27,440,000 in today’s dollars).
- 220 people worked to pour 30,000 cubic yards of concrete and manufacture 3,100 tons of steel for it.
- The contractors were the Gilpin Construction Company of Portland, Oregon, and the General Construction Company of Seattle, Washington.
- The main arch was built inward from the anchorages.
- The piers are supported by timber pilings that were driven to 70 feet below sea level.
- The 600-foot main span is an arch which the roadway runs through the middle of.
Where: 1950 SW Coast Hwy, Newport, OR
3. Newport’s Historic Bayfront And The Sea Lion Dock
The harbor area is a great place to head to to eat, drink, shop, hang with friends, and people watch. Add to that the fact this is an authentic working port, with fishing boats coming in and unloading their daily catches – some of which go to the harborside restaurants, some to the packing plant on the docks, and some which is sold to locals right from the boats!
It’s a busy area, but there’s lots of parking, and it makes a good place to stroll around on a nice day.
The added bonus of this place (though not for the neighbors due to the barking and tourist noise!) are the lower docks, used for some eleven months of the year by the sea lions as a launch platform for playing in the harbor or for resting on while they grab some warming rays.
Note that you won’t see the sea lions in July, as that’s when they swim out to the islands for mating season.
Where: 250-300 SW Bay Blvd., Newport, OR.
4. Seal Rock State Park
15 minutes’ drive south of Newport is Seal Rock- a small, picturesque, family-oriented park boasting ocean views, a forest, and a clean, rocky beach. It’s most famous for its impressive rock formations, but is also popular for its wildlife- seals, sea lions and sea birds sunning themselves, or playing in or on the water. Don’t forget your binoculars!
The rugged coastline is a dream for photographers, and kids will love exploring the tide pools and streams while you set out the picnic. Be sure to try the local ice cream and hiking a few of the scenic trails in the area.
There is free parking in a small lot, with restrooms nearby.
The trail to the beach is steep in some parts, but there is an ADA-accessible viewpoint halfway down with great ocean views and tide pools too. Use the official trail down (by the sign) for safety, and do take your fur baby along for the fun, just keep them on a leash!
5. South Beach State Park
Stretching several miles along the Oregon Coast and just across Yaquina Bay from Newport, South Beach State Park is a perfect day and overnight destination for families – it’s a huge and very popular area with a lot of campgrounds with showers and bathrooms, well-maintained asphalted paths, a disc golf course and playgrounds, and picnic areas.
There is a plethora of activities to enjoy – whether you’re there to relax and sunbathe, swim or surf, people and ocean-watch on the jetty, or bike and horseback ride. Watch out for little kids also zooming around the trails on their bikes, skates and scooters!
Where: 5580 SW Coast Hwy, Newport, OR.
6. Nye Beach
The easy-access Nye Beach offers a stretch of beautiful, soft sand, great sunbathing, swimming and surfing opportunities (weather-permitting), and has some of the best tide pools and beachcombing in Oregon.
Known for its bubbly art scene, in town there are shops and a brilliant selection of all-day cafes, the Newport Visual Arts Center, and Newport Performing Arts Center for some diverse theater shows if you’re so inclined.
Stay in one of the cute beach-facing cottages if you want to stay longer.
Where: NW Beach Dr. Newport, OR.
7. Rogue Nation Brewery & Spirits
Famous for its beer and fish-and-chips, Rogue Nation is a must-do while you’re in the area.
As long as the smell of fermenting hops doesn’t put you off, and you’re not adverse to climbing steep stairs to get there, this restaurant in a brewery is well worth your time, and it has a wonderful view of the harbor.
We recommend their “Dead Guy Whiskey,” the chocolate or oatmeal stout, or (/and!) their homemade gin with cucumber and lime.
Don’t miss the gift shop and discovering the brewing area too.
Where: 2320 OSU Drive Newport, OR.
Open: Monday – Sunday: 11:00am – 8:00pm.
8. Newport Farmers Market
This seasonal, Saturdays-only farmers market is a real treat if you’re looking for quality, variety and organic goods in your weekly shop or for your picnic. While not as cheap as a local grocer’s, you can haggle respectfully here to get a great deal on everything from fresh seasonal fruit, flowers and vegetables, to art, jewelry, pastries, honey, dips, coffee, crafts and more!
Enjoy live music and be sure not to miss the Hot Food Court.
Get there early as parking can be a struggle, and be ready with your bags-for-life to explore the beautiful displays and meet the friendly vendors and Master Gardeners to inspire your next meal, gift, or creativity in the garden!
Where: On the corner of Angle and Hwy 101.
Open: Saturdays March – mid-December, 9am-1pm.
9. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
North of Newport, just off Highway 101, at the end of Yaquina Head, in the protected natural area, is the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. It is a working lighthouse (though today it is automated- no lighthouse keeper needed, other than to guide the tourists through), and it is Oregon’s second oldest, built in 1871 and decommissioned 3 years later. Standing at an impressive 93 feet, it boasts 110 steps for the brave and able to climb for impressive views of the bridge and ocean. There are a few platforms on the way up to rest on and let other groups pass. The impressive and still-functioning Fresnel lens can only be seen from a distance – people are allowed to stand on the last (top) step one at a time, which puts you waist-height in the room, giving you a moment to appreciate and grab a photo.
With your entrance (parking) ticket, you get a nice guided tour, on which you’ll learn some history of the lighthouse and the area.
This 19th-century lighthouse is one of a few on the Pacific coast that was built with the lightkeeper’s quarters in the same building, and these have been kept pretty much as-was for some insight into the life of a lighthouse keeper and his family. Interesting is the fact that its first and only keeper, Charles H. Peirce, a former Civil War captain in the Union Army, lived with his wife and children there, and their ninth child was born there – we wonder where they fitted them all!
Nearby, you can head down to the popular stony beach at low tide to explore some beached marine life (and don’t forget to look up too – there will be cormorants and Western Gulls flying around catching fish, Peregrine Falcons roosting on the cliffs, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to see some seals swimming around or sunning themselves on the rocks). You can also hike and bike the local trails or bring along a picnic with ingredients bought at the Newport Farmers Market.
The Visitor Center is worth visiting – with wonderful displays, murals, historical photographs and educational presentations.
There are restrooms and there’s a nice gift shop for souvenir hunters too!
Where: 750 NW Lighthouse Dr, Newport, OR.
Open: Daily, 10am – 6pm.
10. Hatfield Marine Science Center
The informative exhibits at the Hatfield Marine Science Center give you a glimpse into modern marine science research, with exhibits on trawling, wave power and more, teaching you through interactive displays that are as interesting for grown-ups as they are for kids!
There are tanks with live fish, oysters and a giant pacific octopus (booking yourself in for an Octopus feeding is top of our list of recommendations here!), and be sure not to miss the touch tide pool area – three pools with sea cucumbers, anemones and urchins.
The volunteers there are excellent at teaching new things to kids through fun and playing – be it through hands-on, video, text or objects.
They have a fun gift shop worth your time and dollars, too!
Where: 2030 SE Marine Science Dr, Newport, OR.
Open: 10am – 4pm, closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Ticket: Tickets ($5 for ages five and up) are available online and at the door.
11. Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a living classroom in Yaquina Bay in Newport, Oregon, boasting a mission of education and awareness-raising of the need for conservation and rehabilitation. The layout is wonderful – with moon jellies to greet you in a large tank in reception, and outside pools (dress for the weather!) to meet sea lions, sea otters and seals. There’s also a seabird aviary with turkey vultures because…well, why not?
Inside, our favorite part was the underwater tunnel for a new perspective on the mysterious and graceful marine world, with large fish and sharks swimming around you, and there are also touch-pools with starfish, sea anemones, sea urchins and other marine creatures, with guides on hand to supervise and answer questions.
The sea otters Oswald, Schuster, and Earle come and go into their enclosure as the mood takes them- the best time to be sure to see them is during one of their scheduled feeds at 10.30am, 1pm, and 3pm daily. You can also watch the pinniped feed at 11am and 2.30pm and Seabird Aviary Feed at 2pm.
In the Discovery Zone, the eager staff take the educational aspect even further with an Ambassador Animal Meet and Greet at 12pm on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and an Opossum Presentation at 3.30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
Also worth your time, and for an extra charge that goes back to caring for the animals, are the Octopus Encounter, Sea Jelly Touch Encounter, and Behind the Scenes Tours. Animal encounters are for ages 8+ and require paid admission and advance registration.
Note that at the time of writing, the Oregon Coast Aquarium “Rocky Shores” and “Sandy Shores” galleries were temporarily closed (until summer 2024, they say). As ticket sales support the care of the animals, reducing prices or closing entirely aren’t feasible options, so the aquarium is ongoing, though in its reduced capacity, but just as enthusiastic as ever to show us what life in the sea is like and how important it is to care for that marine world.
Most of the property is wheelchair accessible.
Where: 2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport, OR.
Open: Daily, 10am – 5pm.
Ticket: Adult (18-64) $26, Young Adult (13-17) $20, Child (3-12) $16. Tickets can be purchased online or at the gate.
12. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
The stunning Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area extends out from the Oregon coast one mile into the Pacific Ocean, and is home of the famed lighthouse.
On your walk along this rocky outcrop, with its numerous very photogenic viewpoints, you’ll see harbor seals year-round, and in the warmer months, thousands of nesting seabirds. If you’re really lucky, you might also spot gray whales passing on their annual migrations to Mexico (late fall – early winter) and Alaska (late winter – early spring).
There are also plenty of places to set up a picnic here if the weather is on your side!
Head down the 100 steps onto Cobble Beach with its basalt rock pools and hundreds of brightly colored sea stars, sea urchins, crabs, coral and anemones. You’ll find rangers are on hand to answer questions about that beautiful marine life, too.
Be sure to visit the Interpretive Center to discover 140 years of lighthouse- and thousands of years of natural and cultural history, and a fun opportunity to buy a unique local souvenir or two – site-related books, maps, and postcards, for example.
Park in the upper area close to the lighthouse or drive down the hill after you enter to a quieter area and beach.
Where: 750 NW Lighthouse Dr, Newport, OR.
Open: 8am – 5pm.
Ticket: Vehicle: $7 for a 3-day pass, walkers/bikers – FREE.
13. Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area
Bigger than it looks in the photos, this makes a mesmerizing stop on the already amazing Oregon coast drive. 40 feet across and equal parts dramatic and dangerous, the Devil’s Punchbowl blow hole is wonderful to watch in action – but don’t even think to try to get in closer than the viewpoint barrier! Most people try to visit at high tide for the highest splashes, but the panoramic views of the coast line are worth seeing any time of day.
The Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area itself offers a hike or horseback ride on a 7.5 mile round-trip trail through a deep canyon formed by runoff from the San Gabriel Mountains. There are wonderful rock formations in the area, as well as landscapes of Joshua trees, California Junipers, Pinyon Pine Woodland and Desert Chaparral shrubs. Be sure to visit the Nature Center, if you have time, to learn about the native wildlife and park history.
On the cliff top trail, you can see surfers down below, and there are picnic tables in the area for you to use.
A note on getting there – coming from Newport, you should turn off Coastal Highway 101 when you see the sign for MO’s Restaurant, but there are no signs after that (though there is a sign coming from the opposite direction).
There’s plenty of free parking in the area.
Where: 122 1st St, Otter Rock, OR.
Open: Tuesday – Sunday 8am to 7.30pm (5pm in winter), closed Mondays.
14. Cape Foulweather
Just down the road from Devil’s Punchbowl is the gorgeous Cape Foulweather- despite the name Captain Cook gave it (however oftentimes accurate), promising wonderful views and a peaceful vibe, with a beautiful drive through a forest to get there.
Cape Foulweather is a basalt outcropping 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean south of Depoe Bay. You are sure to see some great wildlife while there, and friendly and knowledgeable rangers and volunteers are on hand at the cozy cottage visitor center to point out whale spouts and tails if you’re there at the right time of year.
Don’t miss the gift shop for some lovely souvenirs.
Captain James Cook, on his third voyage around the world, wrote in his journal on March 7, 1778 journal:
“The land appeared to be of moderate height, diversified with hill and valley and almost everywhere covered with wood. There was nothing remarkable about it except one hill…At the northern extreme the land formed a point which I called Cape Foulweather from the very bad weather we soon after met with.”
Where: 4905 Otter Crest Loop, Otter Rock, OR.
Open: The Cape Foulweather Gift Shop is open Wednesday – Sunday 10am – 4pm.
What Else Can I Do In Or Around Newport?
We recommend exploring the Newport area’s many beaches. Oregon boasts 362 miles of coastline with numerous sand-and-rock headlands to discover and snap, where every day the retreating tides reveal some of the same marine life you’ll pay to see in the Aquarium, at home in their natural habitats – the tide pools. As we discovered when exploring some of Oregon’s best tide pool beaches, it can get both very cold and very windy on the Pacific coast. Luckily, though, we found some more sheltered and warm Oregon beaches, and learned the best times of year to head there, so you can get your dose of beach-vibes and ocean waves year-round, in comfort.
Newport has a plethora of fun, quirky and marine-related activities, though its real gems are its tide pool beaches and nature areas. Meet the sealife and learn how important it is to preserve our environment, then take a few silly hours to explore the amazing Ripley’s!
While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the most up-to-date information, we always recommend you do your own research before you travel, and check conditions and prices with official sites. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your adventure!