Culture shock has set in as we move from our snuggly little camp site in Florence to a large paved RV park in Newport. When plans change in the middle of peak season this is what you deal with, but we are not complaining as the Port of Newport RV Park sits right on Yaquina (Ya-KWIN-a) Bay with a lovely marina and the historic Yaquina Bay Bridge, all to be seen right outside our window. Other items in the plus column are great shower and laundry facilities, mighty friendly staff, surprisingly quiet park, and the Rogue Brewery rubs elbows with the marina, should you be interested in craft beers.
Welcome to the Dungeness crab capital of the world – Newport! This city of roughly 10,000 residents boasts a historic working waterfront with one of the largest and most productive commercial fishing fleets on the West Coast. We were given a tip for a great place to eat on the waterfront, owned and operated by some of the fishermen’s wives, Local Ocean Seafood. The food was as good as promised, but for us, besides the bustling marina, a few interesting shops, and some neat murals painted on the sides of several buildings, we found the area to be somewhat garish, with the tourist trappings of a wax museum and Ripley’s Believe It or Not tossed in among what could be a cool little bayfront. Although Newport may be a tad bit touristy and busy for us and may not make the ‘definitely got to come back here’ list, it does have some things going for it (more on that in a minute) so definitely check it out if you are in the area.
Newport averages 156 sunny days, below the national average of 205, and I would venture to say that with those sunny days comes a little (or a lot) of fog. Unless I am driving or determined to get a clear photo of something, I don’t mind the fog. In fact, when walking or hiking, I love the fog. Fog gets a bad wrap, depicted as menacing in many fairy tales (don’t go into the scary, foggy forest) but I find it quite magical and mysterious. In Newport there are many opportunities to walk along the windswept beaches in the fog, with the only sound being the distant foghorn guiding the seafarers safely home. Being blanketed in pure whiteness is like a metaphor for living in the present; look behind you and there is nothing; look ahead the same. Stillness and the feeling that right here is all there is settles in over me.
In and around the city we found plenty to keep us busy and would recommend the following:
1) Historic Yaquina Bay Bridge
Oregonians love their bridges, and rightly so, as they have some of the finest we have seen. The historic Yaquina Bay Bridge spans the Yaquina Bay with a length of 3223 feet and she is quite the looker. This Art Deco beauty, completed on September 16, 1936, is one of 14 designed by Oregon bridge engineer Conde McCullough along Oregon’s Hwy. 101. I couldn’t stop taking pictures of her in various lighting, she is that lovely!
If you like lighthouses you are in for a treat, as there are two of them, and a little mystery surrounds them we have read.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was built in 1871 and decommissioned a mere 3 years later and is believed to be the oldest building in Newport. She fell into total disrepair as she sat empty but was lovingly restored as a navigational aid in late 1996, now being operated by the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
This sweet little lighthouse sits 161 feet above sea level with a 51 foot tower and when originally built, had a 5th order Fresnel lens. It is the only existing Oregon lighthouse with the living quarters attached.
Stories seem to differ about why she was taken out of service after 3 short years. The most likely reason seems to be that her beam was blocked by Yaquina Head so a new lighthouse was built there instead. Perhaps poor planning on someone’s part?
Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the “new and improved” lighthouse, was first lit in August, 1873 and is still an active beam, although her light was automated in 1966. Her first-order Fresnel lens, visible 20 miles out to sea, is still stationed in the tower for all to see. This 93-foot tower is the tallest on the Oregon coast but because the award for tallest lighthouse is measured from ocean to tip of tower, Yaquina Head does not garner the grand prize, only sitting 162 feet above sea level. Cape Blanco embraces that honor with a clifftop of 245 feet.
Tours offered at the lighthouse are conducted by volunteers in period dress and I must say, they do her history proud. Through them we learned that many of the original buildings were destroyed in 1984 instead of being restored and the original 2-story lightkeeper’s quarters was replaced by a 1-story structure.
There is a superb Interpretive Center operated by the non-profit Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses which we believe is a must-see.
3) Road Trip
Within a few short miles north or south of Newport is some stunning coastline which should not be missed. Cobble Beach sits at the base of Yaquina Head Lighthouse and has some great sea stacks, noisy sea lions, and a cobbled-stone beach (as the name implies). Just down the hill is Quarry Cove, a real stunner, with a gentle beach popular with paddleboarders.
Historic Nye Beach is a burb of Newport and her first resort area, dating back to 1866.
Sitting oceanfront with interesting galleries, boutique shops and restaurants, you have easy access to the beach dubbed “The Most Romantic Beach” by Sunset magazine. We are going to go back and stick our toes in the sand before we leave the area to see if we can feel the love.
Head a few miles north and make a quick stop at Devil’s Punchbowl State Park for some interesting rock formations.
Press on just a little further (few miles at most) and Cape Foulweather, not living up to her name this day (yeah, picture time), provides more eye-popping shoreline. Just north of the cape is Depoe Bay, nice for off-shore views and whale-watching we are told, but far too touristy for our tastes.
South Beach State Park, just a mile south from where we are staying, has some nice walking/biking paths and a great stretch of beach begging you to take a walk in the fog or put a kite in the air. Although we have not been, we are told Beverly Beach State Park, 7 miles north of Newport, is a great area to explore as well.
4) All Things Fishy
Hovering on the fringes of our RV park, within walking distance, are NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) Pacific Fleet, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and the Hatfield Marine Science Center, or walk over to the public pier and watch the locals drop their crab traps into the water. We did not see anyone pull up an empty trap, which is why this foggy fishing port may be called the Dungeness crab capital of the world.
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