When you’ve had just about enough of Portland’s busy and ever-expanding metropolitan hustle and bustle, there’s just one place that I would suggest heading to for some much-needed clarity: get in the car and spend a weekend in Newport, Oregon.
Nestled tightly against the rugged beaches of Oregon’s central coastline, Newport is a gem that is often left behind by the beachy pulls of the easily accessible Cannon Beach and Seaside. But the extra time on the road (roughly one hour extra) is well worth it. Not only will you find lower prices in Newport which of course qualifies it as a Frugal Portland-worthy destination, but you’ll find the combination of quiet, quaint beach town with a little bit of rough and tough fishing town to go with it. There are handfuls of bars and restaurants that give you night life options or the traditional beach-style restaurants that close their doors early. Whatever floats your boat, you’ll find something in Newport.
Newport has a fairly large year-round population in comparison to its beach town counterparts. The most recent census report identified Newport’s population at just over 10,000 people. Cannon Beach has a permanent residence of roughly 1,700 and Seaside with 6,500. So while you still get the secluded Oregon Coast feel that everyone mentions when talking about Oregon beaches, you’re surrounded by a few more options than other coastal dwellings. With the larger population comes more community supported events, Newport is famous for its Seafood Festival in late February each year and has a bevy of other small festival-like celebrations throughout the year like Whale Watch Week (mid-late March) and in late April the town celebrates with a Seafair Festival that has been going for over half a century. This year’s celebration marks the 60th anniversary beginning on April 28th.
Regardless, even if you stroll into town on a weekend, or possibly weekday, when the town isn’t in festival mode, there is so much to do and see in Newport that a few days will go by like the blink of an eye. What began simply as a fishing town has now blossomed into a fully functioning town with citizens from every walk of life. Oregon State University’s world-renowned Hatfield Marine Science Center is home to OSU’s top-notch graduate programs in Ocean, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Zoology and Fisheries & Wildlife Management. The campus has brought some academic flash to Newport and routinely has Newport in the international science spotlight.
Newport is also now home to Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s (OMSI) newest campus named Coastal Discovery Center at Camp Gray where the Portland non-profit science education company will house summer camps and year-round exhibits. There are whale watching hotspots throughout Newport and just North, in Depoe Bay. So even if Newport didn’t intend to, it’s become somewhat of a science hotspot… and who doesn’t love to learn about the world around us?
But let’s say you’re not so keen on science and want to know what else Newport has to offer… you’re in luck. Newport has some of the finest Seafood dining on the Oregon Coast. Local Ocean Seafoods, located at the Western end of Yaquina Bay’s tourist pier, is quite possibly the best Seafood restaurant in Oregon. Owned and operated by a Pacific Northwest native, the seafood served at Local Ocean is of the utmost quality and is held to certain sustainability measures. It’s wonderful to know that the Oysters your delicately tasting came from 50-feet away, not 3,000 miles. Aside from Local Ocean, Shark’s is yet another Seafood delight. A ma-and-pa joint on the other end of the pier from Local Ocean, Shark’s Seafood Bar is a traditional taste of Newport life. Fresh seafood prepared perfectly by a wife-husband duo and a small bar that attracts the local Coast Guard residents, Shark’s is another shining example of Newport’s diverse scene.
If you’re looking for more of an easy-going scene Newport has two Rogue Breweries, one along the pier that is more like a bar and grill and an actual brewery just across the Yaquina Bay Bridge. There’s a few other bars around town but Rogue has delicious beer, tasty bar food and some awesome apparel.
So now you’re full of fish and beer… what else should you know about Newport? It’s simple, after you’ve toured the Hatfield Marine Science Center, checked out OMSI’s newest campus, done some driving along the coast in hopes of seeing whales and maybe even done some shopping in Newport’s adorable Nye Beach neighborhood (where beach access is flanked by a cozy bookstore, coffee shops and an Irish pub), there’s only one thing left to do. Head back to your hotel room and enjoy the sounds and sights of the Pacific Ocean just a few steps away.
Photo by Jelson25 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons