In the late 1800s, the journey to the Central Oregon Coast city of Newport, named for the city in Rhode Island, was much more difficult than it is today. People had to arrive by railroad to a destination several miles up the Yaquina River from the coast and take a boat the rest of the way. Nonetheless, the journey didn’t deter tourists determined to enjoy a stay at the beach. In fact, Newport’s first hotel welcomed guests as early as 1868. Later, the New Cliff House opened in 1913 and is on the National Register of Historic Places; it operates today as the Sylvia Beach Hotel.
A look around Newport reveals hints of its past, but much has happened in Newport since its early years. Today’s beachgoers find a city with distinct historic districts, modern additions, plenty of attractions and great seafood dining. But the fundamental reason people travel to this part of the Oregon Coast hasn’t changed: the rich ecosystem created by the Yaquina River as it meets the Pacific.
Newport is only a 2.5-hour drive from Portland, Oregon, making it an easy-to-reach getaway from just about anywhere along the I-5 corridor.
Arrive and check in at your beachfront home away from home, the Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn. This dog-friendly hotel has been newly renovated and offers one of the best guest experiences in Newport. Get settled, take a relaxing stroll on the beach, and then head to the hotel lobby in time for the wine reception, hosted daily. Afterward, dine in the hotel’s restaurant, Sea Glass, which features fresh-caught local seafood (start with the Dungeness crab beignets and salmon cake sliders from the lounge menu). Turn in early. You’ve got a big day tomorrow.
You’re here because of the ocean, right? There’s no better way to experience it than riding a wave. This morning, after breakfast, check in at Ossie’s Surf Shop about a mile north of your hotel on Highway 101 (reserve your lesson and gear in advance online). You can join a group lesson or schedule a private lesson, including gear and surfboard, with an experienced, certified instructor; you get to keep the gear and board for 24 hours in case you’ve been bitten by the surf bug. If you’re a novice, you’ll be in good hands; lessons start with the fundamentals, giving you just enough exposure to surfing to venture out safely on your own.
If learning to ride a wave is not your idea of a fun morning, Ossie’s also rents kayaks and gives kayaking lessons.
You’ve no doubt worked up an appetite during your morning on the water, so grab a bite nearby at Szabo’s, an Agate Beach dining institution. (Zero in on a seafood choice, like Yaquina Bay oysters and chips or the Cajun BBQ prawns.)
After lunch, spend the afternoon exploring Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, located nearby in Agate Beach. This Bureau of Land Management natural area occupies a narrow headland extending one mile into the Pacific Ocean. The 100-acre basalt headland was formed by ancient lava flows 14 million years ago; today it’s home to a visitor center, interpretive trails, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse (which you can tour), the tide pools and black cobblestones of Cobble Beach and abundant wildlife, including whales, harbor seals and seabirds.
Beer aficionados should check out two notable breweries. Rogue Ales Brewery is the big kid in Newport. Their brewpub, Brewers on the Bay, is in the brewery with scenic bay views; their vast tap lineup and pub-grub menu makes for the perfect pre-dinner repast.
(Don’t spoil your dinner; go for a few shared plates.) The other is Wolf Tree Brewery, a nanobrewery with a tap room just south of town in South Beach. (If you’re a sour beer fan—and who isn’t—you can taste the coastal forest in their Rake the Forest Barrel Aged Sour with Spruce Tips.)
End the day with a relaxing dinner in the historic Bayfront district at Local Ocean Dockside Grill and Fish Market. Seafood doesn’t get any fresher than at this lively and popular eatery. (The choices are plentiful, but go for one of their seafood stews, like the Fishwives Stew or the Brazilian stew called Moqueca de Piexe. The classic Niçoise salad with fresh, seared tuna is a winner as well.)
After dinner, take a bayfront stroll along the boardwalk and watch the sea lions settle in for the night, a teaser for tomorrow’s outings.