Posted by on Jun 1, 2017 in Birding, Gallery, Oregon | 24 comments

We couldn’t have asked for a better reentry into our fulltime travels. Any doubts I had about taking to the road again were swept aside by the perfect weather and the charms of Newport, our first destination on our tour of the central and north Oregon Coast.

We stayed in Newport a couple of years ago in December and despite the cold, gray, soggy weather, thoroughly enjoyed our visit. But it was even better this time, with plenty of sunshine and delightful temperatures in late May. Weatherwise, the Oregon Coast is always a crapshoot. But lucky us, the rhododendrons were in full glory, the birds at the aquarium in fancy breeding plumage, and we even scored a tour at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, although it isn’t supposed to be open until July. I think we’re back in the groove. It’s a good thing, because seriously, we don’t need any more bumps in the road right now.

We stayed five nights at South Beach State Park, the perfect location for setting up camp to explore Newport. The sites are spacious and wooded, with paths leading over the dunes to the beach. More trails wind above the campground through a forest of wild rhododendrons, and yet more lead to the jetty, with a wonderful view of the historic Yaquina Bay Bridge, an Art Deco/Gothic beauty.

Highlights of our visit to Newport:

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area: With a treacherous but beautiful beach, mesmerizing tidepools, nesting seabirds, a wonderful interpretive center (with a resident nesting pair of Peregrine Falcons), hiking trails, spectacular views, and the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head Outstanding Area truly is outstanding.

Formed from an ancient lava flow, the headland extends one mile out into the open ocean. Below, Cobble Beach—composed entirely of smooth rounded kiwi-sized black rocks—wins the prize as the most slippery, ankle-twisting beach I’ve ever seen. But it’s worth traversing to get to the prize of some of the best tidepools on the Oregon Coast.

At low tide, the pools are filled with thousands of brilliant purple sea urchins, delicate jade green anemones, and at least a few ochre sea stars. We’re happy to see the sea stars making a comeback (albeit slowly) after almost being extirpated along the entire West Coast by a virus several years ago.

The Lighthouses: Newport boasts not one but two lighthouses, and both are well worth visiting. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, the only remaining wooden lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, was constructed in 1871 but decommissioned after only three years. Someone apparently made a big boo-boo, built the lighthouse too far inland, and ships couldn’t see the light. It’s a cute little lighthouse, and fully furnished in period décor. (We toured it on our last visit to Newport; you can see photos of it here.)

Yaquina Head Lighthouse was built to replace little Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This time, the builders got it right. Stuck way out on the tip of Yaquina Head, the lighthouse is an imposing 93 feet tall, the tallest in Oregon. We enjoyed a delightful tour with a ranger in costume, who regaled us with tales of a lighthouse keeper’s life and duties. (Hauling heavy buckets of lard up the 114 winding stairs to keep the light burning was one of the many chores.) Although the lighthouse was automated in 1966, the original beautiful Paris-made Fresnel lens is still in use, casting a beam of light 20 miles out to sea.

Oregon Coast Aquarium: We love this little aquarium. Many of the exhibits at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are outdoors, and we had a blast watching the antics of the sea otters being fed and the sea birds going about their daily lives in the wonderful sea bird aviary. Here’s my take-away fact from our visit: Puffins, Common Murres, Rhinoceros Auklets and Pigeon Guillemots are all members of the same family. They share in common the ability to “fly” underwater—we watched their undersea acrobatics through submerged viewing windows, and they do look like they’re flying.

The walk-through fish tanks are fascinating, and it appeared as though some of the fish were having just as much fun watching us as we were watching them. The sharks and the rays, they didn’t pay us any mind. But the Pacific Rockfish—there were a few of those guys doing their best to telepathically communicate with us. (Eric always tells me not to anthropomorphize, but I continue to ignore him.)

Bonus tip: The Hatfield Marine Science Center is just across the street from the aquarium, and is well worth a visit. We stopped in last year, but lingered so long at the aquarium this time that we missed our opportunity for a return visit. Part of Oregon State University, their focus is on sustainability, and as they say, “hot topics in contemporary marine science research.” It’s a cool place.

The Waterfront: Newport has managed to remain a working waterfront, while adding some amenities for visitors (not just junky t-shirt shops). We wandered the docks, checking out the various trawlers, crabbers, and shrimpers. There’s great seafood to be found here—last time, we enjoyed a delicious meal at Saffron Salmon. This time, we chose to dine at Local Ocean Dockside Grill and had perfectly prepared fresh caught salmon while perusing the activity of the busy little harbor from our window table. The seafood market downstairs is excellent, too, with every catch labeled with the boat that brought in the haul.

About the campground: South Beach Campground is just a few miles from Newport. Even if you didn’t leave the campground, you would have plenty to do exploring the beach and hiking trails within the park. (Really, though, you don’t want to miss Yaquina Head and the aquarium.) Water and electric hookups, good Verizon, and it’s remarkably peaceful, given that this is such a popular campground. Make your reservations early if you plan to be here between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools

Yaquina Bay Bridge

Walkway To Cobblestone Beach

Happy Tidepooler

Ochre Sea Star

Purple Sea Urchins

Giant Green Anemone

Harbor Seals

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill

Yaquina Head Interpretive Center

Inside The Interpretive Center

The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's

Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center

Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring

Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse

Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders

114 Steep Winding Stairs

Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen

Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873

At The Oregon Coast Aquarium

Many Exhibits Are Outdoors

Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia

A Pair Of Tufted Puffins

Nesting Tufted Puffin

"Fish Again?" Asks The Horned Puffin

Under The Sea

Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something

I See You Talking To That Fish

Pacific Sea Nettles

Irresistible Touch Tank

He Likes His Crab Dinner

Newport Bay Waterfront

Historic Boat And Historic Bridge

The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship

Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor

Sea Lions On The Jetty

Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods

Beautiful South Beach Campground

Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons

Windblown On The Beach

Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools
Yaquina Bay Bridge
Walkway To Cobblestone Beach
Happy Tidepooler
Ochre Sea Star
Purple Sea Urchins
Giant Green Anemone
Harbor Seals
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill
Yaquina Head Interpretive Center
Inside The Interpretive Center
The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's
Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center
Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring
Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse
Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders
114 Steep Winding Stairs
Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen
Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873
At The Oregon Coast Aquarium
Many Exhibits Are Outdoors
Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia
A Pair Of Tufted Puffins
Nesting Tufted Puffin
Under The Sea
Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something
I See You Talking To That Fish
Pacific Sea Nettles
Irresistible Touch Tank
He Likes His Crab Dinner
Newport Bay Waterfront
Historic Boat And Historic Bridge
The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship
Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor
Sea Lions On The Jetty
Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods
Beautiful South Beach Campground
Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons
Windblown On The Beach
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From The Tidepools thumbnail
Yaquina Bay Bridge thumbnail
Walkway To Cobblestone Beach thumbnail
Happy Tidepooler thumbnail
Ochre Sea Star thumbnail
Purple Sea Urchins thumbnail
Giant Green Anemone thumbnail
Harbor Seals thumbnail
Yaquina Head Lighthouse From Salal Hill thumbnail
Yaquina Head Interpretive Center thumbnail
Inside The Interpretive Center thumbnail
The Lighthouse, Circa Late 1800's thumbnail
Peregrine Falcon Near The Visitor Center thumbnail
Yaquina Head Lighthouse In Spring thumbnail
Wonderful Interpretive Tour Of The Lighthouse thumbnail
Library In A Box Delivered By Tenders thumbnail
114 Steep Winding Stairs thumbnail
Memorial To Pacific Northwest Fishermen thumbnail
Beautiful Original Fresnel Lens, In Service 1873 thumbnail
At The Oregon Coast Aquarium thumbnail
Many Exhibits Are Outdoors thumbnail
Rhinocerous Auklets In Full Regalia thumbnail
A Pair Of Tufted Puffins thumbnail
Nesting Tufted Puffin thumbnail
Under The Sea thumbnail
Pacific Rockfish Trying To Tell Us Something thumbnail
I See You Talking To That Fish thumbnail
Pacific Sea Nettles thumbnail
Irresistible Touch Tank thumbnail
He Likes His Crab Dinner thumbnail
Newport Bay Waterfront thumbnail
Historic Boat And Historic Bridge thumbnail
The Lady Washington Historic Tall Ship thumbnail
Old Wooden Fishing Boats In The Harbor thumbnail
Sea Lions On The Jetty thumbnail
Fresh Salmon At Local Ocean Seafoods thumbnail
Beautiful South Beach Campground thumbnail
Hiking In A Forest Of Rhododendrons thumbnail
Windblown On The Beach thumbnail