Tucked between the mighty Pacific and the rich estuary of the Yaquina River, Newport offers a lively year-round escape in nature’s seaside wonderland. Yes, there’s a lovely stretch of coastline, but also access to the woodlands and waterways for hiking, biking and paddling, plus family-favorite destinations such as the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Hatfield Marine Science Center. With so much to do, visitors can pack their agenda or slow down and breathe in the salty air while looking for whales spouting or bald eagles wheeling overhead. Here’s a three-day itinerary to savor the history, nature and culinary attractions of this iconic Oregon coastal town.
Day 1: Aquarium, swimming and s’mores
Check into the Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn, which welcomes the whole family, including pets in designated rooms. Kids select a welcome gift from a toy trunk, while dogs get a goody bag on arrival, including a bowl and a treat. Settle in to your room — all 148 were renovated in 2018 — and check out your ocean or hillside view. It’s Newport’s only beachfront hotel with air conditioning. Located next door to the Agate Beach State Recreation Site, guests can walk to the beach in just a few minutes.
Have a light, healthy lunch at Café Mundo in Nye Beach, a strollable district of the city that’s been a tourist destination since the early 1900s. Today it’s a mix of historic and modern boutique shops and upscale and casual eateries with crowd favorites such as tacos, bento bowls and sandwiches to please all diners, whether vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. Everything is close together here: from north to south, all of these attractions are within seven miles of each other. Bring bikes or plan on lots of walking if that’s your jam. Wander boutiques like Ampersand, and browse used volumes at the Nye Beach Book House.
Next, head to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Learn about local flora and fauna at the Rocky Shores exhibit, where you can gently touch tide pool creatures like anemones and sea stars. Star attraction Passages of the Deep is a 1.32-million-gallon exhibit which replicates Oregon’s changing underwater landscape as it transitions from rocky coastlines to the open sea.
Back at the Agate Beach Inn, have a swim in the indoor saline pool or a soak in the Jacuzzi. Then the whole family can enjoy the complimentary daily wine reception, with lemonade and snacks for the kids. (Also make sure to return for the espresso and wine bar.) Children can work on puzzles in the lobby, or parents can join them outside for a cornhole match or other outdoor games. Watch the sunset while nibbling on apps at Sea Glass Bistro and Lounge. Buy a s’mores kit in the hotel shop, then stargaze to the soundtrack of crashing waves around the outdoor fire pit overlooking the beach.
Day 2: Seafood, strolling and a bike ride
Start early with a workout in the fitness room, then enjoy an ocean-view breakfast at Sea Glass — try the eggs Benedict with house-smoked salmon. Look for whales with the lobby telescope — the morning sun behind you means less glare. Next, wander the Historic Bayfront, on the north shore of the tranquil Yaquina Bay, where the commercial fishing heritage still thrives. Stroll, shop and snap pictures of fishing boats bobbing at the nearby piers, while the graceful curves of art-deco Yaquina Bay Bridge, built in the 1930s, dominate the western horizon.
Mariner Square offers kid-friendly attractions like The Waxworks, Oregon Undersea Gardens and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! If you’d rather get artsy, check out a demo or book ahead for a class at one of Newport’s three glass galleries: The Edge Glass Blowing, Oregon Coast Glassworks and The Hot Shop.
Enjoy lunch at Local Ocean, with dishes like pan-fried Yaquina Bay oysters with fennel slaw. Spend the afternoon outdoors: Rent a fat bike from Bike Newport and join one of their tours, or just cruise the beach. Try surfing or boogie boarding — shops such as Ossies Surf Shop and Ocean Pulse rent gear and offer classes. Hike the South Jetty Trail in South Beach State Park, just a mile through moss-draped forest and wetland.
Enjoy an elegantly prepared, vegetable-forward dinner at Ove Northwest. If you have the energy, check the schedule at the Newport Performing Arts Center, where two theaters host music, comedy, plays and dance. There’s also live music at Nana’s Irish Pub and Bier One.
Day 3: Tide pools, whale spotting and touch tanks
Rise and shine for a decadent European-style breakfast at La Maison Bakery and Café, two miles south of the hotel, where housemade hollandaise and English muffins ensure Benedict perfection. Check the tide schedules for a low-tide visit at Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, a few miles north on the highway. Spend several bewitching hours looking for fascinating creatures in the tranquil pools. While you’re here, take a tour of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse — which you have outstanding views of from the Best Western Agate Beach Inn — located on a peninsula that juts out nearly a mile into the Pacific Ocean. Built in 1871, this is Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, and a great spot to look for whales and seals.
Have lunch al fresco at the Clearwater Restaurant, with up-close views of sea lions lounging on the dock. Another more casual option: the no-frills South Beach Fish Market where you can choose from albacore, halibut, salmon, or shellfish fish and chips. Finish up your Newport weekend getting educated on sustainable fishing, erosion, tsunamis and kid-friendly touch tanks at the Hatfield Marine Science Center, half a mile north of the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
If you go:
Whenever you explore Oregon’s pristine coastal areas, keep in mind critical beach safety rules: Beware of sneaker waves, know the tides, stay off logs in the surf or wet sand, and don’t climb on bluffs or eroding hillsides. In tide pool areas, make sure to look and not touch these sensitive marine ecosystems. Take photos but nothing else. On certain areas of coastline, be mindful of western snowy plover nesting season warnings posted. And layer up, even in the warmer months, since weather on the Coast can be windy and a bit chilly. Consider traveling car-free to Newport so you can truly enjoy the ride.