Located at the entrance to Yaquina Bay, Newport is a hub for exploring the diversity of marine life along the Oregon coast. The Hatfield Marine Science Center and Oregon Coast Aquarium are must-visits. You can also visit Oregon’s tallest lighthouse and explore the surrounding tidepools. Take time to stroll the historic bayfront, home to Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet. Add to these incredible experiences dining on fresh seafood, and you are sure to fall in love with Newport, Oregon. Here are nine ways to spend a perfect weekend in beautiful Newport, Oregon.
Things To Do In Newport
1. Explore The Hatfield Marine Science Center
One of my favorite stops along the entire Oregon coast is the Hatfield Marine Science Center. The facility is part research lab and part education center for Oregon State University’s coastal campus.
The visitor center has activities for folks of all ages. With interactive exhibits, aquariums, tide pools, and displays about marine research, there are many activities for you to enjoy. Check out the new eight-armed wonder, the giant Pacific octopus. Did you know that an octopus is very intelligent and needs playtime? Learn all that the center does to keep an octopus happy and healthy. There is an online opticam where you can watch her. After a few months, when she is ready to breed, the octopus is released back into Yaquina Harbor.
Do take time to watch one of the educational films in the auditorium. Take a walk along the Yaquina Estuary Trail. Here is a link to an online guidebook. Guided nature walks are offered during the summer months.
Along with summer STEM Programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), the center has an excellent online Oregon Coast STEM Program.
Currently, reservations are required.
2. Visit The Oregon Coast Aquarium
Another must-visit is the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located at the south end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Acclaimed as one of Oregon’s top tourist attractions, one can easily spend 2–4 hours here. The aquarium features marine life that lives in and along Oregon’s rocky shores. Watch harbor seals and California sea lions frolicking in their habitats. Birders will delight in the outdoor sea bird aviary, one of the largest in North America. Stroll through the acrylic underwater Passage Of The Deep (also known as Shark Tunnel) to glimpse some of the 5,000 sea creatures that call this home.
Plan your visit ahead of time with this handy digital map.
Buildings are ADA accessible, but the gravel paths outdoors may be difficult for some. The aquarium is certified as sensory inclusive. Bags are available in the admissions area. Available for rent are strollers, wheelchairs, and electric mobility scooters.
I suggest you allow 2–4 hours for your visit. You could finish off with your own delicious picnic in the covered picnic area.
3. Stroll The Historic Bayfront
Enjoy all the bustling activity along the historic bayfront. It is a working waterfront with charming turn-of-the-century storefronts. It is also home to Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleets. Stop at the chowder houses (see below for suggestions), restaurants, galleries, and shops. Yes, there are touristy shops, but that is part of the fun!
Take time to enjoy the antics of the resident sea lions as they cavort in the water or rest on the pier.
4. Explore Marine Life In The Tidepools
One of the best areas for exploring tidepools is Cobble Beach at the base of the Yaquina lighthouses.
For the best viewing of sea life, check the tide tables for low tide times. Look for sea anemones, urchins, mussels, barnacles, sea stars, and hermit crabs. Here is a link to a Tidepool Guide put out by Oregon State Parks. Remember to protect marine life, take nothing and leave nothing behind. Practice social distancing of 50 yards around birds and seals.
Remember beach safety at all times. Never have your back to the ocean as sneaker waves can pop up. Please stay away from beach logs; they can weigh up to a ton and sometimes dislodge. Stay on maintained trails or walkways and remain behind fences or barriers. Wear sturdy shoes.
5. Visit Yaquina Head Lighthouses
The complex consists of the visitor center, the interpretive center, two lighthouses, trails, walkways, and observation decks. The interpretive center is wheelchair accessible, as are the observation decks and restrooms.
Stop first at the visitor center and learn about the history of the two lighthouses.
The first to be built in 1871 was the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. The second, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, is Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, standing at 93 feet tall. It was built in 1873 after discovering that ships from the north could not see beacons of the original Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Both lighthouses are open to the public. Here is a link for tour information. Tours are limited to 16 guests. The 114-stair climb to the top of the lighthouse is strenuous. Wear sturdy shoes. It is not recommended for folks with medical conditions or difficulties walking. Nor do I recommend the climb for the faint of heart — it is too scary for me. I join others at the bottom, enjoying the view from there!
Pro Tip: Yaquina Head charges a fee. It does honor America The Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreation Land Passes.
6. Enjoy Crabbing Or Fishing
Newport has three crabbing piers, all free to use: South Beach, Bay Street, and Abbey Street. There are three kinds of traps available for rent: Danielson trap, Ring Crab trap, and Crab trappers. The type of crab you might catch depends on the type of seabed. Rock crabs like a rocky environment, while Dungeness crabs like sand and eelgrass. The best time to crab is during “slack water” or “slack time,” which refers to peak high or low tides.
You can also rent a boat or take an afternoon crabbing adventure. Be sure to have the proper license. Check this link for information.
7. Plan Ahead For The Annual Event: Newport Seafood & Wine Festival
The annual Newport Seafood & Wine Festival is held at the end of February. Over 150 exhibitors take part: wineries, craft breweries, culinary groups, and regional artisans.
Pro Tip: Plan in advance. Accommodations fill up very quickly! You might need to find accommodations in nearby towns and communities.
8. Tour Aboard Marine Discovery Tours
Explore the ocean, bay, and river aboard Marine Discovery Tours for an exciting 2-hour adventure departing from the historic bayfront. Naturalists provide commentary, a crabbing demonstration is included, and you can view the microscopic marine life over the big screen. Watch for sea lions, seals, porpoises, coastal birds, and gray whales in season.
9. Admire The NOAA Vessels at Dock
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has its Pacific Marine Operations Center in Newport. You will often notice some of the fleet at the dock. Learn more about NOAA at this link.
Best Restaurants In Newport
Oregon coast, to me, means seafood.
Mo’s Seafood & Chowder
My absolute favorite restaurant along the Oregon coast is Mo’s Seafood & Chowder. Newport has two sites, both along the bayfront. The Newport Original site opened here in 1946. Next came the Newport Annex, located right across the street and overlooking Yaquina Bay. My favorite to order is Mo’s clam chowder, served New England style with melting butter gracing the top. Delicious. Two other favorites are the hot crab & shrimp artichoke dip and the Oregon shrimp Louie salad.
Ocean Bleu Seafood @ Ginos
Located at the west end of the historic bayfront, Ocean Bleu Seafood @ Ginos is another bayfront restaurant I recommend for lunch with fresh catch right from the Pacific waters.
Fish Peddler’s Market
Fish Peddler’s Market is also on the bayfront and is another of our favorites.
Pro Tip: We always pack nutcrackers on our trips to Newport to enjoy fresh crab either at the beach or in our hotel room.
Best Hotels In Newport
I have two favorite hotels in Newport.
I enjoy staying at the Embarcadero Resort. The resort overlooks the marina just off the bayfront. Every room has a view of Yaquina Bay. We always plan a sundowner to enjoy the spectacular sunsets.
A unique hotel is the Sylvia Beach Hotel, a literary-themed bed & breakfast located on a bluff above Nye Beach. Each room contains information and books about the namesake author. The hotel encourages guests to “unplug and unwind.” There are no televisions, phones, or Wi-Fi in the rooms. Check out its restaurant aptly named “Tables of Content Restaurant.”
Newport, Oregon, is a fantastic destination to spend a perfect weekend. There are so many activities to enjoy, one weekend will probably lead to more!
Check out some of these other Oregon destinations: