Exploring Newport, Oregon

Yaquina Bay Bridge and Harbor

Newport is a great town to explore on the Oregon Coast. In this post I wanted to share some of the places we visited. A number of years ago before our RVing days we stayed in Newport, but this time we explored a couple of places we hadn’t seen before. The Oregon Coast Aquarium was one of those places and it was an enjoyable way to spend a few hours seeing marine animals. For those of you that have been to the Monterey Aquarium, it is not near as big or have the variety of seal life. But we still found it to be nicely done.

One of the best parts is the “Passages of the Deep” which is a long undersea tunnel to walk through while a variety of sharks, rays, and other fish swim over and around both sides. I especially liked the school of mackerel that swirled around closely together in a silvery mass for protection.

A school of mackerel and leopard shark
China Rockfish

We had a good view of the sea otters during feeding time. I was surprised to learn that sea otters disappeared from the Oregon Coast over a century ago after being hunted to extinction. An attempt was made to reintroduce them in the 1970’s but failed. Sea otters have always been my favorite sea animal and I found it sad that they have not made a comeback in Oregon like they did in parts of California. Here is a fun fact about sea otters: they have the densest or thickest fur of any animal on earth, which certainly got them in trouble when they were hunted in great numbers so many years ago.

As a bird lover I really enjoyed the Seabird Aviary. I had a close look at a number of Tufted Puffins, Rhinoceros Auklets, Common Murres and Pigeon Guillemots. I was rather amazed how many birds they had and how nice their pools and enclosures were.

Tufted Puffin
The puffins were frequently preening their feathers by dousing with water and shaking them
Common Murre

There were a variety of tanks where people were welcome to touch Sea Anemones, Sea Urchins, Sea Cucumbers, Star Fish, Sea Snails and various kelp. During my beach and tide pool wandering in Oregon, I had hoped to see Sea Urchins but was not successful.

Colorful Sea Urchins

The Aquarium features other animal exhibits including sea lions, pelicans, octopus (which were hiding) and even a turkey vulture exhibit, which surprised me. This isn’t your typical marine animal, but apparently the Aquarium noted their importance as scavengers along the Coast. In addition, a pair of vultures raised by humans could not be returned to the wild and ended up here. I always hope to see jelly fish exhibits at aquariums and they have one here as well. It is mesmerizing watching them float through the water and changing their shapes.

Although the octopus evaded us at the Aquarium, I had a great look at one at the Hatfield Marine Science Center located a short distance away. Visitors can watch octopus feedings several days a week and I found it fascinating. A staff member spent some time introducing us to the resident Giant Pacific Octopus and allowed the octopus to wrap its arms around her arms. She said the octopus knew her and liked to rough house around during feedings. It was strange to hear the sounds when she pried the suckers off her arms. While they played together, she also fed bits of fish, clam and shrimp (the favorite). Staff have toys for the octopus to play with since living in a tank doesn’t afford them much opportunity to exercise as they would in the wild, catching prey and fending off predators. It was interesting to watch the octopus play with balls, rings and a toy shape sorter lid. The staff person also poured water on the octopus during the feeding which she said was enjoyable like a massage.

The Giant Pacific Octopus is the largest known octopus species. Males can weigh up to 100 pounds and measure up to 98 inches in length. They are sometimes brought to the Center by local fishermen who find them in their catches. Once at the Center, they are kept in a holding tank to get acclimated and are evaluated to assure they are healthy enough to keep and display. They remain at the Center for six to nine months before being released back to the wild. The life span of an octopus is three to five years.

At the entrance to this marine center is an unusual and interesting exhibit – a large piece of concrete dock that was once used in commercial fisheries in Japan. The dock was ripped from its mooring during the March 2011 tsunami and since it had built in flotation, floated across the Pacific. It was discovered washed ashore on a Newport beach on June 5, 2012. After arrival, it had to be thoroughly cleaned of all marine life due to threat of invasive species causing environmental or economic harm. Over 118 different Japanese species were found on this piece of dock. Today the Center displays the dock as a memorial to honor the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami victims.

Speaking of tsunami’s, Mark says he always thinks about them while on the Coast and finds it a little unnerving. He never had to worry about them growing up in Tucson, Arizona 😊. We saw many warnings about heading to high ground if an earthquake occurs. There was a warning about it on our paperwork from Seal Rocks RV Cove as well. It said that if an earthquake occurred to run, not walk to the designated higher point above the RV Park. As we drove up and down Highway 101 we saw many signs telling us that we were entering and then leaving low lying areas that were tsunami hazard zones.

Tsunami informational sign at Hatfield Marine Science Center

The Yaquina Head Natural Area several miles north of Newport is a place to see incredible ocean views, wildlife, tide pools and Oregon’s tallest lighthouse.

Rugged Coastline at Yaquina Head
Yaquina Head Lighthouse – the light has been shining here since 1872

I took a walk up Salal Hill for even better views of Yaquina Head, the lighthouse and beaches in both directions.

Salal Hill Trail

I remembered eating at a really good fish shack the first time we came to Newport years ago and hoped it was still there. I couldn’t remember the name, but when I saw it on the side of Highway 101, I knew that was the place. It is an atmospheric eatery with crab 🦀 pots bubbling outside, picnic tables and inside a wide array of fresh fish for purchase or fish meals to order. Luckily there was seating inside too as it was a little cool outside. We had clam chowder, halibut fish and chips and what they call, “smoked salmon candy.” Actually I ended up eating here twice, once on my own and the second time with Mark. It was still as good as I remembered.

South Beach Fish Market

Hope you enjoyed a little tour of Newport – more to come on our Oregon Coast wanderings!

A showy lion fish at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

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