They say Newport is the largest town on the coast so I thought I might find a mall hiding somewhere with a Kohls in it. But no, silly me. When they say big, they mean big by coastal standards. Highway 101 runs north and south and ends up being the main street in each of these charming towns. Each one has its own unique personality. But don’t look for shopping malls off to the east. A barrier of mountains and wilderness stands between the coast and central Oregon, where the real metro areas of Portland, Salem, Eugene and Medford run along I-5.
We started out the morning by plunking our butts down on some sand dunes on the Pacific, savoring our morning coffee with endless crashing waves.
Newport is blessed with a long, glorious beach, two lighthouses, and a protected bay for safe harbor and fishing. They are calling themselves the “Crab Capital of the World,” based on tonnage. You can immerse yourself in the bustling fishing and crabbing industry by driving down historic SE Bay Blvd.The water side of this narrow street is thick with bustling canneries. Trucks are going in and out. Salty longshoremen are stacking crab pots by the thousands. Pots are six deep out on the sidewalk.
Across the street is a swarm of colorful tourist shops and restaurants. Every available surface on the sides of buildings has been taken over by spectacular murals of the sea – orcas, sea lions, old salts and fishing trollers tossed in mighty seas.
While strolling down the street,
we heard the loud barking of sea lions.
Just a few steps out onto the pier
and your jaw drops at the site of a dozen
enormous sea lions hauled out on wooden planks, basking and snoozing just twenty feet below you.
There is also a very large cage with the door open. They want the lions to come in, take a nap, and go out at will. Eventually they will get a sea lion with painful plastic or fishing line around its neck. Then they drop the gate and have the animal captured for repairs.
We ended the day at the making photos of a beautiful sunset at the Yaquina Head Lighthouse.
Down below the lighthouse, just offshore, are herds of seals, sea lions and pelicans posing on their favorite rocks. These haul-out areas are strictly protected from human interference by the BLM. If you’re lucky – we weren’t – you can see whales going up and down the coast. They migrate 8,000 miles to Baja in December and then swim back to the Bering Sea in March/April. You were complaining about your long commute?!
Little Newport also boasts one of the top ten aquariums in the US. No coincidence this town also has one of the best marine research facilities in the nation. All marine students from Oregon State University end up studying here. The center is open to the public and we could easily spend a few days there too.
– carol ann dwyer