What a day today! The rain has moved away, the sky is a brilliant cobalt blue, the air is crisp with a promise of balmier temperatures as the day unfolds. We bounce out of bed, eager to explore the Newport area along the Oregon coastline.
Of the TripAdvisor top ten list of things to do in Newport, we have about 5-7 of them on our list to do today. We’ve always been over achievers. One of the points of interest isn’t actually an official one from the local area, but we had passed Depoe Bay on the way down from Tillamook and noticed the sign that said: “Worlds Smallest Harbor”. Really? We decide we have to see that and so wave goodbye to Kato, pile in the car and back up the coast to Depoe Bay.
You can totally see why people rave about Oregon! Driving the winding 101 up the coast, it seems everything is part of one huge forest! And the road falls away on the curves to a gorgeous ocean beach on the left, waves crashing on the rocks and seagulls wheeling overhead. It makes you want to pull over and whip out the oil paints and easel. Except neither of us paints better with hands or feet. So we settle for GoPro video and endless snapping of iPhone pictures.
Depoe bay is in fact very small. Inquiring minds have to ask how they could know whether they are indeed the smallest harbor in the world, but because we’re having such a good time and the day is young, we’re going to go with that.
Movie buffs may recall that the fishing trip sequence from the movie One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest was filmed here. I loved that movie, so this place takes on additional nostalgic appeal as we gaze around the area from the bridge above the harbor.
The inlet looks like it could be dangerous during foul weather, despite the seawall they’ve erected. If seas are high though, it might not be worth risking trying to navigate the narrow channel out to sea.
From Depoe Bay, we head south again to Yaquina Lighthouse. It’s worth noting that lighthouses are expensive to build and maintain and therefore are seldom erected merely as picturesque settings and tourist attractions. Such is the case with the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, earlier known as the Cape Foul Weather Lighthouse – descriptive for it’s need, but obviously the name needed shortening.
One can easily see the foreboding potential for this area of coastline and why the need for a lighthouse to warn ships of impending doom should they stray anywhere near the sharp rocky outcroppings and cliffs surrounding the point.
Seagulls and other seabirds find them quite appealing nesting grounds however and the smell of fish assails you as you climb the winding path to the lighthouse. The tops of the rocks are alive with thousands of birds milling about and high pitched shrieks of the birds rise above the rush of wind and waves crashing below.
It’s very windy here too as you can see by the wife blowing down the walkway above the cliffs.
The lighthouse is classic in design and stature. It stands 93 feet tall, the tallest of 11 lighthouses along the Oregon coast and stands near the mouth of the Yachina River – thus the name. It was actually built in Paris in 1868 and first lit at it’s present site in 1873 and still actively uses it’s French built Fresnel lens, invented by, you guessed it, a Frenchman named Fresnel. It is visible 19 miles out to sea and as all lighthouses, has a distinctive light pattern to identify the lighthouse for navigators at sea.
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse was used for a backdrop on a number of movies, like the 1977 Nancy Drew TV Series and top of my list of all time creepiest movies, the 2002 film The Ring.
Speaking of devilish pursuits, our next stop is the Devil’s Punch Bowl, a little farther south down the highway 101 from the lighthouse. The tide was out so we missed the most dramatic views of the punch bowl, with waves nearly filling it and splashing up from it’s depths.
The area is also renown for surfing along the beach off shore from a dramatic outcropping known as Gull Rock. There are surfers down there today and the waves do appear to be inviting, chest high and appearing in predictable sets. The wind is picking up and growing cold now too as the day is winding down. Time to head for a safe harbor to replenish and enjoy a cocktail or two.
That brings us to the historic Newport Harbor District along the waterfront. To be fair, there are a lot of places called Newport in the US. Apparently none other than Newport Oregon have claimed themselves to be the Dungeness Crab Capital of the world however – there seems to be a plethora of world famous areas along this coastline!
This particular species of crab is considered a culinary delicacy and though Newport claims to be their capital, their name hails from Dungeness Washington. These crabs have a very bizarre way of mating too, but we won’t be going into that – especially before dinner. Suffice to say they manage it somehow to the delight of crab eating connoisseurs. Generally, as all shell critters go, they aren’t that appetizing to look at in the wild!
Newport’s economy is liberally supported by their fishing fleet, crabs reign as we already established, but it is also the home base now for NOAA, the National Oceanographic Atmospheric Association and their fleet of research ships. According to their website: “NOAA warns of dangerous weather, charts seas, guides the use and protection of ocean and coastal resources, and conducts research to improve understanding and stewardship of the environment”. They moved their base down from Seattle Washington and we think it may have been because they favor Dungeness Crab dinners!
Being in the mood now, we decide on Local Ocean Seafood for dinner. It turns out to be an excellent choice and we thoroughly enjoy their wine and seafood.
Wow! Both of our dinners were so different in flavor profiles but both were excellent! The Black Cod with roasted butternut squash, Swiss chard, white beans, oyster mushrooms, and poblano peppers had an earthy, rustic flavor. The Grilled Halibut with Swiss chard, edamame, bacon, udon noodle, and ponzu sauce was Asian with a smoky bacon surprise to it. Both were perfectly balanced and every bite was followed by a comment on how great our food was! Do not pass Go! That’s it; Stop; Go no further! You must eat here!
Fortified once more, I decide to try and get some beach shore photos at sundown, so we grab the Nikon and head to South Beach State Park, which incidentally is a quick hike through the woods from where we’ve camped, across highway 101 and down a path to the ocean’s edge.
As night begins to fall, a chill sets in and we decide to call it a day – a great day along the Oregon Coast!