Famous for Dungeness crabs, this Central Coast town offers families endless ways to connect with the ocean.
Located on Oregon’s central coast, Newport is a small fishing town with big appeal. The sunsets alone are worth the trip, but there are plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy from the Oregon Coast Aquarium to a fun freebie - visiting the seals along the Historic Bayfront.
We arrived a few hours shy of sundown. The beach was phenomenal. My 3-year old probably ran a mile, picking up driftwood and playing with his digger and excavator in the sand - endless entertainment for him, plus breathtaking views for Mom and Dad.
KidTripster Tip: Don’t look at the calendar. You can have a nicer weather day in the fall or even the winter than in the summer!
Photo courtesy: Discover Newport
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites (232 SW Elizabeth St.), formerly Elizabeth Street Inn, where every guest room has an ocean view with a sliding glass door. The hotel sits up high on an ocean cliff, overlooking Nye Beach, as do many of the area’s accommodations. Some of the hotels have indoor pools, including this one, which was a great, post-dinner activity. Speaking of food, the complimentary, continental breakfast here offered plenty of sustenance to start our day.
KidTripster Tip: Just a five-minute walk from the hotel, you’ll find Newport’s newest playground, Coast Park, with a detailed shipwreck, wetland garden, and state-of-the-art play equipment.
Photo courtesy: Elizabeth Oceanfront Suites
What to do?
Visit the Newport’s Historic Bayfront (250-300 SW Bay Blvd.). The harbor seals are loud and hilarious to watch. They hang out and bark all day on the long docks surrounded by fishing vessels and recreational boats. From there, it’s a quick walk down to a collection of local shops. Stop in at Childish Tendencies (412 SW Bay Blvd.), a quaint boutique selling both toys and kid clothes. A few doors down is the yummy Newport Candy Shoppe (440 SW Bay Blvd.). It has all kinds of sweets to throw in a bag; the salted caramel chocolates are to die for.
KidTripster Tip: Credit cards aren’t accepted at the Candy Shoppe. Just like much of their candy, it’s old-fashioned, taking just cash or check.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium (2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd.) is a favorite draw for families. It’s a fascinating space, because exhibits are both indoors and outdoors. My son really enjoyed running through the caves with sea otters, seals and sea lions looking on. There are plenty of windows, showing the creatures swimming below the surface. And don’t miss the red Giant Pacific Octopus nearby! Inside, you’ll find the Sandy Shores, Coastal Waters, and Rocky Shores exhibits. My son especially enjoyed the touch pool where he could feel sea stars and anemones. We also loved watching the mesmerizing Moon Jellyfish and Pacific Sea Nettles, sea pens, eels, and piranhas swim in their tanks. But the aquarium’s crown jewel is the Passages of the Deep – a walk-through, fish tank tunnel that gives you a window to the open sea. Fish and sharks swim just inches from you, mimicking the environment that exists in the Pacific Ocean nearby. Cost: Youth (0-2) Free; Youth (3-12) $14.95; Youth (13-17) $19.95; Adults $22.95.
KidTripster Tip: Wanna sleep with sharks? The aquarium offers special nights when families can have a slumber party in the Passages of the Deep tunnel. Reservations are required. Cost: $75/person; dinner, breakfast, and snacks included.
If you’re looking for a low-budget way to explore Oregon sea life, stop by the Hatfield Marine Science Center (2030 SE Marine Science Dr.), part of Oregon State University. You can see all the indoor exhibits, including an octopus and a touch tank, in about an hour; plan to stay longer if you want to explore the outdoor Yaquina Estuary Trail. Cost: Free, but donations are suggested.
If you’re looking to see sea creatures in the wild, go tidepooling. Try Seal Rock State Park, about nine miles south on U.S. 101, just past the Seal Rock shopping area. Or head to Yaquina Head; from the lighthouse parking area, take the steps down to Cobble Beach. Check the tide table here.
KidTripster Tip: Never turn your back on the ocean. Avoid climbing on logs. And beware of sneaker waves that appear without warning.
We were fogged in (and had a bit of a cranky toddler), so we opted not to check out Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the tallest light on the Oregon Coast, or Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, but both are popular stops in this neck of the woods. Tours of Yaquina Head run every day except Tuesdays and Thursdays on the hour from noon until 3 p.m.; children must be 42-inches tall to climb the stairs to the light. Sign up and get a first-come/first-serve pass at the interpretive center prior to arriving at the lighthouse; it’s best to secure the pass early in the day. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse tours are free and self-guided. Make sure to check hours in advance.
KidTripster Tip: Visiting during late December or late March? Be on the lookout for migrating gray whales! Stop at a Whale Watching Spoken Here station to find out more. And bring your binoculars!
If you have older kids, check out Escape Rooms Newport (3101 SE Ferry Slip Rd.) in Aquarium Village, where your family works as a team to decipher codes and clues to find a solution and escape in less than 60 minutes. It’s a perfect stormy day activity! Closed on Wednesdays. Cost: Youth $20; Adult $25.
Another good rainy day distraction: glass blowing. At The Edge Glass Blowing (3916 S. Coast Hwy.) or Oregon Coast Glassworks (616 E. Olive St.), kids and grown-ups can create their very own glass float souvenirs! Cost: starts at $65.
Photo courtesy: Discover Newport
Where to eat?
One of the best seafood meals that we’ve had in Oregon was at Georgie’s Beachside Grill (744 SW Elizabeth St.). With an ample kids’ menu, you can find something for everyone. We had the chef’s special that night - a pasta seafood dish that we’re still talking about. Every plate that passed by us looked delicious. And since it’s within walking distance of most Nye Beach hotels, order dessert guilt-free and work those calories off on your way back.
We opted for sweet versus savory at The Coffee House (156 SW Bay Blvd.) in the Newport’s Historic Bayfront. My son had pancakes, while my husband and I enjoyed fresh coffee cake and smoothies. The cottage vibe with wood paneling and varied kitchen chairs made us feel right at home. We sat next to the toy shelf where our son played with figurines while we waited for our meal. You also can choose to dine on the front porch overlooking the harbor... listen for the seals. They’re hard to miss!
The headquarters for Rogue Ales & Spirits is just on the other side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge. You can get a behind-the-scenes look at the brewery as you make your way to the restaurant. Rogue has a few spots around Newport; this one is called Brewer’s on the Bay (2320 OSU Dr.). It’s not fancy but has good service, plus it’s neat to be at the spot where all the brewing magic happens. My son played at a kid’s toy table while we sipped some tasters and waited for his favorite: tater tots. We had the Kimchi Crab Sliders - delicious! - and what better place to have them than the “Dungeness Crab Capital of the Universe.”
KidTripster Tip: There are plenty of fishing boats that will take you crabbing during the season, typically in December.
Photo courtesy: Discover Newport
Newport is about a 3-hour drive from Portland. The drive on Interstate 5 to Route 20 is the easiest of the possible routes.
KidTripster Tip: There aren’t many bathroom stops along scenic Route 20, so make sure to make a pitstop in Corvallis before heading to the coast.
Jackie Labrecque, a journalist based in Portland, loves exploring the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons.