Newport, Oregon is one of my favorite places on the Oregon coast. This fast-growing town offers the perfect blend of tourism-friendly summer haven and working fishing town.
You can go from relaxing on the beach in the morning to buying fresh fish off a boat that just pulled into the bay in the afternoon. There are also tons of natural wonders around Newport, including a pristine marshland, rocky headlands that jut into the ocean, old growth forests, and more.
I’ll highlight 13 of my favorite things to do in Newport so you can start planning your trip.
1. Spend the Day at Newport’s Historic Bayfront
The Historic Bayfront is Newport’s best-known attraction, and for good reason. Over a mile of Yaquina Bay is bounded by shops, restaurants, working docks, hotels, and more. There’s a ton to see and do.
Some of my favorite stops along the waterfront are Ocean Bleu Seafoods, Mo’s Seafood & Chowder, and Surf Town Coffee Company. There are also some really delightful Asian fusion and sushi restaurants to check out, including Asiatico and Cuisinako.
After you get food, wander over to the docs to see fishermen in action. Boats pull in throughout the afternoon and deliver their catch straight to several bayfront seafood markets. You can buy fresh, just-off-the-boat rockfish, cod, Dungeness crab, and more.
As you walk further down the bayfront, you’ll no doubt begin hearing the sounds of barking sea lions. A large colony of sea lions has made its home at the waterfront and they love to spend the day lounging on docks in the sun.
If you have kids with you, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not is another great stop. It can feel a bit cheesy at times, but the wax figures and unusual attractions are great entertainment for a family. There’s also the Newport Candy Shoppe to check out.
2. See the Coast’s Best Wildlife at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Newport is also home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the largest aquarium in the state. The aquarium lets you get up close to sea otters and seals, octopi, sharks, moon jellies, and more. There’s also a massive touch tank where you can put your hands on starfish, anemones, and small fish.
Plan to spend at least two or three hours at the aquarium—there’s a lot to see and the exhibits do a great job of teaching visitors all there is to know about the Oregon coast’s unique marine environment.
Another plus to the aquarium is that it’s not all marine-focused. There are also exhibits about the coastal creatures that inhabit Oregon’s woody coastal mountain range. This knowledge comes in handy when you’re driving home from Newport through the mountains and spot animals along the way.
3. Learn about the Latest Science at Hatfield Marine Science Center
After you finish up at the aquarium, it’s worth taking a quick trip next door to the Hatfield Marine Science Center. This is a research facility run by Oregon State University, but it has a public atrium with a constant rotation of new exhibits.
The exhibits here go beyond those at the aquarium to tell you about the latest science happening along the coast. You’ll learn about efforts to make fishing more sustainable, the geologic history of the coast and past earthquakes, and the research vessels that scientists use to make new discoveries on the ocean.
4. Walk into the Ocean on the South Beach Jetty
Newport’s South Beach is a coastal playground, offering miles of trails through untouched coastal woodlands and a long stretch of sandy beach. If you’re looking for solitude, this is the place to go.
It’s also home to the South Beach jetty, which sticks 2,500 feet into the Pacific Ocean. You can walk out along much of the jetty’s length and look back at the historic Yaquina Bay Bridge towering over the bay. You also get sweeping views to the south of the seemingly endless beach that begins at the jetty.
Stick around a while to watch fishing boats head into the ocean and disappear over the horizon in search of that day’s catch.
5. Paddle through Marshlands on the Yaquina River
The Yaquina River is a marshy estuary that winds its way from its mouth at Newport east into the foothills of the coastal mountains. It offers a secluded and beautiful paddling experience, and the water is almost always dead calm—even on days when the ocean is throwing up huge waves.
There are numerous docks where you can put in around the bay. But if you have the time, I recommend driving out to Paddle Park near the town of Toledo.
Putting in here starts you higher on the river, so you can very quickly paddle upstream into a narrower section that’s surrounded by forested hills on both sides. Another option is to do a one-way paddle downstream and wind up at the Historic Bayfront.
If you don’t have your own kayak or paddleboard, you can rent one from Ossie’s Surf Shop. In addition, the Oregon Boating Foundation, a nonprofit, offers two-hour guided tours on the Yaquina with rentals included.
6. Take in Sweeping Ocean Views from Yaquina Head
Yaquina Head, just north of Newport, is another place to get incredible views of the mighty Pacific.
It’s home to a 150-year old lighthouse that’s long served as a beacon for fishermen plying the coast. There are daily ranger-led tours that I highly recommend—the view from the top is hard to beat.
You can drive almost all the way to the lighthouse, then walk around the headland’s rocky outcroppings to find a secluded spot. This is a great spot to watch the sunset over the water, especially since you don’t have to go far to get back to your car after dark.
7. Check out the Tidepools at Seal Rock
Another neat spot to check out on your trip to Newport is Seal Rock, a secluded beach surrounded by manzanita and forest. What makes Seal Rock special is all the rock outcroppings in this area, which leave behind enormous tide pools when the waves go out.
You can wander along the rocks and discover starfish, anemones, crabs, and more. It’s like a giant version of the touch tank at the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Before you leave, check out the trails through the manzanita. This plant is a staple of the Oregon coast, and this area offers the ability to walk through tunnels of twisted, salt-sprayed trees.
8. Grab a Pint at Rogue Brewery
Rogue Brewery is one of Oregon’s oldest breweries, and one of its biggest brewpubs is located in Newport. It’s a must-visit destination when you’re in town.
The main entrance to the brewpub is on the working brewery floor, so you’re immediately greeted by the smell of sour mash. The smell still lingers when you move upstairs to the dining area, but it’s quickly overwhelmed by the smell of good food and the festive atmosphere.
Rogue is known for its outlandish and experimental beers. If you’re feeling adventurous, I recommend trying the Pineapple Party Punch IPA or the Shakespeare Stout.
9. Watch the Surf Break at Devil’s Punchbowl
Devil’s Punchbowl is another one of the natural features that makes the Oregon Coast so special. It’s only about 15 minutes from Newport and I’d definitely recommend a visit if you’ve never seen it before.
The Punchbowl is a sandstone bowl with an opening on one side that allows water to slosh in and then splash high into the air. On a rough and windy day, it’s not uncommon to see spray shoot 20 feet into the air or higher.
If you go around sunset, expect to have company. This spot is incredibly popular among photographers.
10. Relax in the Sand at Nye Beach or Agate Beach
If you want a day at the beach, Newport offers a plethora of options. Two of the most popular are Nye Beach and Agate Beach.
Nye Beach starts right in downtown Newport. You can easily walk into town for lunch or go for a quick stroll on the beach after dinner. It’s a popular spot for surfing, but it can get crowded on warm summer weekends.
Agate Beach is just north of town and it stretches for miles. If you want to get away from people, all you have to do is walk down the beach until you find a spot you like. The north end of the beach terminates in Yaquina head and is somewhat more rocky, so it’s a good spot for tidepooling or beach walking.
11. Eat Fresh Seafood at Local Ocean
Local Ocean is a restaurant and seafood market that I make sure to visit every time I’m in Newport. All of the food is incredibly fresh—most of it comes from local Newport fishermen who caught it earlier that day. The restaurant also does a great job cooking up flavorful soups and stews and giving a modern flair to classic dishes.
Even more important, Local Ocean embodies marine sustainability. The restaurant’s founder comes from a multi-generational fishing family and it only serves fish that’s been caught following strict sustainability guidelines.
On top of that, Local Oceans is now owned by a perpetual purpose trust, a structure that ensures the restaurant’s profits go back into marine conservation and efforts to support local fishermen.
12. Hire a Charter Fishing Boat and Catch Your Own Dinner
If you want to try your hand at fishing Oregon’s coastal waters, there are plenty of options in Newport. You can charter a fishing boat from Newport Tradewinds, Patriot Fishing, Good Time Charlie Sportfishing, and more.
All of the charter boats out of Newport are run by veteran fishermen who know what’s biting and where to go. Depending on the season, you can catch lingcod, halibut, salmon, Dungeness crab, and even albacore tuna.
13. Gaze Up at Old Growth on the Mike Miller Trail
One often-overlooked gem of Newport is a patch of old growth forest in Mike Miller Park, just on the other side of Highway 101 from South Beach. This 1.2-mile trail winds through towering Douglas firs and hemlocks, some of which are more than 100 years old.
In the spring and fall, remember to look down, too—the ground frequently explodes with colorful mushrooms after it rains.
Newport is one of my favorite places to visit along the Oregon Coast. It might be busier than some of the other towns along the coast, but that’s thanks to the fact that it’s one of the coast’s last fishing hubs.
As a result, the town offers an authentic feel and plentiful fresh seafood alongside stunning natural wonders and endless sandy beaches. It’s the perfect place for a summer vacation.