In January 1852, a storm grounded the schooner Juliet near Yaquina (pronounced yah-KWIN-nah) Bay, where her captain and crew were stranded for two months. When they finally made their way inland to the Willamette Valley, they reported their discovery of an abundance of tiny sweet-tasting oysters in the bay.
Within a decade, commercial oyster farms were established—the first major impetus to growth and settlement in Newport (pop. now about 9,800). The tasty morsels that delighted diners in San Francisco and at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel are almost gone now, but the oyster industry continues by harvesting introduced species.
The port bustles with the activity of Oregon’s largest commercial fishing fleet and second-largest recreational fleet. Factories to process surimi (a fish paste popular in Japan) and whiting have provided jobs, and the state-of-the-art Oregon Coast Aquarium that once housed Keiko the whale (from Free Willy) brings in the tourists. Wildlife observation facilities and decent access to tidal pools north of town at Yaquina Head make this park a highlight of the coast.
The shops, galleries, and restaurants along Newport’s Historic Bayfront, together with the Performing Arts Center and quieter charm of Nye Beach, keep up a tourism tradition that goes back to when this town was the “honeymoon capital of Oregon.”
Getting to Newport
Newport is one of the few places on the Oregon coast that can be reached by public transportation. Valley Retriever (541/265-2253) buses connect Newport with Corvallis Monday–Saturday. Lincoln County Transit (541/265-4900, www.co.lincoln.or.us/transit/) runs buses four times daily Monday–Saturday, north to Lincoln City and south to Yachats, with numerous stops en route through Newport. A brochure with schedules and fare info is available in commercial establishments all over town.
A shuttle bus (www.discovernewport.com, 8 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily) travels up and down the length of Newport on streets just east and west of U.S. 101, going as far south as the Newport Business Plaza in South Beach and north to NE 73rd Street. The wheelchair-accessible bus is equipped with a bike rack. It’s free for those with a pass from their Newport hotel and $1 for others. The route is not straightforward; it helps to have a map and schedule.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel