Newport’s Old Town Bayfront District can be easy to miss if you’re not alert. At the north end of the Yaquina Bay Bridge, look for the signs pointing off U.S. 101 that lead you down the hill to Bay Boulevard, the Bayfront’s main drag. Alternatively, turn southeast off the highway a few blocks north onto Hurbert Street; this runs into Canyon Way, which ends at Bay Boulevard.
On summer weekends, forget about parking anywhere near here unless you arrive early. Spots close by the boulevard can often be found, however, along Canyon Way, the hillside access route to downtown.
Until 1936, ferries shuttled people and vehicles to and from Newport’s waterfront. With the completion of the Yaquina Bay Bridge that year, however, traffic bypassed the old town area. Commerce and development moved to the highway corridor, and the Bayfront faded in importance. Within the last couple of decades, the pendulum has swung back, and the Bayfront District is now one of Newport’s prime attractions, with some of its best restaurants and watering holes, shopping, and tourist facilities.
One of the first things that’ll strike you about the Bayfront today is that it’s still a working neighborhood, not a sanitized re-creation of a real seaport. Chowder houses, galleries, and shops stand shoulder-to-shoulder with fish-processing plants and canneries, and the air is filled with the cries of fishmongers and the harmonious discord of sea lions and harbor seals.
On the waterfront, sport anglers step off charter boats with their catches, and vessels laden with everything from wood products to whale-watchers ply the bay. Unfortunately, the severe catch limits and cost of equipment make this less of a working port every year. In deference to the Oregon commercial fisherman and other endangered species, wall murals on the Bayfront memorialize fishing boats and whales.
by Judy Jewell and W. C. McRae from Moon Oregon, 8th Edition, © Elizabeth & Mark Morris and Avalon Travel