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Newport's Agate Beach: Complete Accesses, History, Facts of Central Oregon Coast Hotspot

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By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Newport's Agate Beach: Complete Accesses, History, Facts of Central Oregon Coast Hotspot

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(Newport, Oregon) – For over 100 years now, Newport’s Agate Beach has been one kind of tourism hotspot or another for the Oregon coast, in latter decades drawing in a huge surfer contingent to ride the rollicking waves that rumble right off Yaquina Head.

However, did you know Agate Beach was once its own little town – an unincorporated community that even had its own post office for awhile?

There is lots to Agate Beach – literally and figuratively. Its history is rich and varied, and it’s an enormous district of Newport as well. It stretches about a mile or more (if you’re counting Yaquina Head), from about the headland to NW 25th St., and includes a sprawling golf course on the other side of the highway.

Exactly when it began is unclear, but homesteaders likely began amassing here in the late 1880s when the Yaquina Head Lighthouse went into action. About the turn of the century, it had a gigantic Bavarian-like home called the Agate Beach Inn and a post office. In 1939, according to documents from Newport’s Lincoln County Historical Society and museum, Boris Karloff caused a stir when he checked into the sprawling hotel. It burned within a decade of that, however, and the post office lay unused from about that time until it was torn down in 1971.

Now, Agate Beach is technically just a neighborhood within Newport, with its own zip code.

Another unknown fact: gold was apparently plentiful for awhile in the '30s. Digging for gold dust was active for a time, anyway, but it's unclear when it stopped and why.

Also in the early part of the century, Swiss composer Ernest Bloch made his home here, a structure that still exists today. For many decades, there was a plaque at the largest entrance to Agate Beach off 101, commemorating his life there, not far from the actual home. That wayside, often known as the Lucky Gap Trail wayside, is now officially known as Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside.

There are still music festivals in Newport honoring Bloch and his works.


Above: Agate Beach around 1916 (photo courtesy Lincoln County History Museum, Newport)

Long ago, Agate Beach had plenty of agates. They were hugely abundant. But according to Oregon coast agate expert and author K.T. Myers, the beach stopped being productive as long ago as the ‘60s. This came about when the jetties in Yaquina Bay were elongated, and dredging equipment also began dumping their sand load right off Agate Beach and Nye Beach. Winter storms could no longer cut through the 20-plus feet of sand dunes that grew in the area.

Myers said hotel employees still erroneously send guests there to search for agates.

Newport resident Charlie Plybon – one of the managers of Oregon’s chapter of the Surfrider Foundation – said he still finds them there during winter, however.

There are four main beach accesses to Agate Beach. The first and northernmost is the surfer pathway next to Lighthouse Dr. (the road to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area).

The second is the large parking lot where with the Bloch memorial - the Ernest Bloch Memorial Wayside. Massive amounts of parking give way to the winding, wooded path that takes awhile to get to the beach, where you’re greeted by the soft sands of this Oregon coast wonder. It now features bathroom and shower facilities, making that even more attractive.

The third access is at the Agate Beach State Recreation Site and its parking lot, at the southern edges of the beach’s boundary to Nye Beach. Here, you drive a half mile down Oceanview Dr. and then park on the eastern side of the road. A tunnel under that road takes you to the beach.

The rest area features plenty of bathrooms – and that tunnel is a creepy little thrill at night.

A couple of hundred feet down from the state park is another small parking lot, which provides great views of the blinking lighthouse after dark.

Both these southern accesses mean crossing the creek via either a small footbridge or primitive construction like logs tossed over the width of the little waterway. In winter, this can be a problem, as access sometimes gets cut off because the bridges get clobbered by storm action. Waves themselves don’t get back this far but the creek rises enough to wash out your way in.

Agate Beach is one of the few really enormous beaches on the Oregon coast that stay largely safe during major storms. Even the longest waves only go so far up this vast expanse, and there’s plenty of room to wander and stay far away from them. The key is, however, to stay far away from them.

See more Agate Beach photos below: Hotels in Newport - Where to eat - Newport Maps and Virtual Tours

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