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Nye Beach a Bit of Oregon Coast Time Travel - But Which Direction?

Published 11/15/21 at 5:58 PM PST
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Nye Beach a Bit of Oregon Coast Time Travel - But Which Direction?

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(Newport, Oregon) – Once upon a time, one central Oregon coast town was actually two or more little burghs. Newport itself was a lumber hub and port, mostly a waterfront village. Nearby, the neighborhood now known as Nye Beach was its own little hotspot back about 120 years ago, a resort town that was quite separate from the Bayfront area. Only a series of muddy, ruddy wooden planks connected Newport to what was then called the “Honeymoon Capital of the World,” a nickname that comely Nye Beach definitely lived up to. It was a Mecca for lovers and young romancers, who dared only swim in the extremely proper and head-to-toe swimming attire these post-Victorian times called for. Not a pair of shorts were in sight, as even those strolling the beach were in their finest of finery.

Now, Nye Beach nods towards the future as much as to its storied past, with some decidedly sleek designs set amid the atmospheric, old-timey vibes of this charming spot. Victorian-era hints remain left and right, as well as tidbits of other Americana eras since then with bundles of restaurants and hotels keeping their old-style looks and atmosphere. Nye Beach may have wi-fi and a good cell signal, along with other digital and foodie delights, but it always keeps one foot firmly planted in its past of over 100 years ago – along with a distinct sense of quirkiness as well.

The streets themselves were revamped recently to acquire a 19th century look with a modern slant. Around 2000, Nye Beach went through a complete remodel, which created the cobblestone-ish streets, with the arches giving nods to both the past and something architecturally futuristic all at once.

However, it's not necessarily the original architecture or even old buildings were talking about. This central Oregon coast town is unique in that in the last 20 years its construction aesthetic called for a retro look: newly-built businesses were designed to look Victorian or post-industrial / turn-of-the-century.

The Inn at Nye Beach went under the knife several years back, and while its architecture already came from the ‘50s or ‘60s or so, the newer upscale, wooden look gave it a few serious retro nods as well. In some cases, parts of its older designs were actually accentuated.

Take some more time to walk this insanely delightful collection of tiny streets overlooking the beach and you'll find gems like the seriously offbeat Sylvia Beach Hotel, with rooms decorated in themes from different authors. There's the Hemmingway Room, with a safari theme and other elements of his life represented. Or there's the Dr. Suess Room, where various characters from the authors' surreal imagination are staying with you as well.

Sylvia Beach Hotel also has an illustrious, oddball history as having been the Gilmore Hotel for many decades before the creators of Portland's Rimsky Coffee House took it over in the ‘90s. The Gilmore was over time both revered and reviled, starting off as a beautiful landmark but then becoming a bit of a flophouse. In the ‘80s, the tenants used to hold what they called “nudie” parties: basically shindigs that were clothing optional. It was a wild ‘n wooly, Bohemian place, but there were also substance abuse issues.

Faces of Nye Beach: from Historical Oregon Coast Quirky to Cool

Yet things don't always get serious here. Oddball and little artistic endeavors abound in tiny spots. And then there's the legendary Sand Bar, a goofy dive bar of the highest order, where plenty of fun can be had with a good dose of David Lynch on occasion. On relaxed, super-slow nights, you can even get away with hitting the jukebox with a weird, 17-minute-long Jethro Tull blues jam or a ten-minute version of Bauhaus' “Bela Lagosi's Dead” and no one bats an eye.

A big part of Nye Beach is the wacky and intricate history of Jump-Off Joe, at the bottom of NW 11th. The rock structure / mini headland that recently began caving in and falling apart is an Oregon coast legend, first getting the name Jump-Off Joe about the ‘30s or so. Over the decades, it was quickly whittled away, first losing its arch by the mid ‘90s, then the long, dinosaur-like tail that descended from it disappeared soon after. It was most famous for the failed real estate venture sitting atop it, which was scandalously approved by a dishonest geologist, with major cracks and openings developing in its floors just weeks before completion.

However, there was another Jump-Off Joe just before this one: another famous structure just north of this once-promontory had that name and the imaginations of some two generations of early Oregon coast tourists, before it crumbled into an unrecognizable shape by the ‘20s.

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