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A Wowing Fusion of Oregon Coast History and Rugged Chaos at Newport

Published 07/02/21 at 1:45 AM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

A Wowing Fusion of Oregon Coast History and Rugged Chaos at Newport

(Newport, Oregon) – Take one part small town Americana, one hefty helping of Oregon coast sandy paradise, a chunk of touristy fun and kitsch, mix it up with dashes of upscale resort and some intriguing history and you have Newport. Natural delights and stunning beauty are a regular part of the attraction here, but so are crowded tourists attractions and unique moments frozen in time.

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Whatever part of Newport you indulge in, history is the big theme running throughout all of it. The central Oregon coast burgh is constantly expanding and looking towards the future, but it's keeping its past alive and well. Meanwhile all this is mixed in thoroughly with ways to screw off on the beach and run yourself ragged hiking or soaking in nature.

Case in point: it's the only coastal town that can claim two lighthouses within city limits. It has the tallest on the coast, and this soaring gem sits on a headland that's chock full of distinctive, rugged aspects - and even a touch of the paranormal.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. If you can't find anything to do here, you're probably dead and no one told you. A gigantic manmade tide pool experiment, hidden rocks and boulders to climb on, a mysterious hill encircling the headland from overhead, a strange, noisy beach made of polished stones and one major lighthouse provide more than you could do in a day.

One of its most popular and obvious features is the gigantic intertidal area, carved out of an old rock quarry and left to allow the sea to recolonize the space with life and tides. Wheelchair-accessible paved paths weave in and out of rocky tidepool sections and interpretive signs, and frequently the local wildlife puts on a show by popping up and maybe hanging out on a rock, barking and sunbathing.

There's also an interpretive center here, as well as access to the wacky Cobble Beach via a long staircase. This one's a bear coming back up, but it's worth it. The large cobblestones make quite a rattling noise when attacked by the tide – which tends to hit here with sizable force because the tide line is at a fairly steep incline. It's one of those “magic rocks” beaches, as they're nicknamed.

During summer, if sand levels get extremely high, it pushes the tides out and keeps it there, looking like a constant low tide event. This brings Cobble Beach an entirely new, weird look: you see gigantic grooves of this ancient basalt stretching out towards the sea and the beach itself is very elongated. It's maybe four times as long to the tideline as in other parts of the year.

Not far east of the intertidal area's parking lot sit some interesting boulder-filled areas, perfect for climbing on and exploring.

Above the lighthouse parking lot lies Salal Hill, which is accessible by a meandering, quarter-mile walk to the top. From there, amazing views burst out (so amazing, there's a web cam planted here). Another awe-inspiring route can be found near the intertidal parking area, which wanders up on a one-mile roundtrip to more magnificent views atop yet another hill. (Also see Is Newport's Yaquina Head an Old Oregon Coast Volcano? (Video) 

Yaquina Head Lighthouse. At the end of the headland sits the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, one of two in Newport. Standing at 93 feet, the lighthouse has been around since 1873, with its light still showing the way today and visible for miles in any direction. (Also see Tallest and Most Storied on Oregon Coast: Newport's Yaquina Head Lighthouse )

The lighthouse is open year-round. Amble to the top of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and you can feel the wind shake the ancient structure.

There have been some ghost stories surrounding this one, although they were recently debunked by the Bureau of Land Management – which runs the Yaquina Head area. They found out the purported ghost, a lighthouse keeper named Higgins, never died in the lighthouse at all, as the tale maintained. Instead, he eventually moved to Portland and died of old age there.

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