The 38-mile drive between Newport and Neskowin should take about an hour, assuming you didn’t make any stops. In reality, you could easily spend a full day exploring the countless points of interest between these two key destinations in on the northern half of the Central Oregon Coast.
Newport is the larger of the two key destinations. Many commercial fisherman call Newport home; you can’t miss the volume of boat traffic coming into or out of the Yaquina Bay. If you are in the market for a whale watching charter, Newport has options.
If you are traveling with kids, make sure to visit either the Oregon Coast Aquarium or the Hatfield Marine Science Center. Both are located near the picturesque Yaquina Bay Bridge and offer opportunities to learn about marine biology, ecology, and the impact of mankind (good and bad) on the coastal environment. A third option is the Oregon Undersea Garden, a smaller attraction, but good for anyone pressed for time.
Rogue Ales & Spirits moved to Newport from the Rogue Valley in southern Oregon and is a popular attraction for craft beer enthusiasts. Visitors can frequent any one of the four “meeting hall” locations in town; we enjoyed our visit to the second-floor pub and dining room at Brewers on the Bay. Brewery tours are also available here.
More options for the young-at-heart include the pirate themed Coast Park Playground and Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium. After all, Oregon is supposedly home to the legendary Big Foot.
North of Newport is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Area, one of the more prominent headlands along the Oregon Coast. Jutting one mile out into the ocean, Yaquina Head was formed when volcanoes erupted in eastern Oregon fourteen million years ago and the lava flowed nearly 300 miles out to sea. Years of erosion and faulting have shaped the “lava delta” visitors experience today.
Points of interest are the Yaquina Head lighthouse, several easy-to-moderate hiking trails, Cobble Beach, and the Quarry Cove Intertidal Area with the Quarry Cove tide pools. Tip: Make sure and time your visit with low tide if you plan to explore the tide pools.
Heading north, make sure to stop at the Devil’s Punchbowl State Natural Area in Otter Rock. The punchbowl is a large bowl-like formation naturally carved into the basalt rock. Waves violently churn, swirl, and foam and remind visitors to respect the power and beauty of the ocean.
Whale Watching and the 45th Parallel
Whale watching is a key activity in Depoe Bay. Best bets for spotting resident whales are at the Whale Watching Center near Depoe Bay Park. Complement this experience with a visit to the Whale, Sea Life, and Shark Museum located on the south side of the Depoe Bay Bridge directly off Highway 101.
Continuing north, Lincoln City is a popular seaside stop. You’ll find an outlet mall, a casino, and plentiful lodging and dining options. If you are looking to stretch your legs, consider the 1.5-mile hike on the Drift Creek Falls Trail. You’ll be rewarded with a 240-foot suspension bridge overlooking a 75-foot waterfall. Lincoln City is also a popular kite-flying destination; you may want to time a visit with one of the annual summer or fall kite festivals.
Just north of Lincoln City is a marker for the 45th Parallel, the midway point between the equator and the North Pole. This pull off makes for a fun souvenir photo, just mind the traffic on Highway 101.
Wind your way through the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area and land in the sleepy town of Neskowin. Look for a grouping of restaurants and possibly a Saturday morning Farmer’s Market as you may your way to Neskowin Beach and Proposal Rock. Park in the small lot near the Proposal Rock Inn and follow the sandy trail along the Kiwanda and Neskowin Creeks.
If you visit during low tide, you will see the ghost forest, 2000-year-old remains of decayed cedar and spruce trees buried and preserved under mud and soil until they were unearthed in a unearthed in a series of storms that pummeled the Central Oregon coast in the winter of 1996-97.
End your day with a warm bowl of clam chowder or Dungeness crab served hot and fresh at one of the Neskowin eateries.