One of the few towns I’d previously heard of on the Oregon coast was Newport, and its reputation for being an entertaining place to stop for a few days.
We lasted about 4 hours.
Arriving in Newport, from Cannon Beach and the aptly named Cape Foulweather to the north, we first stopped at Yaquina Head. The historic lighthouse here overlooks Yaquina Bay, protected from the sea by a large sandy beach.
Crossing Yaquina Bay is the unsurprisingly named Yaquina Bay Bridge, although most people I spoke to referred to it simply as the Newport Bridge. Completed in 1936, it was the final link to create a continuous coastal highway along the coast of Oregon. Similar road building projects in Washington and California linked up to form what is now US Highway 101, running from Canada to Mexico, and our route all the way from Vancouver to San Diego.
Up until 1919, before the construction of Highway 101, most north to south travel near the coast had to take place on the beach at low tide.
The bay is the base for the largest fishing fleet on the Oregon coast, so the town is rightly famed for its seafood restaurants. We rolled in for a late lunch at the best reviewed seafood restaurant in town, and it was nice enough, but disappointingly the menu didn’t offer much from the local ocean.
Possibly the reason I’d heard of Newport is that the Oregon Coast Aquarium was home to Keiko the killer whale, star of the Free Willy films. For a while tourists flocked to see Keiko, but he(she?) has now gone to Iceland. Hopefully that’s not like when a pet dog ‘has gone to live on a farm, where he’ll be happy forever’.
The other attractions and shops along the edge of the harbour are equally aimed at the summer tourists, so in the middle of winter everything seemed a bit boarded up and not that inviting.
Aside from the fisherman loading the catch of the day and bags of oysters, the only sign of life was the sea lions basking on a jetty.
Maybe it was the time of year, but the lively atmosphere of Newport never really seemed to materialise, so we carried on down to the equally sleepy town of Bandon.
By 5pm it was getting dark and we could see the lighthouses dotted along the rocky coast.
Here we were warmly welcomed into our hotel, then went for a walk around town. It was dark by 5, and everywhere seemed just as boarded up as Newport, until we spotted a lone light above a pub.
We walked into a huge brew house, filled with an easy mix of tourists and locals. The owner came over and seated us, and then his wife took our order. Not long later we were tucking into delicious blackened local fish and sweet potato fries. Far more enjoyable than the supposedly gourmet experience a short distance to the north.
Just goes to show that the guide books aren’t always right.