12 Fun Things to Do in Newport, Oregon (with Photos)

For over a century now, the small seaside city of Newport has attracted visitors to its shores with an enticing array of unique sights and striking coastal scenery.

While Newport’s historic bayfront area still harbors one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in the state, there are countless seafood restaurants, souvenir shops and tourist attractions. Here, too, you’ll find masses of barking sea lions and the awe-inspiring oddities of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, while art galleries galore can be found in the bohemian neighborhood of Nye Beach.

Due to its setting on both Yaquina Bay and Oregon’s Central Coast, many of the best things to do in Newport relate to the ocean. Besides lounging on beautiful beaches or visiting lighthouses you can also stop by the world-class Oregon Coast Aquarium or enjoy whale watching.

With so many different sides to it, and so much spectacular scenery to be found nearby, Newport certainly makes for a great vacation.

12. Beverly Beach State Park

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Beverly Beach State Park can be found just ten minutes drive up the coast from Newport. As well as offering all kinds of outstanding outdoor activities, it also has great wildlife and whale watching opportunities. The majestic creatures can often be spotted migrating up and down the Oregon Coast.

Sprawled across a huge area, the state park boasts verdant forests, twinkling creeks, scenic shores lined by coastal bluffs, coves and beaches. Besides hiking and biking along the trails, you can sunbathe, swim, and surf—or just enjoy divine views over the Pacific Ocean.

11. Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Ripley's Believe It or Not© dreamstime

On Newport’s historic bayfront you can find Ripley’s Believe It or Not which has long been one of the city’s standout sights. This family-friendly place has an astounding array of artifacts, oddities, and interactive games which can keep you entertained for hours.

Since opening in 1986, its fascinating themed galleries have delighted countless generations of adults and children. These contain everything from spooky shrunken heads and odd animal artworks to a bigfoot, vampire killing kit, awe-inspiring illusions and light installations.

In addition to its more than five hundred wonders and curiosities, Ripley’s also has a delightful art garden to stroll around with strange and silly things to see wherever you go.

10. Seal Rock State Park

Seal Rock State Park© dreamstime

Another picturesque spot to visit along the Oregon Coast is Seal Rock State Park, just fifteen minutes drive to the south of the city center. Aside from remarkable rock formations, the park is known for its ample wildlife—seals, sea lions and sea birds are all on show.

Protected since 1929, it is named for the delightful and distinctive rock formations that lie just offshore. Besides snapping photos of the rugged rocks and basking in the phenomenal views over the Pacific, you can also explore numerous tidal pools or lounge on the lovely beach.

Amidst its craggy confines and secluded pools, you can often spy seals and sea lions either sunning themselves or swimming about, with plenty of birds and other marine life also on display.

9. South Beach State Park

South Beach State Park© dreamstime

Even closer to town is South Beach State Park, which is located just across Yaquina Bay from Newport. Due to its proximity to the center, and excellent amenities and outdoor activities, the park has long been a popular place to visit or vacation.

Stretching several miles along the Oregon Coast, the park has breathtaking beaches and incredible coastal scenery. Aside from sunbathing, swimming and surfing, you can also walk along the jetty or go biking and horseback riding around the well-maintained trails.

There are playgrounds, picnic areas and a disc golf course for guests to make use of. There are also campsites on offer with each having access to shower and restroom areas.

8. Nye Beach

Nye Beach© dreamstime

The historic neighborhood of Nye Beach is on the north side of Newport, and known for its golden sands and thriving art scene. Thanks to its scenic splendor, the charming area attracts artists, writers, and poets to its shores and acts as a cultural center for the city.

Lying alongside the Pacific, it boasts a beautiful soft sandy beach which offers striking sunsets. Besides sunbathing, swimming and surfing, visitors can also enjoy tide pooling and beachcombing, or snap photos of the quaint cottages that overlook its sun-kissed sands.

Just a short stroll away you can find countless shops and cafes. There’s also the superb Newport Visual Arts Center and Newport Performing Arts Center, which hosts memorable performances and plays.

7. Sea Lion Docks

Sea Lion Docks© dreamstime

One of the most popular attractions in Newport are the Sea Lion Docks that lie alongside the historic bayfront. Somewhat appropriately set in front of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, the wooden docks are often literally crammed with heaving masses of male sea lions.

For eleven months of the year, the massive marine mammals either sun themselves at the docks or use it as a base from which to swim around Yaquina Bay. Locals are only afforded some rest and respite from their barking in July when they swim out to the Channel Islands for mating season.

Now a quintessential Newport experience, watching the sea lions from up close really is amazing whether they are simply sunning themselves, playing in the water or jostling for dominance and a prime space on the docks.

6. Yaquina Bay Bridge

Yaquina Bay Bridge© dreamstime

Located not far from the sea lions is another of Newport’s iconic attractions: the impressive Yaquina Bay Bridge. Now a National Historic Landmark, the architectural marvel spans across the bay and connects Newport to the seaside community of South Beach.

Built in 1936, the beautiful bridge and its arresting arches were designed by Conde McCullogh and is just one of eleven he built up and down the Oregon Coast Highway. Exhibiting striking Art Deco and Art Moderne designs, it stretches just under a thousand meters in length with lovely Gothic influences also on show.

You can walk over the bridge and it makes for some fabulous photos with fine views of the city, bay and ocean off in the distance.

5. Hatfield Marine Science Center

Hatfield Marine Science Centerflickr/Oregon Attractions

Home to interesting exhibits, animals and ecosystems, the excellent Hatfield Marine Science Center is well worth checking out. Set just across the bridge from the center of Newport, the fantastic research facility lies in South Beach, not far from the Oregon Coast Aquarium.

Operated by Oregon State University, the state-of-the-art science center now occupies a huge area with numerous organizations, institutes and laboratories located on its campus. Besides taking tours around the site, you can also stop by its splendid visitors center which houses various animals and environments from the Pacific Ocean.

As you peruse the tanks and touch pools you’ll learn all about the marine species and the ecosystems they inhabit. Informative displays also teach you about the center’s invaluable research.

4. Devil’s Punchbowl

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Fifteen minutes drive up the coast from Newport you can find one of the most amazing natural sites in the area: the Devil’s Punchbowl. Protected as part of a state natural area, the remarkable rock formation makes for a stunning sight and also offers some epic outdoor activities.

Founded in 1929, the park is centered around the large natural bowl that over the centuries and millennia was carved out of the rock by the pounding waves of the Pacific. As you look down into it you can see the sea violently swirl, foam, and even roar below.

Thanks to this incredible natural feature, the Devil’s Punchbowl has long been a popular place with yet more rock formations to be spied offshore. In addition, you can often spot whales migrating along the coast with surfing, tide pooling and picnicking also to be had within the park.

3. Oregon Coast Aquarium

Oregon Coast Aquarium© dreamstime

Regularly ranked among the best aquariums in North America, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a must-see when in town. Set just across the bridge in South Beach, it boasts an array of exhibits with everything from starfish and stingrays to seals, sea lions and sea otters.

Since opening in 1992, the world-class aquarium has delighted both adults and children alike with its marine animals and shimmering shoals of fish. While some sections focus on rock pools and coastal waters, others instead take you out to the open sea or isolated Indo Pacific coral reefs.

View octopuses and sharks up close as you stroll through its plexiglass ‘Passages of the Deep’ tunnel. You can also arrange unforgettable animal encounters and the largest seabird aviary in the country lies outside.

2. Newport Historic Bayfront

Newport Historic Bayfront© dreamstime

Gently curving its way along the scenic shores of Yaquina Bay is the delightful Newport Historic Bayfront. One of the most popular parts of town to visit, it has all kinds of attractions to enjoy with countless shops and restaurants on offer.

In the bustling Bay Boulevard you can find everything from superb seafood restaurants and souvenir shops to sights, such as Ripley’s Believe It or Not and the Wax Works. Besides taking in the ambience, you can visit its busy fish market or stop by a cosy cafe or excellent art gallery.

As it still harbors a fishing fleet, boats bob about the bay with sightseeing cruises departing from the dock. Add in the braying sea lions and distinctive Yaquina Bay Bridge off in the distance and it is easy to see why the charming historic bayfront attracts so many visitors.

1. Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area© dreamstime

Protruding over a half a mile out into the Pacific is the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Due to its dramatic coastal scenery and wealth of outdoor activities, the windswept park has long been popular with locals and tourists alike.

Located just ten minutes drive to the north of Newport, the huge basalt headland is topped by the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, the state’s tallest lighthouse at almost 100 feet in height. Standing out delightfully against its surroundings, the lighthouse remarkably dates to 1873 and makes for some fantastic photos.

Visitors can hike along the park’s trails or learn more about its history and nature in its interpretive center. In addition, harbor seals can often be spotted in the waters down below while whales can sometimes be spied further offshore as they migrate along the coast.

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