The coast you remember
Memorial Day marks not just the sacrifices of those who have fallen in battle but also the true beginning of summertime activities, and with the darkness of winter safely behind us, we’re all ready to get outside.
Here are just a few things you can in Newport to celebrate this last weekend in May.
Summer angling season is here. The Big Creek Reservoirs are teeming with rainbow trout. Have a picnic on the banks or float the surface with a hook and bobber. The reservoirs are located along Northeast Big Creek Road at the north end of Newport. Pack the rod and cooler and get some water time.
Join a knowledgeable guide at the Hatfield Marine Science Center for a guided estuary walk, learn about the creatures living in the mud and swimming in the waters of Yaquina Bay and be on the lookout for birds like the blue heron and the cattle egret. The tours will be held May 24-27 starting at 11 a.m., and will run for about an hour. These educational jaunts are free.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is always a great stop but this weekend the aquarium has something special. Stop in for the opening of the new interactive steampunk exhibit which opens Saturday, May 25. Meet an octopus, an eel and colorful fish, and navigate a seahorse gallery while tracing the footsteps of an intrepid explorer within a stranded submarine.
Want to see the shore in a new way? Rent a fat bike at Bike Newport and pedal the beach, a great way to cover a lot of sand and get some wind in your hair. Rent a surfboard or book a surfing lesson at Ossies Surf Shop and spend some time connecting with the waves.
The coast is all about seafood, and it’s sweeter if you catch your own. Rent crab rings and get some bait — Harry’s Bait & Tackle and other gear rental shops are right on the Bayfront. Go whale watching or catch crab and bottom fish with Newport Marina Store and Charters in South Beach, where you can also access the public fishing dock for prime positioning of your line or crab trap. Or choose from many other charter fishing businesses located along the bay.
It’s Newport. You won’t get any closer to the elements — sand, forests, waves and wind — the reason we live here.
When you’re on the seashore, a hike that takes in sand dunes, forest and shore probably has as much diversity as you can ask for in one package. At South Jetty Trail, the added benefit of miles of paved trail options, decks with interpretive features overlooking the ocean and ADA access make this one an obvious choice.
The best access to the trail system is through South Beach State Park, where restrooms are available. The turnoff to the park from Highway 101 is on the ocean side about a mile south of the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
Old South Jetty Trail is a one-mile, unpaved jaunt through shore pines, wax myrtle, salal and huckleberry bushes. It’s a favorite for people wanting to get out and walk their dogs — on a leash — or to just get off the beaten path. A great place to watch for animals, the trail links Southwest Jetty Way with the parking area at the South Beach State Park. It is the woodsy option that runs roughly parallel to the paved South Jetty Trail, which offers a good surface for wheeled vehicles like bikes, tricycles and motorized wheelchairs.
Either trail, old or new, is a great way to wander through moss-draped forest and wetland and to just relax. At several points, hikers have the options to jog west on a spur trail and climb down the dunes to the ocean. But brisk northwest winds make it a nice option to hang back behind the shelter of the dunes and the forest, and this trail system offers just that.
There’s always a wave to catch in Newport. One of the new hot activities is beach bicycling.
People tried it on and off for years with regular bikes, and their skinny tires would bog down in the sand. Then someone slapped big fat tires on their bike, and the rest is history.
Miles of sand are available for cruising. Really all you need to do is get your fat bike and pick a beach. Like stand-up paddling, this activity is really catching on. Remember, it has roots in history — the entire coastline was made public and your access was assured decades ago when the beaches of Oregon were designated under the state highway system. You may just feel the ghost of the old stagecoaches whip past just as they did in the days before Highway 101.
Besides the benefit of the fresh salt air, you can stop and check out the marine life in the tidepools or climb a sand dune. At South Jetty State Park, you can quickly move over to the shelter and shade of the forested South Jetty Trail. At Nye Beach, hop from the sand into downtown and grab lunch.
Need help figuring this all out? Bike Newport offers fat bike rentals and group beach tours as well as a diversity of bikes for purchase. Featuring a wealth of knowledge about bikes and where to go, this is your definitive stop for beach biking. Be a part of the wave.
One great ride from the lighthouse to the lighthouse takes you about three miles one way along the sand from the historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Nye Beach makes a good midpoint to pause. Equipped with a road bicycle instead? A five-mile paved version traverses the Oregon Coast Bike Route through historic Nye Beach and out to Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. Or bicycle the beautiful route along the Yaquina River from Newport to Toledo, 13.5 miles one way along an estuary teaming with life. Most logging roads are also great for mountain biking, just stay off the ones that are posted and signed as active operation sites.
Whether it’s the beach or forests, the options for getting out and hitting the road, trail or sand are only as limited as your imagination.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium’s newest exhibit, Seapunk: Powered by Imagination, will open Saturday, May 25. The exhibit is modeled after a subgenre of science fiction, art, technology and fashion inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery: Steampunk.
Seapunk: Powered by Imagination shows a whole new perspective on tropical marine life, using a fantastical hands-on and interactive extravaganza of the senses. Guests will experience an underwater fantasy that follows the travails of “Phineas K. Brinker” - a retro-futuristic and intrepid inventor who strands in a submarine at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. In order to survive underwater, Brinker rebuilds the crippled submarine into a modern marvel of engineering by constructing imaginative variations on contraptions one may be familiar with today.
Turn a crank to illuminate the cragged teeth of a mechanical angler fish and flip lenses of giant metal goggles to magnify vibrant, schooling fish within. The Helmetoid, an oversized fanciful version of an undersea helmet, inspires awe at first glance; And upon closer inspection, the elaborate apparatus affords views of brain coral teeming with clownfish.
Meet the oversized, sprawling octopus “Butler,”—a companion designed by Brinker to keep him company in the ocean depths. Climb through a seahorse gallery, discover lionfish within an undersea glider and peer through a “Helmet Memorial” to spot the elusive moray eel. The story of Brinker’s fateful stranding and consequent determination to survive comes to life as guests pass through the galleries and fully immerse in his undersea world.
By pushing buttons, spinning wheels and pushing levers, visitors of all ages activate the bubbles, sparks, light, and sounds of each aquatic exhibit. Seapunk: Powered by Imagination transforms the spectacle of the typical aquarium gallery by merging Steampunk technology with marine exploration.
The Seapunk: Powered by Imagination grand opening will feature a magician, the live steampunk band, “Cascadian Airship,” face painting and regular scheduled animal feedings and presentations on Saturday and Sunday, May 25-26.
The band, Cascadian Airship, who describe their sound as gypsypunkjazzrockfolksurf, have played venues, events and festivals all over the state since 2014, including last month's Astoria Crab , Seafood and Wine Festival.
The Aquarium will be open every day this summer from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit aquarium.org or call 541-867-FISH for more information or to purchase advance tickets.
The Oregon Coast Aquarium creates unique and engaging experiences that connect you to the Oregon Coast and inspire ocean conservation. An accredited Association of Zoos & Aquariums institution, this 501(c)3 non-profit organization is ranked as one of the top 10 aquariums in the U.S. Visit us at 2820 S.E. Ferry Slip Rd., Newport, OR.www.aquarium.org, 541-867-3474. Follow us on Facebook.com/OregonCoastAquarium for the latest updates.
The Pacific halibut is a magnificent bottom-dwelling denizen, as powerful as it is ugly. To hook even a modest sized one of these fish will set you up for what could be the fight of your life.
A halibut does not give up easily. For pure stamina and flavor, its status is essentially mythic among slingers of hooks and lures.
Regulators with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife see a robust stock rebounding under proper management. So much so that they have raised the quota available to sport fishermen by 26 percent this year.
May is halibut season and a variety of charter companies in Newport can take the hassle and guesswork out of trying to land the Big One. Most keep an online presence and can be found from your smartphone. But book early, as opener dates are limited.
Here are the dates: Spring All-Depth Fishery, fixed dates: May 9-11; May 16-18; May 23-25; May 30-June 1; and June 6-8.
Back-up dates, if quota remains, are: June 20-22; July 4-6 and July 18-20
The spring quota is 171,103 pounds. The fish are taken on squid or sardine bait rolled onto circle hooks and held on the bottom by thick lead weights.
Not sure you’re in the right place? Here’s a bit of halibut trivia — the largest halibut ever sampled by ODFW came in at 69 inches. It was pulled from the Central Coast subarea in 2015. That’s 170 pounds of rod-breaking, fighting fury.
So they’re out there, waiting.
Chowder may have originated as poor man’s food on the shores of New England three centuries ago, but as it made its way west, we added a local twist and it became a food of everyone. On your next visit to Newport, look for a chowder that features a common creamy, mouth-watering base but with the flavor of our own ocean — pink shrimp, halibut and salmon chowders to name a few.
It’s a perfect way to ward off the chill and refuel from that brisk walk on the beach. Here are some great spots to dig in:
Chowder Bowl at Nye Beach — the Slumgolian Chowder Cannonball. Wait, what? A signature dish featuring pink shrimp-topped chowder in a sourdough bread bowl baked right down the street at Panini Bakery.
Mo’s Seafood & Chowder — an enduring favorite with two locations on the bayfront.
South Beach Fish Market — look for their Clam Chowder Cannonball, or smaller servings, with options to add shrimp or crab.
Newport Cafe — open 24 hours, reviewers tout amazing, friendly staff.
Ocean Bleu Seafoods @ Gino’s — this chowder is made with house-smoked bacon.
Nye Beach Cafe — serves up the Slumgullion, shrimp-topped chowder served with garlic toast.
Local Ocean — with a mission of giving people “the best seafood experience of their lives,” is calling its offering a soup, but you decide. It has a creamy clam base, roasted garlic, and Dungeness crab, seasoned with fresh herb. We’ll let it slide — down easy, that is.
There are lots of spots to enjoy clam chowder and all the creative flair that has been added to it. Whatever your choice, as you dip your spoon into a cup or bowl of this signature coastal dish, give maybe thought to Herman Melvin and Moby Dick: “When that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh, sweet friends! hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuit, and salted pork cut up into little flakes; the whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt.”
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