Four Things to Look for at Newport’s Beaches

Whales

Grey whales migrate past our beaches in the spring and fall, but resident grey whales can be seen year-round not far offshore. Other whales also make occasional appearances close enough to shore to be seen from the beach. The only time I’ve seen orcas in Oregon was from Agate Beach. Look for spouts or lumpy dark backs in the water from a high vantage point.

Bald Eagles

Our national bird is thriving on the Oregon coast. They are commonly spotted at Agate Beach (particularly when they feast on murres nesting offshore of Yaquina Head in the summertime) and Ona Beach.

Tsunami Debris

Debris ripped from Japan’s shores by the devastating 2011 tsunami has already been found on Oregon’s beaches. If you find small items of Japanese origin, they can be placed in the trash or recycling, or kept as souvenirs. Larger flotsam, especially pieces that could pose a hazard to navigation, should be reported by calling 2-1-1, or send an e-mail to beach.debris@state.or.us.

Agates

Winter storms often uncover agates buried in the sand, and erode them out of the cliffs that line many of our beaches. Agates are translucent stones that are often banded; they come in a range of colors and sizes, and are particularly striking when tumbled or polished.

Beachy Keen

A guide to Newport’s magnificent beaches, north to south

Visitors come to Newport for all kinds of reasons – restaurants, attractions like the Oregon Coast Aquarium, fishing opportunities, the shops of the Bayfront and Nye Beach – but everyone knows that the main attraction is the beach. Locals love it. Visitors love it. We all walk and surf and fly kites and romp and picnic and dig and beachcomb and escape there. But which beach to choose for a given outing? Here’s an insider’s guide to the beaches of Newport, each a bit different from the next, and each absolutely stunning. 

 

Beverly Beach

Access:
from the Beverly Beach State Park Day Use Area, easy access over mostly level ground and a few rocks
Amenities:
Campground, bathrooms, picnic tables, water fountain, nature center (at state park)
Don't Miss:
Fossils!

At the northern end of Newport is Beverly Beach, accessed easily at the day use area of Beverly Beach State Park at 123rd Street. The entrance to the beach is right next to Spencer Creek, which winds through the state park and empties onto the sand here. If you don’t mind getting your feet wet, you can cross the creek and walk to the north for about a mile (the surfers tend to head in this direction), but easier creek crossings make for a longer walk if you turn south. Some of Beverly Beach can disappear at high tide, depending on the time of year and tidal height, so check your tide tables and be aware of the ocean’s location as you walk. 

What really sets Beverly Beach apart is its rich trove of fossils that erodes out of the cliffs lining the beach. Winter storms eat away at the cliffs and then deposit these ancient treasures on the beach. You can find clams and other shellfish from the Astoria formation, about 18 million years old, as well as rarer finds like whale vertebrae, crabs, and shark teeth. Be aware that Oregon regulations prohibit removal of fossils from the cliffs, but collecting from the beach is OK as long as the fossils are for your personal collection and not to be sold.

There is a lovely, wooded campground at the state park, with a nature trail, visitor center, and playground.

Moolack Beach

Access:
Multiple fairly steep trails from the official parking area can be slippery – take care scrambling down
Amenities:
None
Don't Miss:
The opportunity for a long walk with a view to Yaquina Head

Just south of Beverly Beach and north of Yaquina Head is Moolack Beach, although the two beaches tend to blend into each other with no hard and fast divider between them. Moolack is also a good place for fossil- and agate-hunting, and a surfing destination. The best thing about Moolack is that it is typically uncrowded, yet provides a wide, flat beach for kite flying, sand castle building, Frisbee tossing, and other typical beach activities. The creek south of the beach access is a good place to look for agates and other geologic souvenirs, and even further south are some good rocks to climb on. One more unique feature of this beach is that occasionally in the winter when bigger waves scour sand off the beach, a very old forest emerges from the sand, perhaps an indicator of the location of the shoreline hundreds of years ago.

Cobble Beach at Yaquina Head

Access:
Stairs, stairs, stairs
Amenities:
Bathrooms at the Visitor Center and near the lighthouse, interpretive displays and small gift shop at the Visitor Center
Don't Miss:
Tide pools

Among the treasures of the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is Cobble Beach, where the beach consists of largish volcanic black stones rather than sand. This substrate can be tough to walk on, so those with limited agility should use caution. Past the cobbles are some of the best tide pools in the area, accessible at low tide and home to a near-infinite variety of sea anemones, sea stars, urchins, nudibranchs, crabs, mussels, and other critters. Tread carefully here too: not only can the edges of the pools be slippery, but some animals are delicate and will be crushed if you walk on them. 

The towering offshore rocks here provide habitat for nesting birds in the summer time, and seals frequently haul out and rest on the smaller offshore rocks and also on the shore at the north end of the beach. Make sure to keep a safe distance from these marine mammals and obey posted closure signs.

Agate Beach

Access:
Three access points along the length of the beach: the Agate Beach Wayside on Oceanview Drive, the Lucky Gap trail with parking at the south end of the Roby’s Furniture parking lot, and down a very steep and sometimes-slippery trail near the north end of the beach – park in the small lot across from the Lighthouse Diner or on the road and walk down toward the beach. At all access points a creek usually needs to be crossed to get to the surf line – usually at the Wayside it’s either small enough to jump across or someone has laid wood across it.
Amenities:
Bathrooms and picnic tables at the Agate Beach Wayside; none at other access points
Don't Miss:
Surfers near Yaquina Head

While it’s actually not easy to find an agate on Agate Beach these days, the delights of this beach are innumerable. When the wind comes from the north, as it typically does in the summertime here, Yaquina Head provides a wind break at the north end of the beach, allowing it to really heat up at that spot even when people are shivering in their fleeces a short distance to the south. One of the most popular activities at this beach is surfing, particularly at the north end of the beach. Surfing is great in the fall when the summer fog is gone, water temperatures actually warm up, and the swell starts to pick up as well, a hint of the winter storms to come. The creek that empties onto the beach provides a great place for littler kids to romp. The rocks near the headland, exposed at low tide, hide crabs and other animals seemingly placed there just to delight children with buckets.

Clamming is also a popular activity at Agate Beach. The quarry here is razor clams, which are unbelievably fast and wily for an invertebrate. If you want to try your luck, you’ll need a clam shovel or a clam gun (no background check necessary: a clam gun is basically a tube with a handle that is used to collect a column of sediment containing a razor clam), a shellfish collection license, a lot of patience, and a stash of butter and garlic waiting at home.

Most spots on Agate Beach are graced with a view of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Every lighthouse has a unique light pattern; for this lighthouse, the signature is two seconds on, two seconds off, two on, fourteen off.

Nye Beach

Access:
The main access to Nye Beach is at the Nye Beach Turnaround in the neighborhood of Nye Beach. Access is very easy – just a very short ramp from the parking lot and you’re on the sand.
Amenities:
Bathrooms and picnic tables at the Turnaround, as well as a foot wash.
Don't Miss:
Jumpoff Joe

Nye Beach is probably the most visited beach in Newport, as it is easily accessible, adjacent to the funky neighborhood of Nye Beach, and wide and lovely. Like other sandy beaches in the area, the topography of the beach changes frequently in the winter, depending on the strength and direction of winds and the occurrence of storms. Sometimes the beach is flat right down to the water, perfect for long-distance games of catch and kite-flying. Sometimes the beach grows humps, making for good exercise and fun jumping games among the temporary sand piles. To the north of the turnaround is the remains of Jumpoff Joe, what used to be a sandstone sea stack that has eroded away. 

One great thing about Nye Beach is its proximity to the shops and restaurants of Nye Beach. Coffee, pastries, ice cream, and more can all be purchased and snacked on at the beach.

Yaquina Bay State Park

Access:
Stairs, some paved walkway, and trails through the dunes
Amenities:
Bathrooms and picnic area near the parking lot, Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Fishermen’s Memorial Sanctuary
Don't Miss:
Walking through the dunes

The next beach access as you head south is at Yaquina Bay State Park, home of the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. From the main parking area you can look down on the entrance to Yaquina Bay and watch the boats come and go, and get a great view of the Yaquina Bay Bridge as well. The beach itself, an extension of Nye Beach to the north, is wide, sandy, and gorgeous (sound familiar?). Unique to this beach is the walk through the dunes behind the beach that you can take in order to access the shore. You can also walk part of the way out onto the rock jetty on the north side of the bay entrance. The bay entrance itself is a constant source of entertainment, with boats coming and going, seals and sea lions foraging, and a wide array of marine birds diving, swimming, and swooping.

South Beach

Access:
Easy access over a dune trail at the day use area of South Beach State Park south of the bridge
Amenities:
Bathrooms and picnic tables, campground, paved and unpaved nature trails behind the dunes
Don't Miss:
Walking and biking trail.

South Beach is perfect for walking, surfing, boogie boarding, and just about any other beach activity you like. People tend to congregate near the beach access points, but just a short walk south will bring you to a usually-desolate stretch of coast, the start of a miles-long walk if you’re so inclined. To the north of the beach access is the south jetty at the entrance to Yaquina Bay. 

The special bonus at South Beach is the set of trails, both paved and unpaved, that parallels the shore just behind the dunes. These trails, which include a great paved path perfect for family bike rides and the Cooper Ridge hiking trail, connect South Beach State Park with the South Jetty recreation area, as well as with the campground within the park. One side trail is an ADA-accessible interpretive boardwalk trail that provides information about the natural history of the area. Visitors to this trail will be rewarded with sweeping views of the beach, lighthouses, jetties, dunes, and the Yaquina Bay Bridge.

Ona Beach

Access:
Short walk from parking lot (8 miles south of Newport) over the bridge spanning Beaver Creek, easy footing to get onto the beach
Amenities:
Bathrooms and picnic tables near the parking area, boat launch across Rte. 101
Don't Miss:
Beaver Creek

Ona Beach State Park is the gateway to activities of both salt and freshwater. From the park’s beach access you can walk far to the south. When winter storms scour sand off the beach, gorgeous rock formations are revealed. Beaver Creek spills out onto the beach here, flowing under a picturesque bridge and over rocks to empty into the ocean. Slightly further upstream the creek provides excellent opportunities for canoeing and kayaking through productive and spectacular wetlands teeming with life.

In addition to having so many beaches to choose from, each beach changes drastically depending on the season, the tide, the winds, and the time of day, so repeat visits are encouraged. Bring a kite, a blanket, a shovel, a football, a surf board, or just bring yourself – the beach is always here waiting.