Choose your Newport beach

What’s your pleasure? Sand dunes for lounging, tidepools for poking around, a river that empties into it all, a place to ride horses, or just easy access?

What’s your pleasure? Sand dunes for lounging, tidepools for poking around, a river that empties into it all, a place to ride horses, or just easy access? Whatever your particular interest, Newport-area beaches have you covered.

Let’s start south and work our way north: The beaches at South Beach State Park are very popular and for a good reason. Horseback riders were recently seen there, trotting in the sun along the sand while surfers caught a gentle winter swell. Long dunes invite visitors to stretch out and take their shoes off, and a series of well-developed trails lead from the beach into expanses of dune grass and sand pine forests — perfect of strolling and contemplating.

Agates can be found on this beach, which terminates to the north against the jetty of the Yaquina Bay bar, a favorite spot for anglers to cast for sea perch, rockfish and lingcod. When the summer winds begin to crank out of the northwest, kite surfers can be seen here, grabbing air with their dramatic jumps. Restrooms at the parking area keep this stop from getting complicated.

Just north across the Yaquina River, Nye Beach offers an easy stroll, and access is the big key here. The Nye Beach turnaround has a gentle ramp down to the sand. A surf perch fisherman with two perch in hand was spotted here recently, so the fish are out there. This beach is an easy walk from hotels, bed and breakfasts and other accommodations. Grab a bite in Nye Beach or a cup of coffee mid-stroll.

Nye Beach rolls north into Agate Beach, which widens to offer more expanses of sand for lounging and picnicking. In not too many weeks, the winds will switch to the north and that is where the north end of Agate Beach really pays off. Blocked by Yaquina Head, the beach is sheltered from the chilly bite of that air, making it pleasant to linger a little longer.

Basalt headlands like Yaquina Head can offer their own unique beaches. Inside the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, two beaches feature the marvel of sea cliffs meeting the ocean. One of them is Cobble Beach, out by the lighthouse, where tidepools hold gems like sea anemones and hermit crabs. Closer to the entrance to the natural area, Quarry Cove is sheltered from both wind and swell and has great pools to explore at low tide. Steep cliffs rising directly over the cove and shelter a sandy area containing shells, bleached driftwood and wildflowers.

The sandy expanse stretching from north of the lighthouse clear up to Otter Rock offers miles of uninterrupted beach walking. But it can’t easily be accessed from the lighthouse. Instead, drive north and park at Moolack Beach or one of the nearby pullouts. This is a great place to get out the walking poles, or to bring the dog and strike out, snacks and water in your backpack. There is more great tidepooling on the half-mile stretch north of the lighthouse. At just one point in this area, the cliffs are close enough to the ocean that access past them can be blocked in a period of high tide or swell, so walkers should stay aware of what the weather and tides are doing.

The beach approach to Otter Rock from the south feels wonderfully remote, although it really isn’t. Driftwood provides shelter where people have been known to hole up and refuse, if only for awhile, the call back to civilization. Close to Otter Rock, the rocky point blocks the wind, allowing us to stay just a little longer.

The sea air and the dose of nature do wonders. They lower blood pressure, allow time to think, and adjust the perspective. Sometimes, the most rewarding thing to do at the beach is absolutely nothing at all.