The sun begins to set on Agate Beach. Photo by Debbie Stone

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With a name like Cape Foulweather, I expected gusty winds and pelting rain on my early winter visit to this area of the Oregon Coast. After all, Captain Cook had coined the name for the place due to the fierce weather and rough ocean conditions he and his crew encountered back in 1778.

But as I stood overlooking the scene, this situation couldn’t be further from the truth. Newport, Oregon is a quaint town with a lot to offer.

Take a Chance on Cape Foulweather

Foulweather is one of the most popular and picturesque spots along the Oregon Coast. It rises 500 feet above the ocean and offers a stunning panorama.

Luckily for me, Mother Nature was in a benevolent mood and opted not to send her liquid sunshine and gale-force squalls. Instead, the conditions were blissful – blue skies and calm as could be.

Watch as the wave churn and make a violent brew in the Devil's Punchbowl. Photo by Debbie Stone
Watch as the wave churns and brews violently in the Devil’s Punchbowl. Photo by Debbie Stone

Feast Your Eyes on the ‘Violent Brew’ of the Devil’s Punchbowl

Just a short distance from the cape is Devil’s Punchbowl, another iconic, geological feature on this section of the coast. It was most likely created by the collapse of the roof over a pair of sea caves, then shaped by waves.

During winter storms, water from the ocean crashes into the hollow rock formation shaped like a punch bowl. It churns and foams inside, making a “violent brew.”

Cape Foulweather did not live up to its name during my visit.  Photo by Debbie Stone
Cape Foulweather did not live up to its name during my visit. Photo by Debbie Stone

Plan Your Winter Visit Around the King Tides in Newport, Oregon

Though there were no storms when I gazed upon this unique formation, I was fortunate to be there when the King Tides were present. These are exceptionally high tides with ginormous waves.

This phenomenon occurs several times a year when the moon’s orbit is closest to the earth, the earth’s orbit is closest to the sun and the sun, moon and earth are in alignment. It’s this alignment that increases their gravitation pull, which affects the tides.

Best Tips & Tools to Plan Your Trip

During a few specific days in November, December and January, people are able to witness the three highest sequences of King Tides on the Oregon Coast.

I had no idea that it was a King Tides time when I visited, and having never seen the phenomenon, I was delighted to be onsite for a thrilling show. The power of these massive waves mesmerized me and I enthusiastically rejoiced at the dramatic sight along with others.

You might think that winter on the Oregon Coast is not the season to head to the beach. Those in the know, however, head to this locale purposely for storm watching. They fully embrace the weather and come prepared to deal with the elements.

Mid-Coast is the Quintessential Town of Newport, Oregon

I love this coastline no matter the time of year and treasure the opportunities to visit it whenever possible. On my most recent trip, I spent several days in and around Newport, Oregon. The town is quintessential Oregon Coast, with beaches, lighthouses, the proverbial fudge and kite shops and more. And of course, seafood reigns supreme!

Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of Oregon's stalwart beacons. Photo by Debbie Stone
Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of Oregon’s stalwart beacons. Photo by Debbie Stone

Yaquina Head Lighthouse is an Impressive Beacon in Newport, Oregon

Newport’s two lighthouses are notable. Most impressive is Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Oregon’s tallest beacon. Standing 93 feet tall at the westernmost point of the headland (a rock outcropping surrounded by the Pacific Ocean on three sides), this imposing sentry has been a guiding light of the night for ships and their supplies along the coast since 1873.

It, like most lighthouses, is a visible link to the past and a testament to the hardworking people who kept the lights on. Tours of the first floor of the lighthouse are offered on occasion, depending on weather conditions and staff availability. Currently, the stairs to the top are closed due to ongoing restoration work.

There are several walking trails around the lighthouse where you can look down at the beach and ocean, or head to the tidepools. If you happen to be at the pools during low tide, the sea floor is teeming with colorful sea stars, sea urchins and anemones.

Put the Yaquina Head Lighthouse Interpretive Center on Your List

Nearby is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse Interpretive Center, a must-see for visitors. This is a significantly sized center, unlike many of the small museums about lighthouses on the Oregon Coast.

It features extensive exhibits on seabirds and marine life, as well as human history. And of course, you’ll find info on everything from how the lighthouse was constructed (it took more than 370,000 bricks and one year) and the way it works to how far the light shines and the duties of a lighthouse keeper – an arduous job, indeed.

Popular displays include a set of gray whale bones, a full-scale replica of the lighthouse lantern and a recreated rocky island.

Beautiful view of Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by iStock
Beautiful view of Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by iStock

Historic Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is Purportedly Haunted

Newport, Oregon’s second beacon is Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Allegedly, it’s the oldest building in Newport and the only existing Oregon lighthouse with the living quarters attached. It’s also the state’s last remaining wooden lighthouse.

The charming, two-story, clapboard structure sits atop a bluff at the mouth of the Yaquina River, within Yaquina Bay State Park. Built in 1871, it was decommissioned three years later, as the Lighthouse Board decided the area would be better served with a coastal light at Yaquina Head, four miles to the north.

Once Yaquina Head Lighthouse was completed, it eliminated the need for Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. The latter was officially restored as a privately maintained navigation aid in 1996. 

Self-Guided Tours of the Lighthouse

Self-guided tours of the lighthouse are offered (check hours and days). You’ll find an interpretive display with educational items and a video detailing the lighthouse’s history on the bottom floor.

Rooms are furnished with period pieces, giving you the feeling of what it was like to live in those quarters back in the 1870s. Two flights of stairs lead to the watch room. The lantern room, however, is closed to the public.

The lighthouse is allegedly haunted, as it stood abandoned and neglected for many years, developing a ghostly appearance, ripe for supernatural tales.

One story tells of a construction worker helping to build the tower, who fell to his death. His body lodged between the double walls and was never retrieved. He (and his ghost) are forever sealed inside.

Another, dating back to 1899, features Muriel, the daughter of a mythical lighthouse keeper who went missing here after the lighthouse was shut down. A pool of blood was discovered with her handkerchief nearby. Since then, she purportedly haunts the place.

Fish of all shapes and sizes surround you as you walk through the tunnel in the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by Debbie Stone
Fish of all shapes and sizes surround you as you walk through the tunnel in the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by Debbie Stone

Sea Life Gets its Due at the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon

Newport is also the home to the Oregon Coast Aquarium, a premier attraction in the region. Exhibits allow visitors to immerse themselves in the ocean realm that exists right off the Oregon Coast.

In Passages of the Deep, for example, underwater walkways lead you through three different ecosystems. You’ll encounter a variety of creatures along the way. You’ll go from the dark canyons of the Orford Reef to the teeming waters of Halibut Flats and then into the Open Sea.

Look for the rockfish hiding among the kelp in the Reef waiting for prey and the sturgeon, halibut and flounder patrolling a shipwreck in Halibut Flats. Then check out the sharks, huge bat rays and schools of anchovy and mackerel in the Open Sea.

The Seabird Aviary Exhibit

The Seabird Aviary is another popular exhibit. It features vantage points from above and below the surface of several saltwater pools. It’s fun to watch the seabirds soar through the air, then plunge into the pools with a splash.

A pair of turkey vultures has its own display area. Olive and Ichabod are siblings. You’ll learn that these creatures are part of nature’s cleanup crew and thus help the environment. One of their more unique behaviors involves using projectile vomit to startle their predators. I’ll never look at turkey vultures the same!

Marine Mammals Exhibit

Over in Marine Mammals, you’ll find seals, sea lions and sea otters. And you might see them engaged in enrichment activities to encourage natural behaviors like a sea otter opening shellfish or a seal foraging along the seafloor. Such activities also offer mental and physical stimulation and keeps them healthy and active.

Colorful marine life in tide pool exhibit at Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by iStock
Colorful marine life in tide pool exhibit at Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by iStock

Coastal Waters Exhibit

The Coastal Waters gallery houses both moon jelly and sea nettles exhibits. The jellies are one of the most fascinating creatures at the aquarium and it’s easy to understand their popularity with visitors. People are captivated by their luminosity and mesmerizing pulsating movements. I found them utterly enchanting.

Other highlights in this area include a large kelp forest, a reef full of spider crabs, rockfish and ratfish and tanks containing sponges and brittle stars – a relative of starfish noted for their thin, spiny arms.

Opt to Do the Behind the Scenes Tour for Further Insight into the Aquarium’s Operations

If you’re interested in some of the operational aspects of the aquarium, along with further details about animal behavior, take the Behind the Scenes tour. You’ll learn that it costs a whopping $25,000 per year to feed one otter. The otters are the biggest eaters at the aquarium. There are a variety of feeding techniques staff use with the many sea creatures, including tossing the food, working with poles and dive feeds.

You’ll meet Gus, an eight-year-old seagull, who was found on the streets in nearby Lincoln City. As he had imprinted on humans prior to being discovered, he can never be released into the wild, so his permanent home is the aquarium. He’s quite the noisy fellow!

Your guide will also tell you about Mrs. Potts, a tufted puffin, who had a male partner named 79 for 25 years. Two and a half years ago, Jolene, a younger female puffin, took a liking to 79 and broke up this long-standing relationship between Mrs. Potts and 79. Mrs. Potts is now a “divorcee” and has been on the hunt for a new partner.

Keiko, the famed orca of “Free Willy” fame spent a few years at the aquarium. He was there for reintegration rehabilitation. One of the activities that the staff worked with Keiko on was to get him to stay underwater for longer periods of time.

The goal was for him to be able to hold his breath for fifteen minutes. To entice him, they played movies. His favorites were “101 Dalmatians” and “Monty Python.” Keiko was flown back to Iceland where he had come from initially and in 2002, he became the first captive orca to be fully released back into the ocean.

Nye Beach is a charming historical community full of art, good eats and a lovely beach.   Photo by Debbie Stone
Nye Beach is a charming historical community full of art, good eats and a lovely beach. Photo by Debbie Stone

Historic Nye Beach Offers Art, Food and a Great Place to Stroll

Beaches are a plenty in and around Newport. One of my favorites is Nye Beach. Not only does it offer a long stretch of picturesque sandy beach, but it’s also home to a small historic community with art galleries, a performing arts center, shops, cafes and lodging options.

Make a beeline for Blue Pig Bakery for homemade gingerbread, cinnamon rolls, scones and other baked goodies. For chowder and other seafood favorites, head to Newport Chowder Bowl. 

The sea lions at Newport's Bayfront are popular with visitors.

Photo by Debbie Stone
The sea lions at Newport’s Bayfront are popular with visitors. Photo by Debbie Stone

Don’t Miss the Sea Lions at Newport, Oregon’s Bayfront

Newport’s Bayfront is the heart of the town when it comes to shops and restaurants. Here’s where you’ll find good eats (my faves are Local Oceans Seafood and Clearwater Restaurant), souvenir shops, a sizeable marina with boats of all shapes and sizes and sea lions galore.

A crowd favorite, the sea lions hang out at the wooden docks, posing for their adoring fans and throngs of paparazzi, who are amused by their humorous antics. It’s hard to miss them, as their raucous barking can be heard from streets away. They use these vocalizations to establish territory in breeding season or when competing for space on the dock. It’s their form of communication.

Welcome to Newport, OR!   Photo by Debbie Stone
Welcome to Newport, Oregon! Photo by Debbie Stone

Agate Beach Inn Makes a Great Coastal Getaway

Homebase for me during my trip was the Best Western Plus Agate Beach Inn. Located right on Newport’s Agate Beach, the property makes for an ideal, laid-back coastal getaway for couples and families. Rooms are comfortable and well-appointed. And if you opt for the ocean view, you’ll never tire of the vistas, particularly the sunsets and sunrises. Plus, you’ll have a front seat for storm-watching without getting wet.

The hotel has several amenities to enhance your stay, including an indoor pool and hot tub, fitness center and onsite restaurant. The latter, Sea Glass Bistro & Lounge, provides a convenient place to fuel up for the day with a hearty breakfast. Try the Dungeness Crab, Gouda and Wild Mushroom Omelet, Breakfast Burrito or BLT Fried Egg Sandwich. On Sundays, there’s a mimosa brunch. 

For dinner, start off with a cup of clam chowder or crab cakes. The menu offers something for everyone from seafood specialties and meat entrees to salads and sandwiches. Save room for the Marionberry Crisp with Tillamook vanilla ice cream. Then head outdoors for an evening stroll on the beach. The perfect way to end your day!

Author Bio: Debbie Stone is an established travel writer and columnist, who crosses the globe in search of unique destinations and experiences to share with her readers and listeners. She’s an avid explorer who welcomes new opportunities to increase awareness and enthusiasm for places, culture, food, history, nature, outdoor adventure, wellness and more. Her travels have taken her to nearly 100 countries spanning all seven continents, and her stories appear in numerous print and digital publications. 

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