Oregon Coast Road Trip: From Florence to Newport

Things to do on your drive north from Florence on Highway 101 and places to go in Newport

A view of the Newport bridge. 

From Florence to Newport 

Driving north from Florence along Highway 101 to Newport takes a little over an hour with grand views of the Pacific and forests along the way. But that is if you don’t tarry. There are also state parks, campgrounds, and beach access points that you may wish to explore. 

The must-see Sea Lion Caves are located about 11 miles north of Florence with an elevator that takes visitors down to sea level for the best views. These are the largest sea lion caves in the States and home to thousands of Steller sea lions. 

In the distance, you will be able to see the Heceta Head Lighthouse jutting off the coast. There are several roadside stops along the way for photo ops of the most-photographed lighthouse in America, but for the best view, park at the state scenic viewpoint. Bring some comfortable shoes for a half-mile uphill walk to the base of the lighthouse, the brightest spot on the Oregon coast. Its beam of light can be seen 21 miles out to sea and has been guiding sailors to safety since 1894.

If you’ve ever dreamed about staying in a lighthouse, here is your chance. The Heceta Head Lightkeeper’s House is also a bed and breakfast that will accommodate up to 15 guests. What could be better than spending the night with the sounds of the roaring sea below and spectacular views of the ocean and sky? Breakfast is a 7-course meal to start your day off right. 

Further up the coast is the charming town of Yachats. Each fall, it hosts a Celtic festival that brings in musicians and pipers from all across the globe. If you’re hungry, stop in at the Drift Inn, built in 1929 from timber and driftwood and expanded from its early days as a bar. In fact, it is the longest continuously operating tavern in Lincoln County. Colorful umbrellas from Italy adorn the ceiling, and the menu includes hearty meals of seafood and burgers. The teriyaki tuna sandwich is popular.

Exploring Newport

Newport is a scenic ride of about 49 miles from Florence. The Yaquina Bay Bridge was constructed in 1936, and is a gorgeous backdrop to the city. Just past the far side, take a right and follow the signs to the Historical Bayfront, one of the most popular tourist spots in town. Located right on the waterfront, you’ll find some of the best seafood restaurants in the area, trendy boutiques, candy shops, art galleries, and even some eclectic museums.

This happens to be one of the spots where sea lions tend to congregate on the rocks below and adjacent to the local fish markets. (Just follow the crowds of tourists looking down from the boardwalk.)

Being right on the Pacific makes Newport a perfect destination for fish-lovers, and the Discovery Channel film Deadliest Catch: Dungeon Cove was filmed in these waters. Diners have their choice of eateries like Ocean Bleu Seafoods at Gino’s, which offers crab, local fish, and, of course, clam chowder. It is also common for commercial fishing vessels docked in the harbor to offer daily catches directly to the public. You can’t get much fresher than that.

After lunch, enjoy some fine coffee and confections at many of the shops. If you like ice cream, be sure to stop by Bayscapes Gallery and Coffee House, which serves a perfectly chilled vanilla version hand-dipped in Euphoria Chocolate from Eugene and topped with nuts — delightful and satisfying.

After you have explored the Bayfront, migrate over to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. This former Coast Guard lifeboat station has been restored and offers tours and exhibits. Overlooking the bay and bridge, this is an ideal place for relaxing, having a picnic, and taking photos.

Other nearby attractions include the Oregon Coast Aquarium and Hatfield Marine Science Center. The latter has an octopus that is fed every day at 1 p.m.

Newport was one of the most-visited areas along the Oregon coast at the turn of the century, particularly the Nye Beach neighborhood, named after landholder John Nye. Tourists visited the recreation center built in a log cabin and housing a dance hall, bowling alley, and a horseshoe pit. Today, Nye Beach is just as popular as ever with beach accommodations, restaurants and cafés, art galleries, Old World book stores, and gift shops. 

One of the most iconic lodging options is the Sylvia Beach Hotel, formerly known as the Cliff House. Named in honor of Sylvia Beach, the American expatriate who started Shakespeare and Company in Paris, each of the rooms is decorated in a literary theme and named after a famous author like Dr. Seuss, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, and, of course, William Shakespeare. 

In addition to the included breakfast, you can make a reservation to have dinner in the hotel’s aptly named Table of Contents Restaurant. The multi-course meal is served family-style and includes soup; salad; an entrée such as duck breast, salmon cakes, or cabbage rolls; and dessert ($28 per person, not including gratuity).

Some of TripAdvisor’s best restaurants are in Nye Beach and include Nana’s Irish Pub where you can enjoy corned beef and cabbage, steak, Guinness pie, or Nana’s meatloaf and a pint of brew. Ah, what could be better? 

While you are browsing the shops, pop in to BJ’s Ice Cream. Serving 31 flavors of handmade goodness, BJ’s is a local favorite with its taste-tantalizing flavors and high butterfat content.

To read more about exploring Florence, click here.

To read on about the road trip north to Lincoln City, click here.

Where to Stay in Florence:

The Old Town Inn
Located close to the Old Town District and Historic Bay Street, this is an affordable place to stay that serves a simple continental breakfast in the morning.

Where to Stay in Newport:

Sylvia Beach Hotel
This hotel features themed rooms based on literary characters with a comfy, cozy feel. There’s even a resident lap kitty that hangs out in the lobby for a purr-fect accommodation experience.

Resources:

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