Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area
As you travel down the Pacific Coast, you pass a lot of beaches and parks. But as far as I know, there's only one that's bold enough to declare itself as outstanding. Even without consulting any of the travel guidebooks that were lying in my passenger's seat, I knew I couldn't pass up an outstanding natural area.
Yaquina Head is located north of Newport, in the town of Agate Beach. Turn at the traffic light--you'll see the signs.
Admission to Yaquina Head is a little more expensive than other Oregon beaches--$6, if I remember correctly. The higher price is due to the fact that it's managed by the BLM (the U.S. Government). But this is all OK, because after all, it is outstanding.
At the admission gate, I discovered that the lighthouse had already closed for the day. I headed there anyhow, to check it out, from the outside.
The lighthouse is situated at the end of the finger of land that makes up Yaquina Head. During my visit, it was incredibly windy here, with cold gusts that must have reached 40-50 miles per hour. Even with every article of cold-weather clothing I could possibly wear, I was chilled to the bone.
So, my visit to the lighthouse didn't last long. I quickly retreated to the rocky beach area that's just below the lighthouse, known as Cobble Beach.
Cobble Beach has an unlimited supply of tidal pools, which are teeming with life. Some of the area is off-limits, but you'll still find plenty of room to roam. Just be careful that you're stepping on rocks, and not any living things. If you hear a "crunch" as you step, you've probably done some serious damage to barnacles or mussels.
You'll want to plan your visit around low tide, so you can check out all the sea life in the tidal pools. Take a look at the Tide Tables here.
In one pool, I found four--count 'em, four!--different colors of starfish, all side by side. That's pretty darn cool.
You'll find much more than starfish. There are also anemones (green, round creatures) and urchins (which look like koosh balls), mussels, snails, and crabs in the shallow pools.
Just out of reach, there are small, rocky islands that serve as home for many different sea birds.
There's another tidepool area at Yaquina Head that I didn't visit. Quarry Cove was once just that--a quarry. It has since been reclaimed by nature, and there's an excellent (and easily accessible) trail leading past the pools.
A short while before sunset, I drove on into Newport in search of a place to spend the night. Since I was more intent on finding a hotel than on sightseeing, I didn't stop at some of the town's attractions (like Newport's touristy "Old Town" district, just below the US 101 bridge--take the last turn before you cross over Yaquina Bay). By the time I arrived, all the stores were closed. The restaurants were open, but I didn't eat here. More on dinner in a moment...
I drove by the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (not to be confused with Yaquina Head, a few miles north). This lighthouse looks more like a house, with a light on top. At any rate, I arrived too late, it was closed, and the closest I could get was the parking lot.
After briefly checking out Newport, I decided to head north, to Agate Beach, which I had passed about an hour earlier. With clouds rolling in, I didn't expect a fantastic sunset.
This was about as good as it got.
Agate Beach is nice and wide. It's the kind of beach that makes you walk forever, just to reach the ocean. There aren't any big sea stacks or rocky outcroppings, it's just a plain ol' beach, with one exception: search hard enough, and you may walk away with some agates.
As close as I can figure, these are agates. At least, I told myself that they were agates, and not just chunks of broken plastic, as I collected them. Who knows? Maybe I brought home garbage as a souvenir. While the chunks of lightweight, plasticky "stuff" I gathered are colorful (blues and greens mostly), they are by no means breathtakingly beautiful.
I didn't visit it, but I believe there may be a better beach for agate-hunting later on in this trip, at Trinidad, California.
After exploring the beach, I drove back into Newport and found a place to stay (a newly remodeled--as of 2007--Comfort Inn near the beach). I asked for a restaurant recommendation at the front desk, and was told to check out Georgie's Beachside Grill, an upscale-casual restaurant with a great view of the Pacific. As the last light faded, and the view of the ocean turned into a sea of blackness, I enjoyed an incredibly good meal--blackened chicken topped with a sweet-spicy sauce and shrimp. Georgie's won't be the least expensive meal you enjoy on your trip, but it's likely to be the best.
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