Saturday, December 26, 2009

Shoestring Traveler – Live Rich on a Budget

The Newport Bay Bridge

Just because it’s the off-season on the Oregon coast doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to do! Explore the shopping districts in Newport’s Nye Beach and old waterfront, eat some world-class fresh seafood at one of the many delicious restaurants, or curl up with a good book and watch the surf from beside a warm fire. Live like a local for an afternoon or a weekend with our suggestions.

Oregon’s flagship aquarium, and one of Newport’s main draws, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is home to a number of exciting exhibits including Passages of the Deep, or as I like to call it, Shark Week Live. Open every day of the year, except for Christmas Day. For more information, directions, and hours go to:
With a suggested donation for admission, the visitor center at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport is a low-cost alternative to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Plenty of hands-on exhibits designed for younger visitors make this aquarium a fun place to bring the kids (and make for some terrified starfish). For directions and hours go to:

Complete with a ghost story and a hidden basement passage, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse (846 Southwest Government Street) is a fun stop on a rainy afternoon. Partly a lighthouse exhibit and partly a museum filled with housewares dating from the 1870’s, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is staffed by enthusiastic volunteers who tell about the trials and tribulations of early life on the Oregon coast. (For bonus points, rent and watch either version of The Fog to complete your Oregon lighthouse experience.)

I never visit Newport without a stop at Jovi (232 NW Coast St., Nye Beach, Newport). Full of artfully-presented gifts from around the world, Jovi specializes in jewelry, linens, table settings, curios, and bath products. Plan to spend at least an hour admiring the wares, and don’t expect to leave empty-handed.
Toujours Boutique (704 NW Beach Dr., Newport) seems to have a certain 30- to 50-something woman in mind, one who enjoys wearing colorful clothing, wild scarves, and lots of costume jewelry. The store stocks many basic tops for layering, including tank tops, blouses, blazers, and sweaters. If you think fake fur is fabulous, this is the store for you.
The ancient Romans considered baths an essential sign of civilization; our modern-day equivalent would be a Coach or The Gap outlet store. By this measure, at least, nearby Lincoln City is a civilized place, as it possesses both at the Tanger Outlet Stores (rhymes with “anger”). 19 miles north of Newport on Highway 101.
By far the best Thai food I’ve ever had, Andaman Thai (660 Highway 101, Lincoln City) is home to a very talented Thai chef who is passionate about her craft. We never visit this area of the coast without a stop at Andaman Thai. Although the service is slow at times, the food is worth the wait, and the chef visits each table to introduce your meal. The lunch menu has lower prices and smaller portions than the dinner menu.
I’ve always greeted pub food with a mental shudder, until I tried the Irish soda bread and potato and cabbage soup at Nana’s Irish Pub (613 NW 3rd St., Nye Beach, Newport). While a Scotch egg to me is still a thing to be eaten only after losing a bet, I’ve gained a new appreciation for Ireland’s contribution to cuisine. The food was satisfying on such a basic, atavistic level that it left me searching my family tree for a long-lost Irish ancestor (sadly, none turned up). No matter. A Google search for “Irish Soda Bread Recipe” is a good substitute.
After fingering the wares at Jovi, you can cross NW Coast St. and eat at Cafe Mundo, a community cooperative that features local art, music, and some great Mexican food. Order the fish tacos, and experience what fresh seafood is all about.
If the cold rain is getting to you, head on down to Newport’s old waterfront and order a piping hot bowl of Vietnamese pho soup at the Noodle Cafe (837 SW Bay Blvd). The Noodle Cafe serves excellent Vietnamese and Japanese food in a cozy dining room overlooking the bay. Linger over hot sake to take the chill off, and then go and visit the noisy colony of sea lions that lives nearby.
The Collette Room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel
Staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel (267 N.W. Cliff, Nye Beach, Newport) is a little like traveling back in time to a seaside resort 100 years ago. Eschewing televisions and phones, the hotel instead features a reading room with a panoramic view and a roaring fireplace, a well-stocked library, and lively discussions with fellow guests over the breakfast and dinner table. Each room has a different author for a theme, and the price of the room includes a hearty breakfast in the common dining room. The building dates from 1912, and many of the rooms are furnished in a style to reflect the era of each particular author. For more information and to reserve a room visit:

Getting There From Portland, Newport (located on Highway 101) is a 2.5 to 3 hour drive via one of several passes over the Coast Range. The route with the lowest elevation (a consideration during winter weather) is via Highway 22 through Salem. From Eugene it is a 2 hour drive via Florence or Corvallis, and closer to 3 hours via Salem.