Get a taste of the sea and meet the fleet on your next coastal road trip.

From Garibaldi to Brookings, many historic fishing ports on the Oregon Coast still serve visitors with family-run seafood markets. In some spots you can even walk the docks, mingle with resident fishing families and buy direct from working boats. Here are some can’t-miss spots to buy the freshest seafood Oregon offers. 

Meet the Fleet and Walk the Docks

Head to one of the Coast’s 13 active commercial-fishing ports and you’ll see fishers clad in colorful waders and rubber boots sling their catches of lingcod and rockfish onto the docks on even the rainiest days. You’ll be captivated by the industry once you walk alongside the massive boats and towering stacks of crab pots found in the state’s many small harbors. 

For a truly immersive experience where you can meet the fleet, join a fisheries expert on one of  the popular Shop at the Dock tours launched by Oregon State University Extension’s Sea Grant. On these 90-minute dock walks, participants get a deep dive into the different types of fishing vessels and how seafood is caught. It’s the chance to meet fishers on their boats and hear stories about their steadfast crews that head out to sea for weeks — even months — at a time. 

This summer, the tours will expand from Newport  — home to the largest commercial-fishing fleet on the Coast — to smaller fishing ports like Garibaldi, Charleston, Port Orford and Brookings. The guided walks are on a first-come, first-served basis. All you need is a cooler packed with ice so you can buy the fresh catch of the day. Find upcoming seasonal tours and dates listed online

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Shop at the Dock in Newport (Photo courtesy of Oregon Sea Grant)

Road-Trip-Worthy Seafood Markets on the North Coast

Another way to explore the state’s piscine bounty is to head to a small-town seafood market. Many of these personality-packed markets act as community hubs, where fishing families have hauled in their catch and sold direct for generations. On the North Coast, the family-owned Bell Buoy of Seaside has sold wild-caught fish and crab direct from local boats since 1936. The iconic market and restaurant also features one of the last canneries on the Coast.

For a seafood market with postcard-perfect views of Tillamook Bay and the bustling Port of Garibaldi, there’s Captain’s Corner. Owned by two couples with backgrounds in charter, sport and commercial fishing, this is one of the Coast’s newer seafood hot spots. In addition to a cooler stocked with local fish and shellfish, you can order snacks like house-made clam chowder, oyster shooters and seafood cocktail to enjoy at one of the outdoor picnic tables on the patio. Look for charter boats offloading their catch and experts processing fish, too. 

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Chelsea Rose Seafood (Photo by Travis Thompson / Elevation 0M)

Buying Local on the Central and Southern Coasts

On the Central Coast in Newport, you can always swing by the legendary Chelsea Rose Seafood on Port Dock 3 — this historic fishing vessel built circa 1907 is also one of the state’s few hybrid boat/fish markets. At this multigenerational family business, you’ll find a range of fresh seafood including tuna, halibut, salmon, crab, lingcod and rockfish. Nearby in the artsy town of Florence, you’ll find Krab Kettle, the longstanding market that’s been selling direct from fishing families since 1962. The specialty here is Oregon Dungeness crab, but you’ll also find fresh fish, oysters, steamer clams, smoked fish and other delicacies.

On the Southern Coast, Chuck’s Seafood in Coos Bay dates back to 1953. This family-run retail fish market, smokehouse and cannery caters to both sport and commercial fishers and includes the nearby Coos Bay Oyster Company. Expect seasonally driven offerings — as their website poetically puts it: “The ocean is a spontaneous lady. We can only stock what the fishers catch.” Succulent smoked fish like salmon or steelhead is almost always in stock.

Farther south in the city of Gold Beach, you can visit Fishermen Direct Seafoods in the port’s cannery building with views of the Rogue River. This retail store and processing plant is owned by five commercial-fishing families. In addition to fresh and smoked fish, you can buy and ship its cans of hook-and-line-caught albacore tuna and chinook salmon. 

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Krab Kettle (Photo by Melanie Griffin / Eugene, Cascades & Coast)

Seafood Inspiration and Resources

For more information, visit Oregon Sea Grant’s web pages on where to purchase local seafood and what kinds are available during the seasons.

While the peak of summer brings an array of dock tours and celebratory seafood events like Ten Days of Tuna, you can buy direct from fishing vessels year-round. Check the websites for the Oregon Albacore Commission and the Oregon Salmon Commission, which maintain updated lists of commercial-fishing boats that sell direct to consumers. Come winter, the Oregon Dungeness Crab Commission website assists with consumers looking for fresh crab in-season.

– By Kerry Newberry

Top photo: Courtesy of Positively Groundfish