Depoe Bay, OR does not just have the reputation of being the world’s smallest harbor; it is the “Whale Watching Capital of Oregon’s Coast.”
In this six-acre harbor (also called Depoe Bay) you can come see whales almost year round. During the winter migration, gray whales make the journey south, leaving the waters of Alaska in favor of the warmer water in northern Mexico.
This migration usually occurs in late December to February. During the spring migration that begins in March, whales head back up north to Alaska.
While these two migrations are the ideal times in which to see whales, it is almost certain you can see a whale in Depoe Bay any time of the year. This certainty is largely due to the group of gray whales that comprise the Pacific Coast Feeding Group.
Instead of making the journey all the way back to Alaska, this group of gray whales spend their summer feeding around the reefs in Depoe Bay. Around 18,000 gray whales pass through Depoe Bay over the course of the winter and spring migrations.
The most common whale seen off Oregon’s coast is the gray whale. Around 18,000 gray whales pass through Depoe Bay over the course of the winter and spring migrations.
Blue whales and humpback whales can also be spotted but in much deeper waters (usually no closer than 10 miles off the coast). If you’re really lucky, you might even be able to spot a pod of orca whales (also called killer whales). These beautiful predators are most likely spotted during mid-April when they come to intercept baby gray whales.
Newport is one of the seven major cities located on Oregon’s Central Coast. With a population of about 10,400, Newport is the largest of the seven. Newport can be found between the Pacific Ocean, the Coast Mountains, and Yaquina Bay. This unique location not only provides a ton of natural beauty but also allows for plenty of outdoor recreation activities, like fishing and kayaking.
In the past, Newport’s economy was built on the Bayfront, a port that housed the commercial fishing and timber industries. Even today, Bayfront still holds one of the largest commercial fishing fleets in Oregon. As time has progressed, tourism has begun to play a more significant role in Newport’s economy. The Bayfront is now a working waterfront with a variety of attractive shops and businesses littered along the street. Visitors can enjoy cozy cafes, eye-catching art galleries, and still-running fish processing plants. Among these numerous shops and restaurants is Local Ocean, a restaurant that focuses on locally, fresh-caught seafood. It even has a seafood market component in case you plan on cooking during your stay. Newport is also home to the famous Rogue Brewery, a massive pub located just underneath the south side of the Yaquina Bay Bridge.
Lighthouses occur all along Oregon’s coast but Newport is home to the state’s tallest and second oldest active lighthouse. Built in 1872, the 93 foot tall structure can be found at Yaquina Head, a natural area that was formed by lava flow more than 14 million years ago. Other must see attractions in Newport would be the Oregon Coast Aquarium which has some of the animals that make Oregon’s coast so special. One could even pay a visit to OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Visitor Center to get a taste on how scientific research plays into our understanding of these creatures.
By Sea Grant Interns Dustin James and Catie Michell
On July 14-16, Catie and I had the fortune of working alongside Justin Meyers of Myers Imaging Company and Erik Urdahl of Urdahl Photo as they completed their shoot of the South Coast for our Wild Rivers Photo Project. The Wild Rivers Coast Photo Project is a Travel Oregon funded project to get professional images of Oregon’s South Coast. These images will be used for tourism marketing purposes and will focus on outdoor recreation, natural scenery, in-town hotspots, and local wildlife. Justin and Erik had come down mid-June to shoot the areas of Bandon and Port Orford and on this particular weekend they were focusing their shoot on Gold Beach and Brookings. In total they will be shooting approximately 200 photos for this project.
We met up with Justin, Erik, and Dave Lacey of South Coast Tours LLC at 6:45am on Friday. They started their shoot doing an early morning paddle-boarding session at Secret Beach, and the day just took off from there. Throughout the day, we visited spots like the Chetco River’s Elephant Rock, the Brookings port, and various restaurants. We concluded the day with photographs of sunset at Samuel Boardman State Park. On Saturday, Justin and Erik took photos of Catie and I paddleboarding on Hunter Creek near Gold Beach. We then went tidepooling at Harris Beach State Park, followed by some ocean fishing and eventually a few visits to breweries and other businesses. The eventful day was concluded with late afternoon paddle-boarding at Secret Beach once again. On Sunday, I joined Justin up in Port Orford as he took a few street biking photos along the Elk River.
The photos will be used for free by communities along the Wild Rivers Coast to help market to visitors. The community official destination management organization (DMO) will be able to access images through a service provided by the Oregon Coast Visitor Association (OCVA) who will manage the images.
Associate Professor - Tourism and Business Development
College of Forest Ecosystems & Society
Oregon State University Extension - Oregon Sea Grant
Equal Opportunity/Accessibility https://extension.oregonstate.edu/equal-opportunity-accessibility