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The small town of Depoe Bay was once nothing more than a small fishing village today it has transformed into one of the more quaint tourist traps on the Oregon coast

Depoe Bay is located on the central coast of Oregon on Route 101 just a few miles north of the larger city Newport. It is pretty tiny, less than 2 square miles and 1500 people. 

The name of this quaint little town supposedly originated from a Siletz Indian, Charles “Charley” Depot who originally got hold of the land in 1894 as part of the Dawes Act of 1887. There are conflicting stories how Charley got his last name ‘Depot’. One story says he was given the name “Depot Charley” for working at the military depot near Toledo, Oregon another is that his family name was DePoe (there are records from the local paper, the Lincoln County Recorder, referring to a leading fellow in the Siletz tribe called Charlie DePoe).

The town, with its cute harbour has featured in several films including ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975), ‘Hysterical’ (1983) and ‘The Burning Plain’ (2008).

We visited Depoe Bay in March, during the peak of whale watching season and used it as our base to visit the surrounding area

The coastline around Depoe Bay is rugged
Waves crashing on the rocks at Depoe Bay
Rock pools and battered rocks along the waterfront in Depoe Bay
Sunset at Depoe Bay, Oregon

Downtown Depoe Bay is small but perfectly formed. There is a sprinkling of small shops along the main street that passes through, mainly comprised of gift shops, cafes bars and restaurants. It does not take long to explore Depoe Bay, as you drive through blink and you might miss it!  Across from the shops, there is a sea wall and you can stare out onto the Pacific Ocean with uninterrupted views.

The main street in Depoe Bay has a sprinking of touristy shops, cafes and bars
Karen looks out from the seawall in Depoe Bay
A seagull sits on the seawall
Waves pounding the seawall along the Route 101 running through Depoe Bay

The sign say’s ‘Depoe Bay World’s Smallest Harbour’ but this is not strictly true. There are indeed smaller harbours but people like to add the caveat of being the smallest natural navigable harbour. I guess if you add enough conditions everything becomes unique! Anyway, the harbour is undoubtedly small covering a measly 6-acres with a 50-foot channel opening out to the Pacific Ocean.

Depoe Bay purportedly has the World's smallest harbour
The small but perfectly formed harbour

Other things to do from Depoe Bay

1. Whale watching

Depoe Bay is known as Oregon’s whale watching capital, due to the large number of migrating Gray whales.  In winter the whales are heading south from Alaskan waters, their summer feeding grounds, to the shallow warm water lagoons off northern Mexico. In the Spring they are heading north back to Alaska. 

The whales often come close to the shore so you can easily see them with the naked eye. If you would like to get a closer look there are several whale watching tour providers in Depoe Bay and Newport.

2. Lincoln City (12 miles)

Lincoln City is a relative metropolis when compared to Depoe Bay. It is a long sprawling city that runs along Highway 101.  

We spent some time exploring the historic Taft District. Here there is an estuary that leads out to the Pacific Ocean. Lining the estuary is a beach where a lot of driftwood has piled up over time. This wood has been used to build some fairly elaborate structures on the beach.

In the Taft District, you will also find the Lincoln City Glass Center you can watch local glass artisans work with intense heat to craft floats, bowls and vases, or take part in a hands-on class to create your own beautiful glass art. Peruse their local gallery, and discover paperweights, ornaments and other unique creations.

Lincoln City has a number of artists making glass products.

3. Beverly Beach State Park

Beverly Beach is popular for a reason! Like magic, a well-known walkway goes under the highway and emerges to the long expanse of sandy beach extending from Yaquina Head (you can see the lighthouse from here) to the headlands of Otter Rock. When the weather cooperates, kites colour the air and whip in the wind. Bring a bucket and build a sandcastle! Surfers often head to the north beach, while folks looking for fossils head south.

A few steps from the ocean you’ll find the forest-sheltered campground. Giant, wind-sculpted trees and nurse logs surround the campsites strung along pebbly Spencer Creek. 

4. Devil’s Punchbowl (6 miles)

The Devil’s Punchbowl is a natural sandstone cauldron sculpted into the headlands by the powerful waves of the Pacific Ocean. This geographic formation began as a sea cave, created over hundreds of years from coastal undercurrents. At one point the cave ceiling collapsed, exposing the churning ocean at work.

Watch the heaving tide breakers surge in and out of the crater, loudly sloshing around with incredible power. Visitors can stand by the edge and observe this site, and perhaps glimpse the frequent groups of seals and sea lions congregated nearby. This is also a primes spot for Gray Whales spotting, as they feed in kelp beds close to shore.

Devils Punchbowl Natural Area

5. Yaquina Head Natural Outstanding Area

Yaquina Head lighthouse on the Oregon coast

From exploring tide pools teeming with life to witnessing Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, there is something for every visitor at Yaquina Head.

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area extends out from the Oregon coast, one mile into the Pacific Ocean. Standing 93 feet tall at the westernmost point of the basalt headland, the lighthouse has been a bright beacon of the night, guiding ships and their supplies along the west coast since the light was first lit on August 20, 1873.

The interpretive centre features exhibits on seabirds and marine life as well as human history from the headland.

6. Newport (12 miles)

Newport is a funky town, with its classic seaside areas, a gritty working harbour and interesting tourist attractions. It has a bit of everything which makes it a great places for individuals, couples and families.

Around the harbour you will find plenty of restaurants, bars and gift stores as well as the unmissable Ripleys Believe It Or Not. You’ll also undoubtedly hear the sound of Californian sealions and find them cavorting on platforms to the amusement of passing tourists.

For the more classic seaside experience, you can check out Nye Beach with its little shops, restaurants, cafes and of course the beach.

7. The Oregon Coast Aquarium

An icon of Newport, the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a public aquatic and marine science exhibition facility offering educational programs. Exhibits showcase seabirds, marine mammals, fishes, invertebrates and plants primarily native to the Oregon Coast.

Location:

2820 SE Ferry Slip Rd, Newport

Website: 
Hours: 9:30am – 6:00pm, every day
Admission:Adults: $24.95; Seniors: $19.95; Young Adults (13 -17): $19.95; Children (3 -12):  $14.95

Where to eat?

Sometimes being a vegan can be challenging when travelling, and this proved to be the case when visiting Depoe Bay. Luckily, we chose to self-cater so most of our meals were under our own control. When we did go out it was generally to enjoy a pint of the local craft beers and a bowl of fries. Luckily, we found a couple of great micro-breweries in the area to checkout. 

The Horn Public House and Brewery – Depoe Bay

Located on the main street through Depoe Bay the Horn Public House is home to the Depoe Bay Brewing Company. There is a downstairs bar and restaurant which is atmospheric but we chose to eat upstairs as the seating there (if you’re by the window) gives you either great views of the harbour or the Pacific Ocean. We tried the stout they had on tap and a plate of fries!

The Horn Public House and Depoe Bay Brewing Company
View of the harbour from the Horn Public House

The Rusty Truck Brewing – Lincoln City

Like The Horn Public House in Depoe Bay the Rusty Truck does not cater for vegan’s so we limited ourselves to a pint of their hearty stout and a bowl of french fries. Nonetheless, we enjoyed the place and it is well worth checking out.

Rusty Truck Brewing in Lincoln City

Getting to Depoe Bay?

Distances
Lincoln City12 miles
Newport12 miles
Salem, OR70 miles
Portland, OR100 mikes
Seattle, WA270 miles
San Francisco, CA633 miles

Where to stay?

If camping is your thing then consider Beverly Beach State Park. Hidden in a forest between Cape Foulweather and Yaquina Head, Beverly Beach State Park’s creekside campground is one of the state’s largest. Some campsites and the park’s day-use area are just steps away from miles of ocean beach. Accommodations include 21 rustic yurts, 53 full RV hookups (30 with cable), 75 RV sites with electricity and 128 tent sites.

Check out the listing on ReserveAmerica to reserve your site.

Set in Depoe Bay, SCP Depoe Bay features a fitness center, shared lounge, terrace, and free WiFi throughout the property. This 3-star hotel offers a concierge service and luggage storage space. The hotel has family rooms.

At the hotel all rooms are equipped with a desk, a flat-screen TV and a private bathroom.

Check out the listing on Booking.com for more information.

From 18 of the Inn at Arch Rock’s 19 units, you can gaze at a breaktaking view of the Pacific Ocean. Sitting above the sea on a bluff in Depoe Bay on the beautiful Oregon Coast, the Inn offers cosy rooms for couples as well as spacious suites which can sleep up to seven. Enjoy unique decor (no two rooms are the same!) while you relax and let their welcoming staff make your stay amazing. 

For more information check out Booking.com

In summary …

  • Depoe Bay is a good place to base yourself to explore this part of the Oregon Coast
  • If you are interested in whale sitings then the spring months are probably your best chance of seeing the migrating gray whales
  • The Oregon coast can be wet and chilly – even in the summer so take some clothes that keep you dry and warm
  • The beaches are lovely but better for walking abd beach combing on than sunbathing
  • If like us you are vegans you might want to think about self-catering with an apartment or house rental

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