The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport Oregon
Visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon
If you are looking for family vacation ideas, or simply a serene place for a get-away, the Oregon Coast offers year-round mild temperatures and stunning scenery. Of all the places to visit, the one that you should not miss is the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon.
Located on the Central Coast, the aquarium is easily accessible from all areas of Western Oregon. About 3 hours from Astoria, an hour from Corvallis, and 2 hours from the California border, Newport, Oregon is worth the drive.
According to the Oregon Coast Aquarium's official website:
Parents Magazine, Forbes Traveler, USA Today and Coastal Living named the Oregon Coast Aquarium among the top ten in the nation. Spirit Magazine called Passages of the Deep “The coolest 50 yards on the Oregon Coast!”
After our recent visit, I would have to agree! My 8-year old twins and I headed south along Highway 101 to Newport to go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium over Labor Day weekend. I've visited the Seattle Aquarium, the Seaside Aquarium and the Aquarium of the Bay in San Francisco.
In my opinion, the Oregon Coast Aquarium beats all of these venues, hands down. Here's why!
Overview of Attractions at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is easy to navigate, no matter your age. Most visitors will start with the Passages of the Deep, which takes you literally right through the ocean waters, allowing you to observe fish and other wildlife above, below and right next to you.
From there, you may head outdoors to the Nature Trail, which will take you past several popular animal exhibits, through the aquarium gardens, and along the natural estuary of the Yaquina Bay.
Indoor exhibits are arranged by different environments and eco-systems, including Coastal Waters, Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores and Swamplands. There are many interactive exhibits, including a special tide pool for children to touch starfish and sea anenomes. Visit the indoor theater, as well, which showcases informational films all day long.
About the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium opened in its current location in Newport, Oregon in 1992. The world-class facility spans 23 acres of land along Yaquina Bay, on the West Coast of the United States, near the Pacific Ocean. While the attractions are top notch, the aquarium is probably best known for the time it was home to Keiko the Killer Whale (star of "Free Willy"). The whale made the Oregon Coast Aquarium his home for several years before he was returned to the wild in Oslo, Norway in 1998.
The aquarium originally was envisioned by local business leaders who proposed a facility to draw visitors and boost the local economy. Over a ten-year period, a non-profit organization was formed and raised $11 million to construct the Oregon Coast Aquarium.
Where can I find the Oregon Coast Aquarium?
Outdoor Attractions at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Nature Trail winds visitors around the outdoor attractions at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Be sure to visit the sea otters, the seals and sea lions, the octopus and the Aviary in which you'll see puffers and a relative of the penguins - Auks. Feeding schedules are posted so you can watch the seal do back-flips and wave for his meal, and enjoy the antics of the adorable sea otters.
A large number of volunteers are on site to answer questions and offer information about the animals' activities. They'll also remind small children to stay off the rocks and avoid tapping on the glass. Most of the outdoor attractions have several viewing locations. You can see the animals above the water, or walk down to a viewing location below the surface to watch them dive and spin!
The Oregon Coast can be windy and cool year round, with relatively mild temperatures usually hovering around from 50-60 F. Be sure to pack a jacket, hat and umbrella just in case. You won't want to miss the outdoor attractions just because its raining!
After you've seen the animals, be sure to continue around the trail to the outdoor children's play area, or simply to view the serenity of Yaquina Bay. Educational signs and plaques are posted to provide additional information about the eco-system and environment.
Seal Puts on a Show at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium has many indoor attractions, which is good for those cold, rainy days, but also educational no matter the weather outdoors! No visit to the aquarium is complete without walking through the Passages of the Deep. Surround yourself with sea life above, below and all around you! My children loved watching sharks swim all around.
Four different environments are showcased, as well: Coastal Waters, Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores and Swamplands. Visitors can learn about the variety in eco-systems and the sea life that is unique to each. Large and small exhibits are included, from alligators to piranhas and seahorses to starfish.
Lots of educational materials, exhibits and volunteers are on hand to answer questions and provide more information!
Aquarium Attractions Especially for Children (ages 3-11)
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is family-friendly for kids of all ages! Great effort has been made to keep children entertained and engaged.
My 3rd grade children loved reading all the information plaques posted around the aquarium. But they are also still young enough to have enjoyed climbing on the outdoor play structures, crawling through swampy "logs" and climbing on the indoor mangrove "roots." The outdoor tidal pool was a big hit, as well. Other interactive exhibits include an explorers tent in the Swampland section.
For tired kids ages 4 and under, you can rent a stroller (single or double). There is also an on-site restaurant to feed hungry children that could get cranky!
Of course, there is a gift shop, as well! A wide selection of souvenirs, t-shirts and sweatshirts and even cameras to record your visit, is offered.
Oregon Coast Aquarium Hours, Admission and other Details
Hours: The Oregon Coast Aquarium is open every day of the year, except December 25 (Christmas). Winter hours (the day after Labor Day through Memorial Day) are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Summer Hours (the day after Memorial Day through Labor Day) are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Check the website for special events and/or closures.
Admission: (discount with AAA):
- Adults (Ages 18-64): $15.95
- Seniors (Ages 65+): $13.95
- Young Adults (Ages 13-17): $13.95
- Children (Ages 3-12): $9.95
- Infants & Toddlers (Ages 0-2): Free
Parking: There are several large parking lots adjacent to the aquarium. Plenty of room to park and its free!
Large groups/tours: School groups and other field trips may be eligible for a discounted admission rate. Be sure to call in advance to make arrangements: 541-867-3474.
Strollers and wheelchairs are available for rent at the front entrance.
Don't Miss these Cool Attractions
There is plenty to see at the Oregon Coast Aquarium! Be sure to budget at least 2 hours for your visit. Our favorite attractions include:
- The giant shark jaw (pictured above)
- The Passages of the Deep tunnel
- Watching the seal perform for his food
- Standing "inside" the piranha tank (you can go under the tank and stand up in an enclosed area while the fish swim around you)
- The seahorses!
- The touching tidepool
Tuffted Puffins and Auks Swim in the Aviary at the Oregon Coast Aquarium
Support the Aquarium
The Oregon Coast Aquarium is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. It relies heavily on donations (usually tax deductible) from individuals and other organizations. Even if you cannot visit the aquarium in person, consider making a donation to this one - or to your local aquarium.
You can learn more and stay in touch with the latest happenings at the Oregon Coast Aquarium by becoming a fan on Facebook and/or following it on Twitter.
© 2011 Stephanie Hicks