If you happen to be driving on Highway 101 close to Yaquina Bay Bridge in Oregon, it is worth considering a quick stop at Yaquina Bay State Park in Newport. A little green recreational area, with ample hiking possibilities, a historical lighthouse and a picturesque beach.
The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is probably the areas most popular landmark. Apart from being the oldest lighthouse in Newport, it is also the only one with living quarters in the whole state. The lighthouse only functioned for a period of 4 years between 1871 and 1874, as it was replaced by the larger Yaquina Head. In 1996, it was restored to its current functional condition. Inside you will find very well kept living quarters, complete with dining room, kitchen, bedrooms, washroom, lantern room (which is closed to visitors), and a lighthouse history room. Entrance to the Lighthouse and the car park close by is free of charge, however numerous signs do suggest leaving a small donation for the upkeep of the building. Visitors are usually welcome from Wednesdays to Sundays between 12-4.
If you’re simply interested in a relaxed picnic, you can stop at the recreational area near the head of the 0.6 mile paved trail. The picnic tables are shaded by large trees and have bathroom facilities close by. If you decided to pursue the relatively easy trail, you will reach the North side of Yaquina Bay, specifically where it meets the Pacific Ocean. The bay boasts gorgeous sand dunes and is a favorite spot for sea gulls on the look out for sea creatures and crustaceans washed ashore by the tide. A stroll to the North Jetty brings you to a famous fishing and crabbing spot. If you’re lucky you may also spot a seal or two down at the beach.
Dividing the bay from north to south, the highly recognizable Yaquina Bay Bridge serves as yet another impressive viewpoint. Designed by Conde McCullough, the iconic 3223 feet bridge was open to traffic in 1936 and now forms part of the 101 Highway. Whether you are looking at the bridge from a far or walking on one of its side-walks you are guaranteed incredible views especially at sunset.
Regardless of not being the largest of parks, Yaquina Bay State Park does provide a diverse offering. It presents a healthy balance between breathtaking scenery and seaviews, a short trail, a well equipped picnic area and a touch of history.