Updated: May 21, 2015
Oregon Coast Aquarium Review:The Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport is situated right in Yaquina Bay along Hwy 101 about 2 1/2 hours from the city of Portland. I have taken my family to Newport to visit the aquarium multiple times over the years. I do wish the aquarium would get more exhibits as we have become a little bored with the limited offerings. Last year we went to San Diego and went to Seaworld and my kids loved the penguin exhibit and other underwater animals. Unfortunately, the location of the Oregon aquarium limits the amount of tourist they get since it's not really near a major city in Oregon. The weather, also, is unpredictable in Newport year round so many times I'm sure families are deterred from going if the forecast calls for rainy, stormy conditions. We usually try to make the aquarium just one of the reasons as to why we visit Newport every other year or so. The historic bayfront area has a lot of things to do as well if you have the time. As for the aquarium, expect to spend at least 1 hour and perhaps up to 2 1/2 hours walking around their facility and checking out the various exhibits and aquatic life on display.
Technically you could do the aquarium as a day trip but that would require quite a bit of driving to and from the Portland region. We suggest making a night of it and staying somewhere along Elizabeth Street right near the beach and relax for the evening. The aquarium is right off of Hwy 101 as you head south across the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Just watch for the signs and take the appropriate exit. Adjacent to the Oregon Aquarium is the Aquarium Village and all the shops. Their official website can be found online Here and the site is well done with everything you need to plan your trip. We have included a basic map of the area down below with the aquarium shown on it.
There is a restaurant on site if you want to eat there, but we suggest grabbing lunch before or after your visit in the historic bayfront area just minutes away. To get a map of the aquarium, go Here. You get an idea of the layout of the Passage of the Deep exhibit as well. The exhibits include Oddwater, Passages of the Deep, Jellies, Sea Otters, Seals & Sea Lions and Sea Bird Aviary. My kids like the touch tank that is indoors and I enjoy trying to catch a glimpse of the octopus that often hides in his tank very well. The most impressive section of the aquarium is the Passage of the Deep section which highlights such aquatic life as sharks, rockfish, bat rays, and other unique fish. You literally walk down an enclosed glass tunnel with sharks and rays swimming above and below you. During a Spring Break special event, they allow certain members to sleep in the tunnel over night in sleeping bags. If you have a child that likes to study sharks and aquatic life, this could be for you. The jellyfish collection at the Oregon Coast Aquarium has always been a personal favorite of mine. The jellies are amazing with their intense colors, shapes, and ability to just float in the water. The sea otters always entertain, it's best to try and time your visit to their exhibit during feeding times to really watch them in action. The seals and sea lions race around their tank doing underwater acrobatics and spins which should amaze even adults. There are plenty of viewing areas that surround their tank so keep moving if one area is crowded with onlookers. The sea bird aviary has tufted puffins, rhinoceros auklets, pigeon guillemots, common mures, and black oystercatchers. It's fun to watch the birds play in the water and dive off the rock ledges. The aquarium also offers special tours and events like the Animal Encounters which let visitors get up close and personal with certain animals. There are definitely a lot educational opportunities once on site so be sure to read up as a parent before you go so you can educate your child while you are there. Overall, I say the Oregon Coast Aquarium is a must do activity for any family that lives in Oregon, but be prepared to do other things while in Newport since it only takes a few hours to get in and out of the aquarium.