Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Newport, Florence, and the Oregon Coast

Yesterday, we drive down the Oregon coast, from Lincoln City to Florence.

Between the two of us, we have visited the coast several times. It is always enjoyable, no matter the time of year. A couple of times, we have visited during winter, in the hopes of encountering storms coming in from the west. On another occasion, I drove the length of the coast, from Astoria all the way south to Crescent City in California, where I turned north toward Grants Pass en route to my ultimate destination of Ashland, Oregon. Driving from Seattle, it took about two days with an overnight stay in Florence. Somewhere, there are photos from that trip. One thing I remember specifically is some driftwood sculptures on the beach, somewhere south of Florence, if I recall correctly.

On this sojourn, I was prevailed upon to patronize a trio of tourist traps in Newport — the Wax Museum, the Ripley's Believe It or Not, and the Undersea Gardens. How to describe them? Kitschy. Hokey. Kind of tacky. Relics from another era.

Both the wax museum and the Ripley's were very dimly lit — I presume to hide any flaws in their depictions of the individuals portrayed. I was reminded of the pirate museum we had visited a few years ago in Salem, Massachusetts. I think I saw a Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum once, many years ago. I don't know what I would think of it now. My recollection is that it was better than the one in Newport, but even then, I had a sense it possessed a distinct lack of redeeming value.

The Ripley's evinced a bygone era notable for its political incorrectness — the smug superiority of the great white explorer. Once upon a time, I was fascinated by his compilations; now, not so much. Indeed, one of them was something I have seen shared on Facebook, and debunked on Snopes.

As for the Undersea Garden, the less said the better. If you want to see aquatic life, go to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. This was a much more popular venue; we had to wait in line to get in.

In addition to the usual exhibits of fish swimming languidly around on the other side of double-thick glass, you can see jellyfish (sea nettles, among others),


puffins (tufted and horned),

American oystercatchers (I have seen these in the wild),

as well as some seals, otters, and sea lions.

The drive down the coast was enjoyably scenic, as always.

There was a walk on the beach.

Eventually, we made it to Florence. We located the funky, artsy Old Town section, where the interesting, non-chain restaurants are situated. We checked in at the River House Inn, which cost exactly the same as the Comfort Inn up on Highway 101. Same price, but better location (on the river and within walking distance of better restaurants).

We did not have to walk far (just a block or two) before we chanced upon what we were told (by someone who appeared to be a local) was the best restaurant in Florence — the Waterfront Depot.

If last night is any indication, it is a popular place — well patronized. We were able to get seating at the bar. Tim ordered the seafood platter which included coconut prawns and fish and chips. The deep fried cod was notable in that the coating was very light and crisp, not bready at all. I ordered the crab-encrusted halibut, which we had been informed was a signature dish of the establishment‚ and rightly so; it was delicious.

Afterwards, we strolled down the street to the marina before heading back to our room and retiring for the night in preparation for the drive to Crater Lake.

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