Visits to the zoo are fun and all but people tend to forget that oceanariums and aquariums are a big deal as well. It’s nearly impossible for us to explore the vastness of the deep blue so what better way to do so than by going through man-made underwater escapades. These carefully made aquariums are built to simulate marine life, thus making sure that all of the inhabitants inside are as comfortable as possible. If you are in Oregon, you are in luck as you have the chance to visit one of the best aquariums in the world. Not only does this house thousands of marine life, it is also a learning ground for everything inside the deep blue.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium located in Newport in the state of Oregon is considered as a world-class aquarium by many. The facility sits on 23 acres of s[ace along the Yaquina Bay near the Pacific Ocean. For those who don’t know, the Oregon Coast Aquarium was also once the temporary home of Keiko the orca who starred in Free Willy.

Business leaders in the U.S. began proposing an aquarium during the early 80s. At the time, the initial proposal was a $7 million facility that can help boost the local economy through tourism. Then in 1987, the leaders incorporated as a non-profit and began to become more aggressive in fundraising which resulted in them collecting $11 million by 1991.

The plans to turn 23 acres along Yaquina Bay into a world class aquarium was finalized in 1990. The group behind it then secure the help of SRG Architects, Portland: BIOS:Inc, of Seattle, and Walker/Macy Landscape Architects. With the help of these esteemed architectural groups, the Oregon Coast Aquarium was officially built.

The Oregon Coast Aquarium officially opened its doors on May 23, 1992. During its first day, the attraction was able to get somewhere around 5,500 visitors. The opening was attended by some key personnel including Senator Mark O. Hatfield, Governor Barbara Roberts, and a few congressmen including Mike Kopetski and LesAuCoin. At the time, management kept up with a theme which was following the path of a raindrop from the Oregon Coast Range and then into the Pacific Ocean.

Since its establishment, the Oregon Coast Aquarium continued to expand and to this date, it remains to be one of the top attractions in the state of Oregon. It has also received many accolades in the past years which is a huge testament to the place’s respect and love for the marine life that it houses.

Furthermore, the people behind the aquarium sees the place as more than just an attraction. As per Oregon Coast Aquarium. “The Aquarium is a living classroom for all learning styles and ages. As one of Oregon’s top tourist attractions, the Aquarium is a vital educational resource for the state, with over 40,000 students visiting the Aquarium each year. The Aquarium strives to be a center of excellence for ocean literacy and plays an active role in conservation and animal rehabilitation efforts.”

We know you’re pretty excited to say hello to all the sea creatures in the Oregon Coast Aquarium but before that, here are some important reminders you can’t afford to travel without.

Operating Hours in Oregon Coast Aquarium

A great thing worth noting about the Oregon Coast Aquarium aside from the quality of the place is that it is open 364 days a year and is only closed during Christmas. That means you can visit the aquarium whenever you please but of course there are days that are better to visit than others but more on that later.

From May 25 to September 3 the Oregon Coast Aquarium implements a schedule of 10AM to 6PM daily.   From September 4 to May 24, the aquarium closes earlier by one hour. Do keep in mind that the Ferry Slip Cafe is closed during Mondays and Tuesdays from September 4 to May 24.

Prices at Oregon Coast Aquarium

Truth be told, the prices at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are a little higher than what we expected but is it worth it? The answer is a solid yes. For adults between the ages of 18-64, the prices are $24.95. For seniors 64 and up, the tickets are $19.95. For young adults, between 13and 17 years old, the tickets are $19.95 as well. Children between 3 and 12 years old will be charged $14.95. Lastly, infants and toddlers are free of charge. If you are traveling with an infant or a person with a disability, you can rent some things to make the trip easier. The prices are: single stroller – $8, double stroller – $10, wheelchair – $8 and electric mobility scooter – $20

You can also apply for a membership program of the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Doing so gives you free admission the entire year, as well as these benefits:

  • •  Use of the members express entrance
  • •  Free Waterlines membership calendar
  • •  Invitations to exhibit previews
  • •  Free admission to the popular holiday events Trick or Treat Street and Sea of Lights
  • •  Discounts on programs and special events, gift shop merchandise, guest admission tickets and facility rentals
  • •  Reciprocal membership entry at several regional cultural attractions –
  • •  Additional benefits for upper level members

Best Time to Visit Oregon Coast Aquarium

The least busy time for the Oregon Coast Aquarium would be around November to January. Just try to avoid the Christmas season. During this time, not only will you be treated to smaller crowds, the weather will be perfectly cool as well.

As for the time, be sure to visit early as you may want to avoid the rush of cars that happens in the parking lot at around noon.

A Look Inside the Oregon Coast Aquarium

The Oregon Coast Aquarium is known as one of the top aquariums not just in its state but in whole North America too. In fact, countless tourists from around the globe make sure to visit this place. The locals love it too. But what’s in it that makes it top-ranking and deserving of its spot and the buzz? Here are some of what’s inside the Oregon Coast Aquarium that we’re sure you’ll love too.

1Exhibits

oregon coast aquarium
A dungeness shrimp on top of a crab in the Rocky Shores exhibit (Source)

Oregon Coast Aquarium has lot of exhibits to offer that will entertain and amaze its visitors, regardless of their age, with the various marine creatures in their habitat. As a matter of fact, the aquarium has more than 10 exhibits namely the Sandy Shores, Rocky Shores, Coastal Waters, Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, Giant Pacific Octopus, Seabird Aviary, Turkey Vultures, Orford Reef, Halibut Flats, Open Sea, Aquarium Grounds, and Seapunk: Powered by Imagination.

Some exhibits are solely dedicated for specific animals like the Sea Otters, Harbor Seals, Sea Lions, and Giant Pacific Octopus. However, in some exhibits, you can get to see a variety of animals living together. For instance, in the Sandy Shores exhibit, you can get to see lewis’ moon snail, helmet crab, high cockscomb, northern anchovy, pacific herring, sand dollars, sea pen, shiner perch, speckled sanddab, starry flounder, and giant acorn barnacle together along with the Dungeness crab and bay pipefish.

As for the rocky shores exhibit, you can find wolf eel, tiger rock fish, strawberry anemone, stalked tunicate, and sharp-nosed crab living together. There is also sea lemon, red octopus, purple sea urchin, ochre star, monkeyface prickleback, hairy hermit crab, lingcod, grunt sculpin, giant rock scallop, giant green anemone, flat porcelain crab, Christmas anemone, canary rockfish, California stichopus, California mussel, burrowing sea cucumber, box crab, and black rockfish.

For the Coastal Waters exhibit, you can get to see sunflower star, spotted ratfish, spot prawn, senorita, red sea urchin, proliferating anemone, pacific sea nettle, pacific hagfish, and moon jellyfish. It also has leather star, leaf barnacle, Japanese spider crab, horn shark, garibaldi damselfish, filetail catshark, chinook salmon, California moray eel, blood star, boccacio, blacksmith, and bat star.

Oregon Coast Aquarium’s Orford Reef and the rest of the exhibits (except the Seabird Aviary and the Aquarium Grounds) house marine animals that are often found in the deeper part of the ocean such as sharks, rays, and other deep sea fishes.

The Seabird Aviary exhibit on the other hand, is not filled with marine creatures rather birds that live their lives at the sea, feasting on crabs, mussels, and clams. This exhibit is known as the largest of its kind in the entire North America.

The Aquarium grounds exhibit, like the Seabird Aviary, isn’t filled with marine creatures but different species of plants.

But this aquarium isn’t just for entertainment and picture-taking but it also educates everyone. Through its exhibits, you can get to know more about the types of different marine creatures that live in the ocean, how they thrive to survive, and what type of environment they require to live in. If you were to visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, you can gain more understanding of their habitat and how we can help them to survive.

2Close Encounters

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Diving with sharks at the Oregon Coast Aquarium (Source)

Oregon Coast Aquarium also lets its visitors to get closer with some of the sea creatures and it’s one of the reasons why many tourists make sure to visit this place. With the close encounter experiences that the aquarium offers, you can get up close and personal with some of the marine creatures that you’ve never imagined to encounter that close.

At Oregon Coast Aquarium, you can get a handshake (or handshakes!) with an octopus, get to observe them closer, and even take photos with them for only $35 for Aquarium members and $40 for non-members. You can also do that with moon jellies for $2o for Aquarium members and $25 for non-members. And the best part of it is that you can even swim with sharks and fishes and experience what it’s like in the deep part of the sea for that unforgettable underwater adventure. You don’t have to worry about anything, though, as you will be provided with the right gear and dive with professionally trained dive guides who will assist you throughout the entire experience.

3Behind the Scenes Tours

oregon coast aquarium
Feeding an otter (Source)

Aside from the close encounters, another thing that makes people keep buzzing about the Oregon Coast Aquarium is because of the aquarium’s behind the scene tour offers. In this experience, you will not just get to see the lives of the animals behind the exhibit but you can also get to have a glimpse of how they are being taken care of. Through this, you can also get to learn more about how they should be taken care of and more about the animals as well as their habitats. This unique experience lasts for 45 to 60 minutes for only $10 for aquarium members and $15 for non-members.

4Unique Sleepover Experience

oregon coast aquarium
The Passages of the Deep tunnels (Source)

Another thing to love about the Oregon Coast Aquarium is that you can get a unique sleepover experience as you lay down and see fishes and other marine creatures swim above you. You will not sleep in the water, though. Rather, you will sleep in the Passages of the Deep tunnels and get to view the aquarium without large daytime crowds. Also, note that it’s not going to be a luxurious sleepover wherein you can get to sleep in your own comfortable bed or whatnot. Instead, it’s like you’re just camping in the tunnels of the Passages of the Deep. Even so, it’s going to be a unique and memorable experience. Don’t worry as you will be assisted by professional and friendly staff too. There are hands-on activities as well that are great for kinds too. On top of that, meals and snacks are provided already.

5Beach Cleanup

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Oregon Coast Aquarium’s volunteers participating in beach cleanup (Source)

Another thing that makes it deserving of its top spot among many aquariums in North America is that it is dedicated to really helping our marine friends as well as our environment to enjoy a cleaner beach. Oregon Coast Aquarium often holds and participate in beach cleanup events and encourage others to volunteer too. If you’re willing to take part in such an event, you can check this to see volunteer opportunities.

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Nearby Attractions

Another thing to love about the Oregon Coast Aquarium is that it is also near several unique attractions. Totally worth visiting, right? It’s like you’re hitting several birds with one stone. Here are some of the attractions nearby that you sure don’t want to miss.

Ripley’s Believe it or Not

oregon coast aquarium
The odd displays in Ripley’s Believe it or Not (Source)

If you’re looking for a more unique experience, there’s a no better idea than stopping by Ripley’s Believe it or Not before or after your visit to Oregon Coast Aquarium. Here, apart from the bizarre collections on display from around the world, you can also get to see live stage performances.

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The Wax Works

oregon coast aquarium
Wax figures of the Spice Girls (Source)

If you want to see some film stars, head to the Wax Works that is just a stone throw away Ripley’s Believe it or Not. Though, you won’t get to see the actual celebrities but you get the gist. With the realistic details that the wax figures have, it will still feel as if you’ve met your favorite celebrity. There are wax figures of several sci-fi characters too.

Oregon Undersea Gardens

oregon coast aquarium
Kids enjoying the view at the Oregon Undersea Gardens (Source)

And if you haven’t had enough of sea creatures yet, you can also visit the Oregon Undersea Gardens. Here, you can also get to see more marine creatures. There are several activities waiting as well.

Newport Interactive Zoo

oregon coast aquarium
The shark touch tank at the Newport Interactive Zoo (Source)

There is a zoo nearby Oregon Undersea Gardens too. From goats to parrots, they have it all here. There are activities to enjoy too. And if you are traveling with kids, it’s also an attraction that’s worth visiting as they will surely learn too.

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Hatfield Science Center Oregon State University

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Visitors getting a closer look at the animal on the exhibit with the help of the staff (Source)

This place is also near the Oregon Undersea Gardens and is a must visit too. It has fun educational activities and interactive displays that kids and kids at heart will love such as the Tsunami Wave Challenge, Tidepool Touch Tanks, and the Augmented reality Sandbox. This attraction also offers close encounters with several marine creatures too.