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Depoe Bay, Ore.: Coastal Weekender

A fishing village on Oregon’s rugged coast is one of the biggest whale-watching destinations and tiniest navigable harbors in the world.

  • Beach across the seawall, Depoe Bay, Ore., image
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    Take in close-up ocean views across the seawall in Depoe Bay, Ore.
  • Loren Goddard unooks a fish on Dockside Charters boat, Depoe Bay, Ore., image
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    Loren Goddard unhooks a fish on a Dockside Charters boat.
  • Pie from Spouting Horn, Depoe Bay, Ore., image
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    Spouting Horn is famed for pie.
  • Saltwater taffy at Ainslee's, Depoe Bay, Ore., image
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    Sweet taffy is made on the spot at Ainslee’s.
  • Tractor at What Not Shop, Depoe Bay, Ore., image
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    A tractor hangs at the What Not Shop in Depoe Bay.

Area code is 541.

TO DO AND SEE Cape Foulweather Named by Captain James Cook during his 1778 around-the-world expedition, this sheer basalt outcropping 500 feet above the Pacific is a prime place to watch storms. On sunny days, spy on the whales and sea lions swimming below. 4905 Otter Crest Loop, 765-2270, Devil’s Punch Bowl State Natural Area Low tides expose a labyrinth of caves, fossils, and tiny pools bearing starfish. The safest time for exploring is an hour or two before low tide. On Highway 101, 5.5 miles south of town. 265-9278, Dockside Charters Bottom fishing requires no special skills, so even hapless landlubbers can set off for a five-hour deep-sea fishing expedition with the reasonable hope of reeling in six or seven keepers, among them sea bass, lingcod, and cabezon. Fish are profuse in spring since many anglers take the winter off. $75 plus a $16.75 one-day fishing license. 270 Coast Guard Dr., 765-2545, Oregon State Parks Whale Watching Center A perfect perch for watching storms from a safe distance and sighting whales from shore. It’s located by the downtown seawall, where the shoreline is a rocky expanse of basalt pocked by small holes. When a squall hits, seawater churns into “spouting horns” and shoots up, sometimes 40 or 50 feet high. 119 SW Hwy. 101, 765-3304, Whale Research EcoExcursions Depoe Bay is one of the best places on the Pacific Coast to see gray whales, thanks to abundant bull kelp beds filled with the tiny shrimp that whales eat. Take a 1½-hour boat tour to watch the mammals cavort in the water, spouting or diving, flukes skyward, toward the ocean floor. 234 Hwy. 101, 912-6734,

SHOPPING Ainslee’s Homemade Saltwater Taffy Behold the giant batch roller, a long, clattering, 80-year-old metal contraption that twists fat globs of taffy into a skinny rope, cuts it into little candies, and swiftly wraps them in wax paper. The 32 taffy varieties range from hot cinnamon to raspberry-peach pie. 66 Hwy. 101, 765-2431, The Lookout Gift Shop Find a pleasant array of collectibles—sea beans, for instance, and handblown glass floats that bobbed here from Japan—in an enchanting 1937 clapboard house cliffside at Cape Foulweather. 4905 Otter Crest Loop, 765-2270, What Not Shop A charming hodgepodge of old 45 rpm records, worn fishing nets, and a staggering collection of vintage woodworking planes. 411 SW Hwy. 101, Ste. B, 765-2626.

EATS Bay Walk Café Ice cream, espresso, and delicious, gluten-free homemade clam chowder. 16 Hwy. 101, 765-7674. Gracie’s Sea Hag Old-school seaside dining: fish-and-chips, local oysters, and, on Saturday nights, prime rib au jus. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch founder Gracie Strom’s signature act, playing the bottles by musically clanking a metal spoon on the glass bottles behind the bar, eliciting frenzied applause from the regulars. 58 Hwy. 101, 765-2734. Spouting Horn Restaurant Set on a cliff overlooking Depoe Bay’s minuscule harbor, this nautically themed restaurant offers a breathtaking view. Go for the pies, which have earned acclaim far and wide, even from Bon Appétit. Owner Betty Taunton, 83, has been making every sort—from early spring rhubarbs to Thanksgiving mincemeats—for over 40 years. Her secret: lard. “It makes the crust firm,” she says. 110 SE Hwy. 101, 765-2261. Thai Bay Healthy, authentic Thai food served in a calm, carpeted room overlooking the harbor. The yellow curry is exquisite. 250 Hwy. 101, 765-2497.

Photography by Don Frank

This article was first published in March 2013. Some facts my have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.