Depoe Bay, Oregon in Lincoln County is the smallest navigable harbor in the world. It is the namesake of Charley Depot who was given the land in 1894 by the Dawes Act of 1887. Charley was a member of the Siletz Native American Tribe. There are various stories surrounding his name but the family eventually became known as DePoe.
The extremely short length of the entrance/exit to the bay makes it a difficult passage both in and out. The Coast Guard suggests studying the charts, hazards and recommendations before attempting to navigate through.
Experienced fishermen and women and whale watching pilots can make it a fun experience for passengers because they know exactly where to go and what to avoid. At the same time there’s a momentum in the water when entering from the ocean side that propels the boats through and can be a fun ride.
Depoe Bay is a fishing harbor with a small fleet that not only fishes commercially but some also charter out to the rest of us who just want to go fishing for a day. When they return, the catch is cleaned and packaged by locals to send along with us. Dinner that night is often fresh seafood you caught yourself.
Depoe Bay also caters to shoppers and has a variety of shops along 101. It’s always fun to visit the stores and see what’s new! Plus there is an art gallery or two, restaurants and more. A unique feature across from the shops and restaurants is the seawall that runs the length of the downtown shopping area. It creates an ocean view from any eatery or store.
One of our favorite things to do is to stroll on the sidewalk next to the seawall. Ah, but watch for crashing waves that often come up over the seawall drenching the sidewalk and anyone on it. Dodging waves can be fun!
A very big attraction here is the whales. There is a pod of grey whales that live in, around and near the bay for 10 months out of the year. They sometimes come in very close—if you were standing on the shore you might be able to touch one—to rub the barnacles off of their bellies on the shallow, rocky ocean floor. They can be seen from the seawall walk.
Depoe Bay claims to be the “Whale Watching Capital of the Oregon Coast.” Considering how easy it is to spot a whale here, they may be right. And the boats are docked just waiting for you to hop on and take a whale watching adventure with them.
We’ve been more than once and it really is exciting to have those tails popping up right next to or very near your boat. When it has happened once, you’ll wait in happy anticipation for the next one. They are feeding offshore on plankton and dip upside down in order to scoop them up causing their tails to lift out of the water in a showy display. We can’t get enough!
The Depoe Bay Whale Center is a small state park located at the south end of the seawall next to the bridge that covers the entrance to the bay. They have a “Whale Watching Spoken Here” program that informs and educates the public about the whales and assists them in knowing and appreciating these gentle giants of the sea. We never fail to visit the center, read a bit more about the whales and climb up the stairs to see if we can spot any.
Some of our family members have seen their first whale from the boats during uniquely different experiences. One day was sunny and calm with lots of whale tails. Another day was also sunny if not warm and there were sailing tails that day, too. Our third time out was cloudy, windy, choppy and no tails. The boat ride was mostly nice that day but since we are prone to motion sickness we were glad the boat arrived back at the dock before seasickness could set in.
We wouldn’t trade our visits to Depoe Bay for anything and it is often our major destination for a day on the coast. Don’t miss it as you will be happy you went!