The Oregon Coast Aquarium by Bonnie and Bill Neely

Just South of Newport you’ll find The Oregon Coast Aquarium , which is one of the BEST we have ever seen. The displays are pristine, gorgeous, and authentic. They use mostly natural rocks in the underwater environment, although some are simulated very realistically to enhance the over 15,000 specimen of undersea life. Immerse yourself in Passages of the Deep and walk beneath the waves through a 200-foot clear underwater tunnel that snakes through three ocean habitats. Encounter sharks, rays and thousands of other fish swimming around you, while you solve “The Great White Mystery: What Happened to Surfer Bob?” Experience an exhilarating sensation when you look around and realize you’re completely surrounded when you walk through this environ with glass floors and ceiling. While feeling as if you are truly underwater you’ll see no vegetation or rocks, like the deep sea which fish only pass through because there is not much food.
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In other areas you’ll find numerous great tanks, each providing different learning experiences. The fascinating jellies abound, and children love interacting with sea stars, urchins and other marine life in the Touch Tank at the Rocky Shores Gallery. The Aquarium provides excellent interpreters/teachers everywhere to answer almost any question you can think of.
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Have you ever wondered what the difference in a seal and sea lion is? You’ll learn and see the differences here at the wonderful outdoor display amongst rugged cliffs, caves and pools. Seals stay on the sand, have no ears, and have stationery rear flippers. Sea lions can climb on rocks because of their movable rear flippers and can be identified by their external ears. You can also watch the playful sea otters

A giant Pacific octopus lurks in an undersea coastal cave, and cartoonlike tufted puffins and other seabirds make their homes in one of the largest walk-through aviaries in North America. Other birds you’ll see are black oystercatchers, common murres, pigeon guillemots, rhinoceros auklets, and the new flock of Caspian terns.

Indoors, take a peek “Under the Lily Pad” at the Ocean Exploration Station beginning March 23 for an up-close view of frogs, newts and dragonflies as you discover the mysteries of pond life. identify the many creatures in the “duck soup” found in a pond ecosystem. Learn what’s lurking beneath the pond’s surface as you watch perch and bluegills, compare newts and salamanders and search for tree and red-legged frogs.
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At Jewels of the Sea, mysterious jellyfish from around the world are showcased in one of the largest displays in North America, but you’ll have to visit before the end of May to see the full exhibit. Marvelously adapted to a drifting, predatory life in the ocean, over a dozen species of seldom-seen jellies are exquisitely displayed. Jellyfish range in size from fingernail-sized animals to creatures that can grow longer than a blue whale. Their habitat is usually coastal waters, but they also live in the open ocean and freshwater ponds and streams. Jellyfish first appeared on earth some 650 million years ago and can be found in all the world’s oceans, from the Arctic to the equator to the Antarctic. They take the shape of the colonial Portuguese man-of-war to the more familiar umbrella-shaped medusa. Some jellies drift dispersed, while others form aggregations called ‘smacks’ and are measured in acres or miles.
This will also be the last chance to experience the exquisite hand-blown glassworks by renowned Oregon artist Chris Hawthorne, inspired by jellyfish in the open sea. Hawthorne’s dramatic glass jellyfish are over six feet in length with intricate detail that convey the luminescent colors, symmetry and graceful movement of these magnificent creatures. The stunning glass jellies are available for purchase, with a 15 percent tax-deductible donation from each sale helping to fund the Aquarium’s programs and future exhibits. For details, contact the Aquarium development department at 541-867-3474, ext. 5228
Walking in the botanical gardens we were so glad to find the greenery we had struggled to identify, labeled! You’ll see why The Oregon Coast Aquarium is worldclass and ranked among the top ten in the United States…REALLY worth a visit.

Admission is $10.25 for adults, $9.25 for seniors (65+), and $6.25 for children (4-13), children three and under are free. Advance tickets can be purchased on-line at http://www.aquarium.org. Group rates are available when arranged in advance. The Aquarium is open every day except December 25. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. up to Memorial Day weekend.