Oregon Coast

From north to south, the Oregon Coast is over 360 miles of rocky headlands, coastal dunes and thick forest, all being constantly shaped and reshaped by the unrelenting power of the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the most diverse and beautiful places on Earth, a favorite haunt for vacationers, hikers, sportsmen and photographers. It is home to tens of thousands of species of native animals and plants. If you have never before experienced the Oregon Coast, we promise you will never forget it. And if you are a returning visitor, you already know how its beauty lingers on the mind and feeds the senses.

Our Role As Interpreter and Steward

Since 1992, the Oregon Coast Aquarium has been at the forefront of sharing, interpreting and preserving the beauty and biological diversity of the region. The arrangement of the Aquarium exhibits were designed to guide our visitors from one ecosystem to the next – from the top of the Coastal Mountain range to the dark, muddy bottom of the waters offshore. As you visit, you’ll notice a progression in our exhibits, starting with the habitats closest to shore and ending in the blue vastness of the open ocean. You can click on any of the exhibits listed below to learn more about them and the animal species they contain.

Sandy Shores: Begin your journey in the spot where most people experience the ocean… on a sandy beach. Some species may be familiar to you, like the Sand Dollar washed up on shore. But others will come as a surprise, as they lie hidden beneath your feet or in the currents just offshore.

Rocky Shores: This gallery provides the next leg of your journey out to sea. The ancient volcanic flows that sculpted the Oregon coastline are home to all kinds of marine life, from tide pool invertebrates to colorful reef fish.

Coastal Waters: Not accessible from the beach, but still close to land, are the teeming coastal waters. Here, huge colonies of Moon Jellies or Sea Nettles drift on the cold currents and fish build vast symbiotic communities among kelp forests.

Sea Otter and Seal & Sea Lion Exhibits: Oregon’s coastal waters contain thousands of islands and rocky headlands which are habitat and “haul out” areas for marine mammals. Our outdoor canyons simulate these areas. Wander through these narrow passages where waves crash through the rocks and you can spot California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals and the endangered Sea Otters at play. 

Giant Pacific Octopus Exhibit: As you explore the dark passages of our outdoor canyons, keep your eyes peeled for one of the ocean's most fascinating and enigmatic creatures: the Giant Pacific Octopus.  An animal of myth and legend, our octopus exhibit allows you to peer into the animal's hidden home among the rocks.

Turkey Vulture and Seabird Aviaries: The animals of the Oregon Coast live beneath the waves, on the cool breezes far overhead, and roost on the numerous offshore islands. Birdlife is one of the most visible and spectacular features of the Oregon coast, and these exhibits bring some of the more recognized species within inches of you.

Passages of the Deep: This series of connecting underwater tunnels guides you through the more remote areas of the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon Coast. Most of us will never see these ecosystems and animals firsthand, but Passages of the Deep allows us to wander among the deep chasms of the Orford Reef or among swirling schools of sharks and rays.

What About the Rest of the Coast?

What makes the Oregon Coast so diverse is the interaction between land, sky and sea. The ocean works as a great engine, driving moisture inland which feeds the creeks, streams and rivers. As the water runs back toward the ocean, it nourishes the different life zones, from towering pine forests to the swampy coastal estuaries. Once you’ve finished exploring our major exhibits, we invite you to experience the natural beauty of two terrestrial ecosystems.

Our Aquarium Gardens provide an example of native coastal forest featuring plant species like Sitka Spruce, Western Red Cedar, Salal and a multitude of ferns. The nearby Estuary Trail lets visitors experience Yaquina Bay in its natural state -- as an expansive wetland that’s home to dozens of species of birds, and a nursery to marine life of every description.

The Animals of the Oregon Coast

Our galleries will provide you with only part of the Oregon Coast story. Though not every ecosystem could be represented on the grounds of the Aquarium, those represented are important to the ecological diversity of the region. You can learn more about the Oregon Coast as a whole by browsing the “Meet the Animals” feature shown below. This area provides larger examples of animal species important to the coast. Many of these features will provide information on areas where you can view wildlife or experience the natural beauty of the Oregon Coast.