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November 30th, 64 degrees Fahrenheit.  The sun
dances on the surf and warms me as I sit on a
charmingly decorated concrete bench overlooking
the outlet of Nye Creek onto the flat sands of Nye
Beach.  There is a light breeze from the southwest,
bringing with it a briny, clean fragrance.  Half a
dozen people stroll along the wide expanse of
beach, walking dogs and looking for seashells.  
They have discovered one of Oregon’s best kept
secrets – Nye Beach in the winter.  

One hundred years ago, Nye Beach was connected
to the Newport Bay front by a boardwalk.  Folks
from the Willamette Valley rode the train to Toledo,
embarked on the ferry to the Newport dock, and
walked up and over the hill to the resort area of
Nye Beach.  In its heyday, Nye Beach sported a
natatorium, movie theater, numerous restaurants,
stores, and dozens of tiny cedar cottages to house
visitors.  The Sylvia Beach Hotel, on the waterfront
in Nye Beach, is the most famous edifice still
remaining from those glory days.

Growing up in the Willamette Valley, I remember
childhood trips to the coast in the summer.  Filled
with intense anticipation, all seven of us piled into
the family station wagon and drove the winding,
shady road west.  We vied to see who could spot
the ocean first. Alas, being prone to motion
sickness, it was rarely I who was the first to shout,
“I see the ocean!!”  There is a photo of us, lined up
on the sand, wind wildly blowing strands of hair
loose from our hooded sweatshirts.  Wind, sand,
chicken cooked in foil over a driftwood fire, sand
castles, sunburns, seashells.   There is another
black and white photo from the mid-1950s on the
cover of an Oregon State tourist brochure of my
brothers and sisters looking at a Japanese glass
fishing float.  In those days, they were still a fairly
common find on the beach after storms.  Good
times, fabulous memories.

Many years later, in Newport for a lark on a spring
day, my husband and I were intrigued by an
overgrown driveway, a grand but neglected
foursquare house, and a “For Sale” sign. Boldly
walking up the driveway, we peeked through salt
grimed windows, glimpsed a stairwell of intricate
balusters and round newel posts and promptly fell
in love.  A few weeks later, we were proud owners
of a 1910 Nye Beach area home in need of a
complete renovation.  

For nearly three years, we worked on the house in
all kinds of weather.   Lightning struck during a
fabulously dramatic storm in August, and left a
zigzaggy charred stripe in the parking strip.  
(Where the lightning struck the sidewalk, the sand
in the concrete turned to black glass!)  Spring
brought blustery rain showers and rainbows.  
Summer was as I remembered it – a delightful mix
of bright sunshine, winds to challenge the most
skillful kite flyers, and fog rolling over the
headlands.  Autumn brought crisp wind, hail, misty
rain, and tranquil sunshine – often all on the same

It was during that first winter of working on the
house that I discovered what Newport natives
have always known: the central Oregon coast is
fabulous in the winter.  The windless, sunny days
of winter were a complete surprise.  I had imagined
gray skies glowering over gray seas and endless
rain.  And there are days like that, certainly.  But in
between the dramatic squalls, when rain is blown
sideways and clouds boil toward the coastline to
collide with the Coast Range, are magical days of
calm warmth.  The air is soft and fragrant.  The
clarity of the atmosphere is remarkable, with
visibility miles out to sea, and miles up and down
the coast.  People walk around in their shirt
sleeves, and can’t help but smile.  November 30th,
sitting on that bench, it felt good to be alive and
good to be in Nye Beach in the sunshine.

by Janet Cornelius
Nye Beach
View of Nye Beach
The balustrade we fell in love with
The Cornelius House built in 1910
Nye Beach with the tide out
Nye Beach view from the bluff
Lightning strike near the Cornelius House