The entrance to Depoe BayDid you know that just a few short hours from Portland, Oregon is the World’s Smallest Navigable Harbor? That’s right, Depoe Bay, located on the Oregon Coast, is home to this small 6-acre bay where Depoe Creek enters the Pacific Ocean through a narrow channel in basalt. As a matter of fact, the entrance at one point was incredibly narrow at just 30 feet wide. That is, until it was expanded 45 years ago.

And while for some, it is indeed the world’s smallest navigable harbor, for many, it’s the quaint little ocean-side town located along Highway 101 when driving to Newport from Lincoln City that is one of the best places in the world for whale watching as well as for taking in some good Oregon Coast food that comes with incredible views and freshly caught seafood.


How Did Depoe Bay Get Its Name?

In 1894 as part of the Dawes Act of 1887, Siletz Indian Charles “Charlie” Depoe was originally allotted the land. However, over the years, there have been multiple accounts of how Charlie was given his name. One of these accounts believed that Charles was given the name “Depoe Charlie” due to him working at the military depot that was in Toledo, Oregon.

Who Was Charles “Charlie” Depoe?

Charles Depoe was a leader in his community and would later become known as Chief. He acquired the label of Chief not through inheritance but was instead earned.

In 1918, the Lincoln County Leader had this to say about Charlie, “Charlie DePoe, a leading man among the Indians, was a chief of the Joshua tribe and was noted for his good sense and wise councils and hospitality among the Indians. No one ever went away hungry from the home of DePoe Charlie.”

The World’s Smallest Navigable Harbor

Depoe Bay is the world’s smallest natural navigable harbor that covers approximately 6 acres. The harbor is 50 feet wide with a 100-foot-long dog-legged channel that connects to the Pacific Ocean.

Historically, the harbor in Depoe Bay was utilized for fishing and seal hunting by the many local Indian Tribes. Fishing was incredible due to the many streams in the area which provided the harbor more than its fair share of fish.

The Depoe Bay Bridge Makes The National Register Of Historic Places

The bridge that crosses the Depoe Bay entrance is the Depoe Bay BridgeCrossing the harbor is the Depoe Bay Bridge which was completed in 1927 at just 18 feet in width. In 1940, a second span was built making the bridge 48 feet wide.

The bridge was designed by the famed Oregon master bridge builder Conde B. McCullough, who coincidentally designed all of Oregon’s bridges along Highway 101. In August of 2005, the Depoe Bay Bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Depoe Bay (Finally) Becomes An Official City

The completion of the Depoe Bay Bridge also coincided with the creation of Highway 101 along the Western United States coastline in the late 1920s. However, with access now much easier for out-of-town visitors to Depoe Bay, or those wanting to resettle there, it did not become an official city until 1973. Although, it is interesting to note that in the vote to incorporate, 174 people voted in favor and 53 opposed.

Favorite Things To Do In Depoe Bay

Whale Watch

Not only is the Depoe Bay Bridge on the list for the National Register of Historic Places, but also Depoe Bay’s Whale Watching Center. With whale watching taking place year-round on the Oregon Coast, Depoe Bay is a premier spot to catch a glimpse on of the world’s most amazing sights. Furthermore, did you know that the Whale Watching Center watches each winter nearly 20,000 gray whales as they travel south to Mexico?

You can even charter a whale watching tour and hit the high seas for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see close-up whales in their natural habitat.

Spouting Horn

Did you know that Depoe Bay is the only town in Oregon with a spouting horn in its downtown? The Spouting Horn is a must-see, often abruptly firing seawater into the air 20-40 feet without notice.

Good Eats

What happens when you mix fresh caught seafood, unbelievable culinary talent, and amazing scenery? You get a whole host of incredible places located in Depoe Bay to enjoy the perfect meal for your day at the coast.

Visit Gifts Shops And Galleries

No trip to the coast is complete without heading home with saltwater taffy in hand. Places like the family-run Ainslee’s will have you covered for such a treat. Or, more than likely, many treats. Also, enjoy the many galleries that Depoe Bay boasts as well such as the Silver Heron Art Gallery.

Post To Instagram

Depoe Bay is a perfect place to take pictures and post to Instagram. Matter of fact, before you plan your next trip to Depoe Bay, take a few minutes to view the many pictures other people have posted on Instagram using #depoebay. Often, people will use Instagram like this to help with planning their trip or even to create a photography bucket list for their travels.

Reader be warned, after viewing a few pictures, you’ll want to pack your bags and hit the road for Depoe Bay as soon as possible.

Make Depoe Bay Part Of Your Oregon Coast Bucket List

Whether it’s for storm watching, whale watching, lunch, or a nice late morning hike on a nearby trail, Depoe Bay is a best-bet for your next trip to the Oregon Coast and should be on everybody’s Oregon Coast Bucket List for must-see places to visit.