Oregon’s Sylvia Beach Hotel Is for Book Lovers

If you’re a literature lover, allow me to introduce you to the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon (a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Portland). A quiet place on the coast, this 20-room inn sits atop a bluff right above the surf and offers a literary pillow to readers and writers.

Door placard at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon

If you can set aside your book or the manuscript of your magnum opus while staying at the Sylvia Beach, you can enjoy strolling on the beach or taking a (chilly!) dip in the ocean. You can also explore the artsy, historic Nye Beach neighborhood with its lovely mix of bookstores, cafés, bistros, galleries and the Yaquina Art Center.

Ken and I stayed in the Sylvia Beach Hotel 20 years ago, and on this year’s trip to Oregon’s central coast, we stopped by to see how the place is faring. Its literary theme is as whimsical as ever: each guest room is decorated in a style and with mementos of a famous author.

Literary Magic

The door to the Tennessee Williams room where we slept two decades ago still says, “Stella!” (a famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire), and the double bed is still draped with mosquito netting (ala Night of the Iguana). The Edgar Allan Poe room still has a stuffed raven to commemorate “The Raven,” and a metal pendulum hangs over the blood-red bedspread, an eerie reference to Poe’s story, “The Pit and the Pendulum.”

A tortured-looking pendulum hangs over the Edgar Allan Poe bed.

You can also indulge your inner child in the Dr. Seuss room, decorated in homage to One Fish, Two Fish, The Cat in the Hat and other works of juvenile genius.

There are no TVs, radios, telephones or Wi-Fi at the Sylvia Beach, yet it’s still an English major’s delight. The rooms aren’t grand, but what they lack in luxury they make up for in literary spirit.

Tables of Content

Meals are a time to be social at the Sylvia Beach—even if you keep your nose in a good book during the rest of your stay. Breakfast is included in the room rate, and guests sit at tables of eight in the “Tables of Content” dining room. (I think group tables are a great, no-stress way to get to know other literature lovers!)

Dinner, served at 7:00 p.m. each night, is another chance to enjoy pleasant conversation with a bookish bent. The food is served family style (with a choice of four entrees) and the evening’s icebreaker is game of Two Truths and a Lie. Essentially, you introduce yourself to those at your table with two biographical facts and one whopper of a fib! Then your fellow gourmands guess what part of your tale is a lie. Coming up with a lie gets your creative juices flowing, and when I played, it was fun recalling unlikely trivia from my past.

The Mark Twain room has a fireplace and private ocean-view deck.

Rooms at the Sylvia Beach

All the hotel’s rooms are themed according to an author. Here’s a sampling:

Classics: Rooms directly over the surf with fireplaces and decks. Agatha Christie, Colette, Mark Twain

Best Sellers: These rooms have an ocean view with panoramas of the coast and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Alice Walker, E.B. White, Dr. Seuss, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Lincoln Steffins, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, Virginia Woolf

Novels: These rooms have no ocean view, but they’re still cozy and fun. Gertrude Stein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, Robert Louis Stevenson

Who Was Sylvia Beach?

A mural of Sylvia Beach and author James Joyce decorates the lobby of the Sylvia Beach Hotel.

In case you were wondering if this ocean-overlook hotel was named for a beach called “Sylvia,” let me put your questions to rest. Sylvia Beach was an expatriate American who dominated the literary scene in Paris between WWI and WWII with her English-language bookstore and lending library, Shakespeare and Company. James Joyce fans will recognize Sylvia Beach as the publisher of the Irish author’s famous book, Ulysses (1922).

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Out yourself as a bookworm and let readers know of other literary getaways they shouldn’t miss. Just leave a poetic or prosaic comment below!

Delicious Dining at Local Ocean Seafoods, Newport, Oregon

Seafood is a delicacy, yet I seldom eat it because I worry so much about the problem of overfished oceans. Luckily, Local Ocean Seafoods in Newport, Oregon, gave Ken and I the opportunity to satisfy our seafood cravings without guilt.

Local Ocean serves fresh, sustainably fished seafood almost exclusively from the Oregon Coast. The restaurant’s owners and chefs stay within the “Green Light” or “Yellow Light” parameters determined by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s seafood watch list. (The majority of the fare is Green Light). You won’t find any endangered or at-risk fish on the menu here, which eases my mind.

Taste of the Sea

Lucky for me, we were visiting Oregon in January, during crab season. For dinner, I chose half a Dungeness crab served with herb/garlic butter. If you’ve ever watched sea otters banging shellfish open on rocks, you know how I felt cracking open those crab legs. Once I got some of that sweet meat, I knew it was worth the labor. How fresh was the crab? Owner Laura Anderson knows the fisherman who hauled my Dungeness from the water around noon that same day.

Dungeness crab at Local Ocean Seafoods was taken from Oregon waters just hours before I ate it. I enjoyed a glass of organic pinot noir from Sokol-Blosser vineyards, only 100 miles away from Newport, Oregon.

I also selected a side of fennel slaw, made with cabbage and fennel (both tasty in-season winter vegetables) and seasoned with vinegar and olive oil. It was light and lively on our palates—with not a speck of mayo in sight!

Ken started with the Garlic and Dungeness Crab soup—the perfect alternative to clam chowder. He followed with Local Ocean’s famous fish tacos, made with local lingcod wrapped in a tortilla with fresh cilantro.

Local Ocean also sells the catch of the day if you'd like to cook at home.

All this fresh-from-the-ocean fare is served in an earth-conscious and budget-friendly location—an old warehouse with painted cinderblock, concrete floors and with the retractable wall and windows so that it opens in summertime right to the Newport Bay. Local Ocean has a no-fuss atmosphere, and the prices are affordable.

More Good Eats at the Oregon Coast Aquarium

By the way, if you’re visiting the terrific Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport (and I highly recommend you do!), say “hi” to my buddies the sea otters.

And if you’ve worked up an appetite watching surreal jellyfish, the mysterious octopus, tufted puffins “flying” underwater, and the open-sea shark tank, swim on over to the dining area, which is also a Local Ocean location! It brings local, sustainable full circle when you admire the beauty of ocean animals and then eat in a way that protects endangered species.

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor