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 scenic drive from Portland). A quiet place on the Pacific coast, this 20-room inn sits atop a bluff right above the surf and offers a cozy, fun literary getaway for readers and writers. Each of the Sylvia Beach hotel’s rooms are decorated with mementos of famous authors—from Jane Austen to Alice Walker to Dr. Seuss.
If you can set aside your book or the manuscript of your magnum opus while staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel, 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 30 years ago, and we stayed in the Tennessee Williams Room called “Stella!” (a famous line from A Streetcar Named Desire). Its double bed was draped with mosquito netting ala Night of the Iguana. (The Stella room has since been converted to another author.) On another trip to Oregon’s central coast for whale watching, we stopped by to see how the hotel was faring. As always, its literary theme is as whimsical as ever.
The Virginia Woolf Room offers an ocean view and faces “To the Lighthouse,” although in this case it’s to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. You can have A Room of One’s Own and write at the 1930s-style desk—or share the queen-size bed with someone special. The F. Scott Fitzgerald Room contains Jazz Era furnishings, including a writing desk and a framed poster from the 1949 film of The Great Gatsby, starring Alan Ladd as Jay Gatsby. 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 genius works for kids.
The Sylvia Beach Hotel is truly a retreat for readers, writers, and visitors who want to rest, restore, and read. There are no TVs, radios, telephones or Wi-Fi at the Sylvia Beach, but who needs them there are books and journals tucked into every nook and cranny? The rooms aren’t grandiose, but what they lack in space, they make up for in literary spirit.
Tables of Content Dining Room
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, which is 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.
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. They include Agatha Christie, Chez Colette, and Mark Twain.
Best Sellers: These rooms have an ocean view with panoramas of the coast and the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. In this category are rooms devoted to Jane Austen, Alice Walker, Amy Tan, Dr. Seuss, John Steinbeck, Emily Dickinson, Ken Kesey, Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Lincoln Steffens, and Virginia Woolf.
Novels: These rooms have no ocean view, but they’re still cozy and fun. Here you’ll find Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde, and Jules Verne.
Who Was Sylvia Beach?
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).
COVID-19 Update: The Sylvia Beach Hotel and Tables of Content Restaurant is open on a limited-occupancy basis. The staff is committed to the health and safety of guests, diners, and staff and therefore requires proof of COVID-19 vaccination for all guests ages 12 and older.
—Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor
Originally posted on May 15, 2010
Are you a bookworm? Let readers of this blog know about other literary getaways they shouldn’t miss. Simply leave a poetic or prosaic comment—or let us know your favorite author.
It sounds delightful, but no WiFi!!!!!!! How about Ethernet? Clearly, it is designed for literary lights, not bloggers and web writers who must be connected. (I almost wrote hack bloggers like me, but then, I thought better — or maybe not.)
Claire @ http://www.trave-babel.com
Wowie! Look at that bed.
Cool idea. I am not sure I’d like the Edgar Allen Poe bed!
I have always wanted to run a B&B (in Tuscany preferably) and I always thought about themes I’d do for each room. What fun! Just need someone to INVEST! HA!
Perhaps I chose the wrong picture by selecting the Edgar Allan Poe bed! That room does have a few of the garish details from Poe’s horror stories/poems, but no other room has that creepy feel. (The Agatha Christie room, for example, is quite sweet.) However, I suppose it might take a bit of chutzpah to spend the night with a raven staring at you!
One of the delights about staying in a Sylvia Beach room is noticing little details about an author scattered throughout.
Please note: The Edgar Allen Poe room has been converted to a room dedicated to another author.
Thanks for this great heads-up, looks like a wonderful place to stay!
No television, radio, telephone, or WiFi sounds like heaven to me! Once the usual suspects are removed as distractions, some serious writing might get done. Thanks for letting us know about this quirky place.
I love hotels like this with charming, interesting themes, especially in this world of anonymous chain hotels with nothing personal to recommend them. There is too much connectivity and not enough time for creativity as it is–hurray for them for not succumbing to wifi, etc. No one needs to be hooked up all the time. These are beautiful beaches in Oregon, too. I’ve ridden my motorcycle up the entire coast and loved it! Next time, Sylvia Beach here I come!
You know, I agree it’s good to live without Wi-Fi. If you’re staying there and really need internet access, you can walk a block or two to a coffee shop that has it. And, I’ll bet the Sylvia Beach has a computer on site that guests can use to check email in a pinch.
Ahhh, sounds wonderful, Laurel! And it sounds like a perfect place for a writer to escape to for some uninterrupted time with the muse -there IS a muse there, right? Thanks for posting.
This is definitely on my list. One of my friends stayed here last week and raved about it. I am planning on a trip soon.
I’d love to go there someday! Sounds like the perfect place for a writing retreat.
You read my mind!!
I love this hotel. A friend and I visited on a night when the wind howled off the Pacific past the timber slats of the hotel and we sat in the cosy reading Library at the top of the hotel and read, with the offer of mulled wine, etc. It was just heaven. Our room was one f the few with single beds which we loved and the whole experience was out of this world and never forgotten!!!! Loved the fact the the Internet did not exist! Read the classic on paper!!!!!
Great to hear that you had a wonderful time. There’s nothing better than to read a good book on a blustery day. Mulled wine just adds the extra touch.
Glorious stay. My sister and I overnighted in the Steinbeck room and enjoyed the details of the staging. I loved the tiny bathroom that took the place of what I thought would be a closet when I opened the door to hang up my coat!
We stayed for dinner and breakfast, and found that the shared seating in the dining room introduced us to some great conversation. In that space, the big picture windows overlooking the rolling Pacific, comfortable delicious food, the shared tables with congenial fellow travelers reminded me very much of the atmosphere of a happy sea voyage, what we used to call a crossing.
Well done all around!
So glad to connect to another Sylvia Beach Hotel lover!