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.

The J.K. Rowling room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport, Oregon, features a Harry Potter theme. Photo courtesy Sylvia Beach Hotel

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.”

The Dr. Seuss room at the Sylvia Beach Hotel is popular for the young, or the young at heart. Photo courtesy Sylvia Beach Hotel

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.

Miso Pumpkin Soup, one of many delicious dishes served in Tables of Content restaurant.

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.

The Mark Twain room has a fireplace and private ocean-view deck. Photo courtesy Sylvia Beach Hotel

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, 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 Alice Walker, E.B. White, Dr. Seuss, Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, J.K. Rowling, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Jane Austen, Lincoln Steffins, Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, and Virginia Woolf.

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

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

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).

Laurel Kallenbach, freelance writer and editor

Originally posted on May 15, 2010

Out yourself as a bookworm, and let readers of this blog know about  other literary getaways they shouldn’t miss.

Just leave a poetic or prosaic comment, or let us know who your favorite author is.

The Alice Walker room has an aAfrican The Color Purple theme.

Showing 14 comments
  • Claire Walter

    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

  • Laura

    Wowie! Look at that bed.

  • Chandi

    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!

    • Laurel Kallenbach

      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.

  • Gail Storey

    Thanks for this great heads-up, looks like a wonderful place to stay!

  • Melanie Mulhall


    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.

    Melanie Mulhall

  • Rosemary Carstens

    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!

    • Laurel

      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.

  • Verna

    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.

  • Dot Dittman

    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.

  • Tami Palmer

    I’d love to go there someday! Sounds like the perfect place for a writing retreat.

  • Jacqui Marchant

    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!!!!!

    • Laurel

      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.

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