Grant's Getaways: Oregon Marine Life Center

A good place to bring a spotting scope or binoculars so you can watch the wildlife show.

Along the Cape Arago Highway, near Chareson in Coos County, Oregon you will discover gorgeous vistas, marked by landmark buildings like the Cape Arago Lighthouse, that make sea side travel worth your time.

At nearby Cape Arago State Park, Shell Island is alive with marine life. A good place to bring a spotting scope or binoculars so you can watch the wildlife show.

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Marty Giles (Wavecrest Discoveries) is an environmental teacher who leads groups through the area and she said more than 3,000 sea lions haul out on Simpson Reef where they put on quite the show.”

“Imagine a group of anxious kids in the back seat of a car on a long trip; you’re in my way, you’re over my line, move – you touched me! Well, you can see that kind of behavior going on with these marine mammals. They walk over one another and grump at each other and always seem to be moving around,” said the longtime eco-tour guide.

At nearby Charleston Harbor, at the University of Oregon’s Marine Life Center, you will discover an experience made for the curious.

“Visitors of all ages are so interested and so excited to be here, but they may not know enough about the Pacific Ocean off the Oregon coastline – especially the organisms that live there,” said Carly Salant – a marine biology student and guide at the new center. “So, my favorite part is being able to teach them and that gets them excited. They even spread the word and even more people come.”

Salant added that the two-million-dollar museum and aquarium is the only one of its kind on the Southern Oregon coast where visitors are greeted by full size skeletons.

“And these are the real things - right up front is a toothed whale orca and right behind her is a juvenile gray whale. They make for a pretty impressive entrance to the center.”

The Marine Life Center offers interactive lessons on coastal ecosystems, deep-water habitats and diverse sea life through hands-on, shallow touch tanks with starfish, anemones and sea urchins.

If you time your visit at the lunch-hour, you’ll have a chance to watch student Rachel Prescott feed an array of marine life: from young octopus, varied rockfish, an amazing Basket Sea Star and a rarely seen Puget Sound Crab.

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“I love my job,” said the marine biology student. “There’s never a dull moment that’s for sure.”

The new two-story 6,400 square foot building was built entirely from donations and it is a place that will teach you much about our coastal waters. It should not be missed.

“It’s the great collection of people that work here and those folks who come through to visit,” added Salant. “I hope more people will make time to visit us soon.”

If you would like to visit more of Oregon – consider a walk on the wild side with my new book: “Grant’s Getaways: Oregon Adventures With the Kids.” You’ll find activities to engage any kid, from archery to clamming on the coast to hunting for thundereggs to zip-lining through trees in an aerial adventure park. In addition, be sure to check out “Grant’s Getaways Guide to Wildlife Watching in Oregon.” You will enjoy 48 uniquely Oregon adventures highlighting my fish and wildlife encounters. Scores of colorful photos by “Grant’s Getaways” photographer, Jeff Kastner, show off some of our finest moments in the field. You can also learn more about many of my favorite Oregon adventures in: "Grant's Getaways: 101 Oregon Adventures"