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Undersea Gardens.
Visitors to Undersea Gardens "descend beneath the sea" without getting wet.

Undersea Gardens (Closed)

Field review by the editors.

Newport, Oregon

Opened in 1966, Undersea Gardens is the last survivor of four nearly identical attractions built by the late Charlie White (The other three were in Seattle, Santa Barbara, and British Columbia).

Undersea Gardens.
Audience peers into the underwater world and sees... we're not quite sure.

Undersea Gardens is essentially a big tank sunk in Yaquina Bay with a floating room -- actually another tank -- nestled inside. Tourists walk 15 feet down into the room, peer through its outside windows into the murky water, and, hopefully, see the fish in the outer tank. Charlie called it, "an aquarium in reverse."

Several times a day the lights dim and a scuba diver appears outside the windows with the fish. Soothing New-Age music plays. A prerecorded narrator talks about native marine species while the scuba diver gestures -- but the narrator's voice is so soothing, and the squeals of the kids in the room so loud, that it's hard to understand what's being said.

General manager Dave Heater told us that Undersea Gardens is "a realistic view of what you would find as a diver in the Bay, or off the Oregon coast." Tourists sometimes consider this difficult to appreciate compared to the Oregon Coast Aquarium across the Bay, which Dave described as, "all fancy and clean and glittery." In other words, Undersea Gardens is a more honest destination for those eager to experience Oregon's murky depths.

"People who appreciate it for what it is," said Dave, "can get a lot out of it."

When he wasn't building underwater tourist attractions, Charlie White (1925-2010) found time to invent the "Son of Hibachi" portable barbecue, and claimed to have pioneered the publishing of TV listings later copied by TV Guide.

Undersea Gardens

Hwy 20 into Newport, take fifth left onto Benton St., then fourth left onto Hatfield Drive, then right onto Bay Blvd. On the left, floating in the water.
Closed forever Sep. 8, 2019.

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