Undersea Gardens closes after more than 45 years

Visitors enter and exit the Undersea Gardens on the Newport Bayfront. The undersea aquarium, more than 45 years old, hosted its last dive show on Sept. 2 but will remain open free of charge until Sept. 8 for visitors to say goodbye to the much-loved local staple. The gift shop at the Undersea Gardens will remain open until October. (Photo by Madeline Shannon)

NEWPORT — After 46 years of showing generations of families some of the wonders of the ocean off the Oregon coast, the Undersea Gardens on Newport’s Bayfront is closing for good. 

The gardens last dive show was Sept. 2, although facilities will be open until Sept. 8 free of charge for visitors to say goodbye to the wolf eels, octopus and other fish indigenous to Oregon coastal waters that are on display in the underwater tanks.

“We finally made the decision to close down this year,” said Dave Heater, general manager of Mariner Square, which encompasses the Undersea Gardens. “Fishing regulations are making it harder to get fish, and the vessel has lived past its expectancy.”

The Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Museum and the Waxworks Museum, also part of Mariner Square, will undergo construction in the next several months. However, Heater said the additions don’t necessarily bear any connection to the closing of the Undersea Gardens. 

“It’s not really related,” Heater said. “It’s closing down because the vessel is at the end of its life, and it’s time to close it down. It’s going to be decommissioned and disposed of properly.”

While the building itself might be decommissioned, the fish and other sea life that live in the “people-quarium” won’t be. Heater said some sea life will be released to the ocean, while others will be re-homed. The Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife, among other agencies and groups, are working with Heater and the rest of the Undersea Gardens team to ensure all the animals are transported to the right places.

The last day to see one of the Undersea Gardens’ live shows was Sept. 2, and the gift shop will be open for business until Oct. 11, according to a statement released on social media by Mariner Square staff. 

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