Lighthouses of the Oregon Coast

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Lighthouses have a certain beauty about them. The tall, proud structures staring down at sweeping views of the ocean as their lens lights up the night sky, calls out to me every time. I try and make it a point to get photographs of any lighthouse that I know is within a reasonable distance of wherever I’m currently traveling, so the Oregon Coast and it’s eleven lighthouses were a dream come true for me.

The first lighthouse I stopped at was Tillamook Rock at Ecola State Park, just north of Cannon Beach. You’ll get your best view of the lighthouse from here as it’s situated a mile off the shoreline on, you guessed it, a huge rock. The constant wear and tear on this 133-foot lighthouse made it the most expensive to operate in the nation. Because of this, the lighthouse was finally abandoned and the light turned off on September 10, 1957.

As you pass through the town of Tillamook, signs will begin directing you to the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Along the Three Capes Scenic Loop, this lighthouse is the shortest on the Oregon Coast standing at 38 feet. But what it lacks in height, it makes up for with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean from 200 feet above.

As you continue on your way, you’ll find the Yaquina Head Lighthouse just before you enter Newport. This was the first lighthouse on the Oregon Coast that I was able to make the climb to the top, where a volunteer was giving the history of the structure. I was a little winded when I reached the top, as Yaquina Head is the Oregon Coast’s tallest lighthouse at 93 feet. There is a $7 fee to visit the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area and it’s a very popular tourist destination, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying the beautiful views from the top of this lighthouse.

Just before crossing the iconic Yaquina Bay Bridge, be sure to make a stop at the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse — the only wooden lighthouse on the Oregon Coast and also the only one with attached living quarters. It was built in 1871 and was only in operation for three years, until it was reinstated as a working lighthouse in 1996. The lighthouse and living quarters are open year-round for free self-guided tours.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse is the only one that I actually made specific plans, so I could visit right before sunset. I had seen stunning photos of this lighthouse and I knew I had to capture my own. I had heard rumors of the lighthouse going through some renovations, but I wasn’t clear on the extent of this work. I suppose pictures alone can describe what I got to see…the first photo is an example of what I was hoping to capture and the second photo is the lighthouse that was awaiting me.

Despite my disappointment, the views were still amazing and the walk up to the lighthouse was still very enjoyable and scenic. I suppose these means I’ll just have to visit again — and also do better research before my trip.

About a mile outside of Winchester Bay, is where you’ll find the Umpqua River Lighthouse. The tower stands 65 feet tall and boasts a lens that shines a distinctive red and white flash — the only one of its kind on the West Coast. The Umpqua Lighthouse State Park has a viewing area that over looks the bay and nearby sand dunes, as well as a visitor center and museum.

Cape Arago Lighthouse, four miles south of Charleston, is the last lighthouse I had the pleasure to visit. Although it’s the hardest lighthouse to get up close to and is not open to the public, Cape Arago still offers some great photo opportunities. Your best bet for views of the lighthouse is to follow McLain Libby Drive out of Coos Bay, towards Charleston. From Charleston, look for signs pointing to Sunset Bay State Park.

Time only allowed me to stop at seven of the nine lighthouses along the Oregon Coast, but I was more than happy with the photographs I was able to capture. For any lighthouse enthusiast, I highly recommend a journey down the Oregon Coast!


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Oregon Coast Lighthouses