Lighthouses in Oregon

September 13, 2022

Categories: Oregon Coast

Lighthouse on a cliff at sunset overlooking the surf and a peach colored sky.

Oregon is one of those states that has a lot of great places to go. One of the best and most beautiful places to see in Oregon are the lighthouses. Lighthouses are man-made structures designed to be used as navigational aid. They are usually located on rocky cliffs or shorelines and are surrounded by water, hence the name lighthouse. The lighthouse sits atop a tower, which extends above the surface of the water and supports a light at the top. 
The Oregon Coast has 11 lighthouses along the coastline that guarantee your next trip to the beach will be a memorable one... Let's start in the north and work our way south exploring the lighthouses in Oregon. While making your lighthouse destination plans, be sure to book your beach rental lodging early to guarentee your stay.


11 Lighthouses in Oregon You Definitely Need To Visit


1.    Tillamook Rock Lighthouse "Terrible Tilly"

The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse or Terrible Tilly as it came to be known sits one mile west of Tillamook Head between Cannon Beach and Seaside Oregon. It was commissioned in 1881 to help guide ships entering the mighty Columbia River and operated until 1957 when it was replaced by a whistle buoy. Sitting on a basalt rock islet, the 62-foot tower displayed a first-order Fresnel lens that sat at 133 feet above sea level.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is included on the National Register of Historic Places and is the only privately owned lighthouse along the Oregon Coast. After it was decommissioned, it was sold several times to private investors and was eventually used as a columbarium, a storage place for the ashes of the deceased. There is no public access, but you can view this majestic lighthouse using a trail that runs from Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach on the south to Seaside Oregon from the north which takes you around Tillamook Head. However, for access to Ecola State Park, there is an Oregon State Park Day use fee, or use your annual parking permit or Oregon Pacific Coast Passport.

Distant view of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (Terrible Tilly), calm Pacific Ocean, and blue sky.

2.    Cape Meares Lighthouse

Going south from Tillamook Head lighthouse you will find my favorite lighthouse near Cape Meares Oregon. The Oregon State parks system runs the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint which is located 10 miles west of Tillamook Oregon. The beach is nearby in the Oceanside and Netarts area where you can find some great ocean-view rental homes and cabins to stay in while enjoying your tour.
The Cape Meares Lighthouse stands 217 feet above the ocean but the tower itself is only 38 feet tall. You can walk up the spiral staircase inside, it offers one of the easiest and closest views of a first-order Fresnel lens that you will find anywhere. After standing next to the glass panes that make the structure of the lens, you will realize the power of a lighthouse! This park offers some of the most spectacular views to be seen anywhere along the Oregon Coast so plan on spending some extra time walking and observing the viewpoints overlooking the offshore islets where you will find nesting sea birds and stellar sea lions.
Don't forget to hike up the secondary trail to view the enormous arms of a unique tree called the Octopus Tree and just beyond it... yet another awesome coastline view!  And be sure to stop at the Tillamook Creamery... take the self-guided tour, sample some cheese, enjoy ice cream on a fresh waffle cone, and watch the "cheese makers" in action.  

Top of the lighthouse with red fresnel lens overlooking the blue pacific and viewing area.


3.    Yaquina Head Lighthouse

The Bureau of Land Management operates the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport Oregon where this stunning lighthouse is located. As the tallest lighthouse in Oregon at 93 feet, this tower stands 162 feet above the ocean on a narrow piece of land jutting into the Pacific Ocean.

This lighthouse started life in 1873 as an oil-burning fixed white light that operated from sunset to sunrise seven days a week. Today it is a fully automated Fresnel lens that is powered by a single 1000-watt globe light producing over 130,000 candlepower... For a passing ship to identify a lighthouse, each one has a unique pattern of flashes called a signature. The Yaquina Head Lighthouse uses 2 seconds on, 2 seconds off, 2 seconds on then 14 seconds off a pattern that operates 24 hours a day.

Next up located just a few miles to the south near the entrance to Yaquina Bay... now let's go explore the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse which is a short 5-mile drive south. 

Glowing lighthouse at sunset with a blue, yellow, and orange sky.

4.    Yaquina Bay "Haunted" Lighthouse

The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is in the Bay State Recreation site on Hwy 101 at the north end of Yaquina Bay Bridge in Newport Oregon. As the second oldest lighthouse on the Oregon coast, its service ran only from 1871 to 1874 when it was replaced by the nearby Yaquina Head lighthouse. The light is 161 feet above sea level and only 42 feet above the ground. Its signature light shines brightly with a steady white light from dusk till dawn.

The Oregon State Parks department took over the lighthouse and with the help of many people restored this beauty to its original splendor. In 1996 with the help of the U.S. Coast Guard, the lighthouse was re-lit and is used to maintain aid to private navigation for Yaquina Bay.

Its many distinctions include being the oldest structure in Newport, the only existing Oregon lighthouse with living quarters attached, and the only wooden lighthouse in Oregon that is still standing. It has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places... Haunted? You decide!
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is only a few miles south of the Yaquina "Head" Lighthouse... but if you haven't spent the night in the area yet, choose a private vacation home in Newport for your stay.

Square shaped lighthouse with red light on the top and boarded up windows.

5.    Cleft of the Rock 

The Cleft of the Rock Light is a privately owned lighthouse in Yachats, Oregon. It is 1.8 miles (2.9 km) south of the cape on which it sits, on the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of Oregon. It was built in 1876 and is still in use to this day. 
It's considered to be one of the most exposed offshore lighthouses in America, as well as one of the most isolated—Jim Gibbs, a former lighthouse keeper, inspiration when he created the lighthouse was the former Fiddle Reef Lighthouse located on Oak Bay. Moreover, He gave the song "He Hideth My Soul in the Cleft of the Rock," which is based on Exodus 33:22, the moniker "Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse." 

6.    Heceta Head Lighthouse 

Heceta Head Lighthouse was built in 1894 on the rocky shore of Oregon's rugged coast. The lighthouse is still in operation and is accessible to the public. It stands 56 feet tall, with its light shining at a height of 205 feet above sea level. 
Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon is an awesome tourist destination for anyone in the area. It's located about 13 miles north of Florence and is a great place to spend a day. The lighthouse can be seen from the shore, but you can also tour it from the inside, as well as learn more about its history. You can even climb to the top of the lighthouse if you're up for a challenge and want to get some incredible views of the surrounding area! Whether you've never been there or are a repeat visitor, Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon is definitely worth checking out.

Lighthouse on a cliff at sunset overlooking the surf and a peach colored sky.

7.    Umpqua River Lighthouse

You'll find the Umpqua River Lighthouse located above the entrance to Winchester Bay during your stay in the Reedsport area, drive 6 miles south to Umpqua River State Park. The original lighthouse was built in 1857 and was located on the north spit of the river and had the unique distinction as the first lighthouse commissioned on the Oregon coast. In 1861 after the sand had eroded under it, the original lighthouse fell into the river and was rebuilt on the south side. The current structure is a 65-foot-tall tower with the light sitting 165 feet above sea level. The Umpqua Lighthouse uses a distinctive first-order Fresnel lens that consists of 24 bullseyes that emit a pattern of two white flashes, followed by a red flash 24 hours a day.
While there, plan on spending some extra time and touring the Coastal History Museum adjacent to the lighthouse, located in a historic US Coast Guard station. It features additional lighthouse information along with local history and US Coast guard history on the Umpqua River. Overnight accommodations near the Umpqua River Lighthouse include a lakeside resort featuring RV & tent camping, yurts, cabins, and watersport activities.

Close up of lighthouse tower against fir trees and a blue sky background.

8.    Cape Arago Lighthouse

Cape Arago lighthouse is located between Coos Bay and North Bend. (Currently, the lighthouse is closed to the public, but you can get some great views from the Sunset Bay State Park, just south of Charleston).
This beautiful bay area also offers world-class fishing opportunities, a host of outdoor adventures, and sand dunes towering up to 500 feet, for all of you off-road enthusiasts! A host of State and County parks are also available for camping, hiking, and site-seeing... Oh, and don't forget the ocean & beach! 
The current Cape Arago Lighthouse is the third building constructed for use as a beacon. The original structure was erected in 1866, octagonal shaped and made of wrought iron, it used a lantern for its light. The next building was made of wood and erected in 1908; it also was octagonal shaped and housed a fourth-order Fresnel lens.
The structure of today was built in 1934 and was made of reinforced concrete, in hopes it could better withstand the harsh coastal environment. This new tower houses the Fresnel lens from the second lighthouse. The lighthouse was automated in 1966 and although a foghorn remains, the lighthouse was decommissioned and on January 1, 2006, the light was turned off. The Coast Guard removed the Fresnel lens from the tower in 1993 and placed it on display for viewing at the Coast Guard Air Station North Bend. 

Panoramic view of lighthouse sitting cliffside surrounded by blue sky and ocean.

9.    Coquille River Lighthouse 

Beautiful "Bandon by the Sea" offers many fine places to stay, including beachfront vacation rentals with amazing views and some of the finest golf in the world to enjoy during your visit! 

The lighthouse is in Bullards Beach State Park just 2 miles north of Bandon, a family-oriented park with yurts and equestrian camping too!
The Historic Coquille River Lighthouse construction began in 1891 on the short 40 ft. lighthouse tower that would house the Fourth Order lens. Due to many delays in construction, it was finally lit on February 29, 1896, and operated for just 43 years. In 1939, it was abandoned, and its duties were replaced with an automated beacon.
Over the years it has survived nearly being hit by the schooner Advance after it ran aground and was one of only 16 buildings left after a forest fire had destroyed most of the town. After many years of neglect, the lighthouse was renovated in 1976 by the US Army Corps and the Oregon State Parks department. In honor of the Centennial Celebration, a new light was lit in the tower in 1991. The revival of the lighthouse paralleled the revival of Bandon, which is now a popular seaside destination town.

Lighthouse view from the beach with driftwood and low lying grassy dunes.

10.    Cape Blanco Lighthouse

 Cape Blanco State Park is located 9 miles northwest of Port Orford, Oregon. The lighthouse and the Historic Hughes House are open for tours from April to October. For your lodging needs, these Port Orford beach house rentals feature river, lake, and ocean views.
Cape Blanco, aka White Cape, is a 200-foot cliff located in Curry County. It got its name from the early Spanish explorers. The light at this site has the distinctions of being Oregon's southernmost lighthouse, the furthest point west in the state, and Oregon's oldest continuously operating lighthouse. It also sits on the highest focal plane above sea level at 256 feet and had Oregon's first woman keeper!
The concept of light on the Oregon coast was developed by French scientist Augustin Fresnel in 1864. On December 20, 1870, the first order fixed Fresnel lens (non-rotating) was turned on for the first time. A smaller second-order rotating fresnel lens was used in place of this lens in 1936. One of the eight bull's-eyes in the lens was broken in 1992 when vandals entered the lantern chamber. Following two years... The Fresnel lens at Cape Blanco shined once more! Cape Blanco is listed on the National Register of Historic Places
All tours are guided by trained volunteers, making your visit informative and memorable. Be sure to stop by their greeting center gift shop! For more information and current hours visit the Cape Blanco Heritage Society.

 Freshly painted white lighthouse tower with red top and building on a bright sunny day.

11.    Pelican Bay 

Last but not least on our tour is the Pelican Bay Lighthouse, the newest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, and it can signal up to 12 miles out to sea. It was commissioned by the government to help ships navigate the area in 1999. Lighthouses have always been a part of Oregon's history, and this one is no different. It is not open to the public as it is privately owned, but you can see it from Brookings Harbor.

The history of lighthouses in Oregon is long and rich and full of adventure. Today, we are still surrounded by these beautiful structures, and they continue to serve as a beacon of protection for sailors at sea. I have given you just a taste of their intriguing history, but there is much more to learn, so don't hesitate to get out there and explore these magnificent lighthouses on the Oregon Coast!


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