Heceta Head Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Fabulous Oregon Lighthouses to Visit on Your West Coast Trip

While I am fascinated by a smoky gray, rolling fog, I do not enjoy driving in it. I cannot imagine the terrifying challenge of navigating a ship through a thick fog. That may be why I was so enamored with the Oregon lighthouses during our drive along the state’s scenic coast.

There are many wonders on Highway 101, but please take time to admire some of the lighthouses along the journey. For years, the beacons have safely guided mariners along the treacherous rocky shores.

To give you a brief history, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built most of Oregon’s lighthouses in the late 1800s. While the U.S. Lighthouse Board initially managed the towers, the U.S. Coast Guard took over these duties in 1939. In the 1960s, the Coast Guard installed automatic beacons and began delegating management to local government agencies.

Oregon has nine surviving lighthouses, all of which are on the National Register of Historic Places. We will outline the fabulous Oregon lighthouses from north to south to guide you safely through the fog.

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

Oregon lighthouses - Tillamook Rock Light
Terrible Tilly. Photo credit: actionsports via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1881

Height: 62 feet

Many people find the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse fascinating. It sits about a mile offshore from Tillamook Head, 133 feet above sea level, on a rock battered by the Pacific Ocean waves. Because of the location and conditions, the lighthouse earned the nickname “Terrible Tilly.” It was decommissioned in 1957 and is now privately owned.

You cannot access the Northern Oregon Coast lighthouse but can see it from a distance. The tower sits between and is visible from the towns of Cannon Beach and Seaside. Ecola State Park offers the best views of the lighthouse. For an even closer view, bring your binoculars.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

View of the Oregon Coast from Cape Meares Lighthouse
Cape Meares Lighthouse. Photo credit: Frankljunior via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1890

Height: 38 feet

Oregon’s shortest lighthouse honors Captain John Meares, the first person to sail into Tillamook Bay. Although decommissioned in 1963, the beacon still houses a Fresnel lens made in Paris. The light is a five-wick oil lamp with a reflector turned by a 200-pound lead weight, similar to the system used in a grandfather clock.  

Cape Meares Lighthouse is 10 miles west of Tillamook in Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint. While visiting the park, you can also see the Octopus Tree, a large, contorted Sitka spruce. The park is open daily from 7 am to dusk, but the lighthouse is only available from May through September.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Oregon lighthouses - Yaquina Head
Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo credit: haveseen via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1873

Height: 93 feet

Continue south to MilePost 137.6 on Highway 101 on the Central Oregon Coast, where you will discover Oregon’s tallest lighthouse. Yaquina Head Lighthouse, dominating the horizon, contains more than 370,000 bricks. Initially solid white, it did not rotate and burned lard oil to illuminate its 4-wick lamp.

While tours are available depending on weather, conditions, and staffing, the grounds and interpretive center are open year-round. The tour is usually 45 minutes long and involves a strenuous 114-step climb to the top. Visit the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area for current information about tours.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Newport, OR
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Year lit: 1871

Height: 39.6 feet

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse sits a few miles south on the Oregon Coast Highway at MilePost 141.9. It is the only surviving state lighthouse with the light and living quarters in the same building and the state’s only intact wooden beacon.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse was re-lit in 1996 with a modern optic shining a steady white light from sunset to sunrise. Self-guided tours are free. In summer, the lighthouse is open daily from noon to 4 pm. Winter hours are noon to 4 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Heceta Head Lighthouse

View of Heceta Head Lighthouse through trees
Heceta Head Lighthouse. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Year lit: 1894

Height: 56 feet

Continuing south on Highway 101 to the Southern Oregon Coast, you will encounter Heceta Head Lighthouse at MilePost 178.3 in north Florence. A day-use parking permit is required, but Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint offers much more than a tower, including the picturesque Cape Creek Bridge, a sandy beach with tide pools and caves, and hiking trails.

While France makes most Fresnel lenses, historians believe Heceta Head’s lens is the only one on the West Coast made in England. Its signal flashes white every ten seconds.

Heceta Head Lighthouse is open year-round, weather and staff permitting. Regular hours for self-guided tours of the outside and the ground floor are 11 am to 3 pm in summer and 11 am to 2 pm in winter. If you are a lighthouse enthusiast, consider staying in the assistant lightkeeper’s house, now a bed and breakfast. 

Umpqua River Lighthouse

Umpqua River Lighthouse
Umpqua River Lighthouse. Photo credit: dpfoxfoto via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1894

Height: 65 feet

You may notice that the Umpqua River Lighthouse looks like the Heceta Head Lighthouse. Architecturally, it is nearly identical. However, the lens is quite different. It is the only Oregon Coast lighthouse emitting red and white light.

The signal is at MilePost 215.6 on the Oregon Coast Highway at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park in Winchester Bay. It is open daily except for major holidays. During the tour, you can learn how lensmakers turned the glass red.

Cape Arago Lighthouse

Oregon lighthouses - Cape Arago
Cape Arago Lighthouse. Photo credit: aiisha via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1934

Height: 44 feet

Although not open to the public, you can view Cape Arago Lighthouse at MilePost 10.4 on Cape Arago Highway. In 1993, the Coast Guard removed the lens, which no longer operates.

Cape Arago is the third lighthouse built on the island. The first was constructed in 1866, and the second in 1909. Harsh weather conditions caused deterioration, necessitating replacement. The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians took over the property and the beacon in 2013.

Coquille River Lighthouse

Coquille River Lighthouse near Bandon, Oregon
Coquille River Lighthouse at sunset. Photo credit: mdurson via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1896

Height: 40 feet

You will find Coquille River Lighthouse in Bullards Beach State Park near Bandon at MilePost 259.2 on Highway 101. Short and stout, the signal stands sturdily along the shore next to the Coquille River and the ocean.

Although no longer operable, it served as a command center and a refuge for people during the Bandon fire of 1936. The inside is not open, but you can enjoy the outside view anytime.

Cape Blanco Lighthouse

Cape Blanco Lighthouse near Port Orford, Oregon
Cape Blanco Lighthouse. Photo credit: mdurson via Deposit Photos

Year lit: 1870

Height: 59 feet

MilePost 296.6, near Port Orford, houses the oldest standing lighthouse on the Oregon Coast. The tower is not open and requires repair. However, you can tour the signal workroom. A separate building, formerly a garage, now houses the ticket office and a gift shop.

Daily guided tours of the workroom are available from April through October from 10 am to 3:30 pm. Note that tours are not offered on Tuesdays.

Bonus Lighthouse

Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City, CA
Battery Point Lighthouse. Photo credit: Miles with McConkey

Year lit: 1856

Height: 45 feet

A short drive south from Brookings, Oregon, to Crescent City, California, will yield fantastic gems. Battery Point Lighthouse is a somewhat unknown attraction along the edge of Redwood National and State Parks. Although an island at high tide, you can access the beacon during low tide.

A trip to Redwood National and State Parks is well worth your time. There, you can see the world’s tallest trees and the largest elk in North America.

Oregon Lighthouses

Heceta Head Light at sunset
Heceta Head at sunset. Photo credit: haveseen via Deposit Photos

A scenic drive along the stunning Oregon Coast yields many adventures and points of interest. Lighthouses, one of the coast’s main attractions, are unsung heroes that have safely directed mariners ashore for years. Honor the glorious towers as part of your road trip. They just might clear your brain fog.

Featured image credit: Miles with McConkey

Scott and Julie at Miles with McConkey

Scott And Julie McConkey

After 30 years, Scott and Julie McConkey left the corporate world for a life of travel and adventure. What started as a gap year became a second act, and they are now full-time travel bloggers!