11 Incredible Oregon Lighthouses You Need To Visit

Post Summary: Oregon lighthouses and things to do nearby!

Throughout the years, lighthouses have gone from guarding ships against the Graveyard of the Pacific to be one of the coolest tourist attractions in the Pacific Northwest.

Whether you’re a history buff or just simply love the coast, keep reading to learn unique facts about Oregon lighthouses and where to find them!

Emily Mandagie on the Oregon Coast

11 Incredible Oregon Lighthouses To Visit On Your Next Coastal Adventure

What is the purpose of a lighthouse and where are lighthouses built?

Crazy enough, the earliest reference to a fire-lit beacon is found in both the Iliad and the Odyssey in the 8th century BCE. The first authenticated lighthouse was the Lighthouse of Alexandria in 280 BCE!

After that, the Romans built many lighthouse towers during their reign (including Ostia and Boulogne). Medieval lighthouses expanded across the world into the modern era, and the first lighthouse in North America was built in 1716 on the island of Little Brewster in Massachusetts.

Since their inception, lighthouses have played an important role in keeping both mariners and the public safe, as well as being impressive creations of humanity.

Along the coastline of Oregon, these beacons of light and their lighthouse keepers warn ships of the nearby shoreline, help guide mariners to their destination, and aid in coastal navigation.

Therefore, lighthouses are built along the coast, near the mouth of rivers, on islands, and high up on cliffs, so that the powerful light extends further out to sea.

Many Oregon lighthouses are still active today and open to the public!

Tillamook Rock Lighthouse - OSU Special Collections
Courtesy of the OSU Special Collections

1. Tillamook Rock Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 62 feet (19 meters)
  • Year Built: 1981
  • Operating Years: 1881-1957 (124 years)

Situated 1.2 miles offshore, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse stands proud amidst the wild and erratic waves of the Pacific Ocean.

Because it was extremely difficult to build and hard to operate (due to horrible storms), the lighthouse was nicknamed “Terrible Tilly!”

After the lighthouse was deactivated, it changed ownership a few times. Mimi Morissette and Cathy Riley gutted and converted the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse into the Eternity at Sea Columbarium (a building for the ashes of the dead).

Though the operation license is currently invalid, 30 urns are stored in the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse (not including the two stolen in 1991!). This alone makes it one of the most haunted places in Oregon!

Today, the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is privately owned with no public access. But you can get epic views of it from Tillamook Head Trail in Ecola State Park, which stretches between Seaside and Cannon Beach, Oregon.

2. Cape Meares Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 38 feet (12 meters)
  • Year Built: 1890
  • Operating Years: 1890-2014 (124 years)

The Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest lighthouse on the coast and the first one to order the famous Fresnel lens.

The Friends of Cape Meares Lighthouse maintain the lighthouse, host tours, and open a gift shop in the summer seasons, but you can visit the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint at any point in the year!

What’s nearby? Check out our complete guide to Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and the lighthouse for a unique day trip in Oregon or stop on your next Oregon road trip.

3. Yaquina Head Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 93 feet (28 meters)
  • Year Built: 1873
  • Operating Years: Active

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is one of the most unique Oregon lighthouses. It’s the tallest lighthouse in Oregon and is home to one of the PNW’s largest nesting colonies of Common Murres (in addition to Brandts, Pelagic Cormorants, Western Gulls, Black Oystercatchers, Bald Eagles, and the occasional mated pair of Peregrine Falcons)!

The 93-foot tower has over 370,000 bricks, 114 steps, and a fully automated LED Fresnel lens (36 individual LED bulbs!). It runs on commercial power 24/7!

Take a tour of this iconic lighthouse by visiting the Interpretive Center at Yaquina Head. It’s open at 10AM each day and announces tours day-of. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of a migrating gray whale (December-January and March-May)!

After your visit to the Yaquina Head Lighthouse, try out tidepooling at nearby Oregon beaches. Visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, Oregon (starting at $12 per person) or hike to the nearby Devil’s Punchbowl on an easy, 0.5-mile trail.

4. Yaquina Bay Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 51 feet (16 meters)
  • Year Built: 1871
  • Operating Years: Active

The Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is the only lighthouse in Oregon that is attached to a house and is the only historic wooden lighthouse that’s still standing!

You can tour the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse and its accompanying visitor center any day of the week from 12-4PM. 

While in central Oregon, check out the wonders of Cape Perpetua, where you’ll find family-friendly hikes, camping, and unique geological features!

5. Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 34 feet (10 meters)
  • Year Built: 1976
  • Operating Years: Active

The Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse was built by a former Tillamook Rock Lighthouse keeper (remember Terrible Tilly?) in 1976 and is one of two lighthouses in Oregon that are built into a house!

The Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse is not open to the public, as it’s privately owned, but can be seen from Highway 101 and in parts of Cape Perpetua Scenic Area.

Overall, it’s a really fun place to see and enjoy stunning views of the ocean, wildlife, and surrounding scenery while on the Amanda’s Trail hike in Cape Perpetua!

6. Heceta Head Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 56 feet (17 meters)
  • Year Built: 1894
  • Operating Years: Active

The Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the best lighthouses in Oregon, because of its grandeur and impressive history.

Perched atop the 1,000-foot-high Heceta Head, Heceta Head Lighthouse is the highest lighthouse in Oregon and can be seen 21 miles from land!

Another unique feature of the Heceta Head Lighthouse is the accompanying Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast, which is one of the last assistant lighthouse keeper’s houses standing in Oregon.

You can find the Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence, Oregon and take a tour of the grounds in the summer from 11AM-3PM and winter from 11AM-2PM (weather permitting).

7. Umpqua River Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 61 feet (19 meters)
  • Year Built: 1857 (first), 1894 (current)
  • Operating Years: Active

The impressive Umpqua River Lighthouse was built next to the Umpqua River’s mouth in 1894 after the first collapsed in a storm.

The 61-foot Umpqua River Lighthouse features a two-ton First Order Fresnel Lens that is constructed from over 600 glass prisms!

Tour the Umpqua River Lighthouse and visit the accompanying museum any day from 9AM-6PM to learn all about the unique history of this beacon of light and its keeper.

While in the area, tour the greater Winchester Bay, go off-roading at the Umpqua Beach OHV Staging Area or climb the great sand dunes, hike a portion of the John Dellenback Dunes Trail (trailhead off of Highway 101), or camp at the Eel Creek Campground (or other unique Oregon coast campgrounds!).

8. Cape Arago Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 44 feet (13 meters)
  • Year Built: 1866 (first), 1934 (current)
  • Operating Years: 1934-2006 (67 years)

The Cape Arago Lighthouse was in operation for 67 years and was deactivated in 2006 after the land on which it resides was reclaimed as tribal land by the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.

You can see the Cape Arago Lighthouse from Cape Arago State Park and the Oregon Coast Trail from Sunset Bay State Park cliffs (you’ll see the lighthouse to the south of the trail).

After your visit to Cape Arago Lighthouse, explore Coos Bay and the nearby Shore Acres State Park.

9. Coquille River Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 40 feet (12 meters)
  • Year Built: 1896
  • Operating Years: 1896-1939 (43 years)

Located near Bandon, Oregon the Coquille River Lighthouse was built in 1896. It was made to help direct ships from the Pacific Ocean into the Coquille River.

For public safety, the Coquille River Lighthouse tower is closed to the public. However, the signal room can be toured Thursday-Monday, 11AM-5PM, from mid-May through September

The Coquille River Lighthouse is found in Bullards Beach State Park and near the Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge, which is known for its Bullards Beach North Loop Trail (moderate, 5.7 miles) and Myrtlewood Grove Nature Trail East Loop (east, 0.5 miles) hikes.

While in southern Oregon, be sure to check out Bandon Beach! This area shows off stellar sea stacks and enjoy a beach bonfire with s’mores!

10. Cape Blanco Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 59 feet (18 meters)
  • Year Built: 1870
  • Operating Years: Active

The Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse on the Oregon coast. It was built in 1870, making it over 150 years old and one of the coolest lighthouses of Oregon!

You can tour the Cape Blanco Lighthouse for just $2 (adult; free for youth 15 and under) and visit the greeting center and gift shop (open April-October 31st, Wednesday-Monday, 10AM-3:30PM), making it one of the most affordable day trips in Oregon!

The road to the lighthouse is closed to private vehicles. Be prepared to walk a quick quarter mile to the lighthouse for your tour.

After visiting the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, check out the rest of Cape Blanco State Park, where it resides, and visit the quaint town of Port Orford while you’re at it!

11. Pelican Bay Lighthouse

  • Lighthouse Height: 35 feet (11 meters)
  • Year Built: 1997
  • Operating Years: Active

At the mouth of the Chetco River lies the newest lighthouse on the Oregon coast–the Pelican Bay Lighthouse.

The Pelican Bay Lighthouse is privately owned and not open to the public, but can be seen from Brookings Harbor.

While in southern Oregon, be sure to visit Harris Beach State Park, Azalea Park (where you can find ancient native azaleas that were growing there when Lewis and Clark passed through in 1805!), Salmon Run Golf Course, Alfred A. Loeb Park, and Whaleshead Beach, which features a sea stack resembling a whale’s head.

Map of Oregon Lighthouses

To better assist you in your quest to see all the lighthouses, we’re including a may below!

Lighthouses on the Oregon Coast - Cape Meares

Quick FAQs about Oregon Lighthouses

How many lighthouses are along the Oregon coast?

There are twelve lighthouses along the Oregon coast!

One lighthouse is privately owned, while eleven are open to the public.

Eight of Oregon’s lighthouses are still in use today and are maintained by various groups and organizations.

What lighthouses in Oregon can you go inside?

On the Oregon coast, you can go inside and tour seven lighthouses!

These include the Cape Meares Lighthouse, Yaquina Head Lighthouse, Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Heceta Head Lighthouse, Umpqua River Lighthouse, Coquille River Lighthouse, and Cape Blanco Lighthouse.

Each lighthouse has their own unique tour schedule, so be sure to check out their websites before you visit!

What’s the oldest lighthouse in Oregon?

Cape Blanco Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Oregon and was built in 1870!

Prior to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse, there were two older lighthouses: Umpqua River Lighthouse (1855) and Cape Arago Lighthouse (1866).

However, the first collapsed and the latter was replaced, making the Cape Blanco Lighthouse the oldest on the coast at 153 years old!

You can find the Cape Blanco Lighthouse in Port Orford during your Oregon coast road trip.

How far away can a lighthouse be seen?

The light from a lighthouse can be seen 1.2 miles offshore. This is before it’s hidden from the curvature of the Earth.

More impressively, however, a lighthouse’s light can actually be improved and seen from 13.3 miles offshore. This is due to the refraction of light by the Fresnel lens and if the lighthouse is 100 feet above sea level.

The Fresnel lenses that are in many of Oregon’s lighthouses are designed to project light far out to sea.

This is so that ships and other watercraft can see the location of the coastline. They can also calculate their distance from the shore, and know if there are any dangerous geological features nearby.

Basically, the higher the lighthouse, the further out to sea it can be seen. This is also why a ship’s “crow’s nest” is stationed high above the deck!

Are you a fan of Oregon Lighthouses? Which ones (that you’ve visited) have been your favorites? Tell us in the comments!

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