Earlier in the week we saw some of the outdoor beauty and memorable experiences in our roundup of things to do on the Oregon Coast. While those experiences are superb, many travelers come to this region to see the state’s timeless, classic lighthouses. Many of them are open to the public (limited hours in most cases), but all of them are must-see stops if you have time.Currently, there are 11 lighthouses in Oregon – each with its own story and picturesque backdrop. Stop and say hello during your visit to the coast.
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
Called “Terrible Tilly” because of the extreme engineering required to get this lighthouse perched on a rocky island here in the rough Pacific, this lighthouse is 1.2 miles from shore. The one of the best viewpoint of the Tillamook Rock lighthouse is from Ecola State Park. It’s not open to the public (and you’d have to swim to get there!).
Cape Meares Lighthouse
This is the shortest lighthouse on the Oregon coast, but you’ll love the area – visiting the Cape Meares lighthouse is a must in combination with exploring the Three Capes Scenic Loop. Tours of the lighthouse can be scheduled in advance; the lighthouse is no longer in use – an automated electric light is stationed on a nearby steel tower.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
The Yaquina Head lighthouse, on the north edge of Newport, is the tallest lighthouse in Oregon and still in use. The lighthouse is open for tours from 12 to 4 PM; it’s located in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, so there’s a fee per car to visit. However, you’ll want to check out the interpretive center as well as take advantage of exploring the area; I highlight recommend a walk down to the rocky beach to listen to the waves crash over the pebbles – such a wonderful sound!
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
The second Newport-area lighthouse and the only all-wood lighthouse on the Oregon coast. It was only in use for 3 years (1871-74), which is a shame because as you can see it looks more like a cozy home that conveniently has a lighthouse! In 1996 it became a functioning lighthouse again, and that cozy home area is now a museum.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
With it’s pinking-red roof and a scenic stretch of coast (with some great trails to get a vantagepoint), Heceta Head is the most often photographed lighthouse on the Oregon coast. It has the most powerful light of any on the coast, shining out 22 miles into the sea – that is far! The lighthouse assistant’s former house is now a bed and breakfast, and you can arrange for tours of the lighthouse too. But careful – it is said that Heceta Head is Oregon’s most haunted lighthouse.
Umpqua River Lighthouse
Umpqua River is built to the same plans as Heceta Head, so they’re all but identical. It’s unique in that it has a red-and-white lens setup, so on a misty or foggy day it’s a unique lighthouse to watch in action. The lighthouse is available for tours, and there’s a nearby whale watching platform and coastal visitors center.
Cape Arago Lighthouse
This is not the first or second, but third lighthouse to stand here at this busy point near Coos Bay – the first two lighthouse collapsed back into the ocean, but this one they decided reinforced concrete was a good idea. They say this is the Oregon coast’s hidden lighthouse, given its tucked away location – it’s a hard one to find!
Coquille River Lighthouse (Bandon Lighthouse)
As you can see in the photo, this lighthouse has quite a unique architecture to it, with the octagonal-shaped room connected to the lighthouse tower itself. It doesn’t look all that functional, given it’s so close to land, but actually the crashing Pacific has reshaped this area a great deal – the lighthouse used to be out on a rocky inlet. The lighthouse has an informative interpretive center, and many locals (and some of your travel literature) may call it the Bandon Lighthouse.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse
This is Oregon’s oldest operating lighthouse and sits on the most westerly point of the state, jutting far out into the Pacific Ocean. The lighthouse was built in 1870 and had two relatively famous innkeepers who each worked here for nearly 40 years, which was an amazing feat considering even today the lighthouse is quite removed from civilization – back then it must have been all but barren. Cape Blanco State Park is also a gem and worth touring while you’re here – the lighthouse is in the park.
Cleft of the Rock Lighthouse
If this lighthouse looks more like someone’s home with perhaps a mailbox disguised as a lighthouse, you’d be correct in your assumptions – it is the home of Jim Gibbs, one of the foremost experts on lighthouses in Oregon, a prolific author, and former US Coastguardsman. The lighthouse/home was built in 1976 and is not open for visitors, but is worth it for the photo stop.
Pelican Bay Lighthouse
Last but certainly not least is Oregon’s southernmost lighthouse, Pelican Bay. It’s the newest lighthouse to grace the coast, and it is also a home and functioning lighthouse, similar to Cleft of the Rock. It’s not open to the public but you can definitely grab a photo – be careful not to miss your turn off, as the California state line is just a couple of miles down the road.
If that wasn’t enough lighthouses for you, then don’t miss our roundup of the world’s most spectacular lighthouses.
Special thanks to the Central Oregon Visitors Association, Oregon Coast Visitors Association, Travel Oregon, Evergreen Escapes, and all of our hosts along the coast for showing us this part of the country. Learn more about our editorial policy on sponsored trips here.