There are 11 lighthouses that remain on the Oregon Coast. The first lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Umpqua River in 1855. It was first lit in 1857. It warned sailors approaching the coastline for four years. It fell into the river in 1863. A new lighthouse was built in its place in 1892 and was lit in 1894. The newest addition to the lighthouses on the coast is located in Brookings. It is a privately owned lighthouse built in 1997 and can be seen 11 nautical miles out to sea.
There are 7 lighthouses that are open to the public for seasonal tours along the coast, and there is one that stands on a small rock island 1 mile out to sea, where binoculars are required for remote viewing. Touring lighthouses makes for an excellent weekend journey. Here are the must-see lighthouses on Oregon’s southern coast.
South of Coos Bay
Coquille River Lighthouse: Located at Bullards Beach State Park is a historic lighthouse built by the U.S. Coast Guard in 1896. It was in operation until 1939. The signal room is open to the public from May through September, but the tower is closed.
Cape Blanco Lighthouse: Located in Cape Blanco State Park, near Port Orford, stands the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1870. It is the oldest lighthouse in Oregon that is still standing. $2 tours are available from April through October. Visitors are only allowed in the workroom.
North of Coos Bay
Umpqua River Lighthouse: Tours of this historic lighthouse are given all year long by docents from the Umpqua River Lighthouse Museum. The cost is $8 for adults. The 65 foot lighthouse features a two-ton First Order Fresnel lens.
Heceta Head Lighthouse: The Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint is located near Florence. This lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses on the coast. The 56 foot lighthouse stands on top of the 1,000 foot Heceta Head headland. The beacon can be seen 21 miles from land. Upper levels of the tower are closed to the public, but the staff-guided tour includes the ground floor of the tower and the outdoor area.
Visitors can also book overnight accommodations at the lightkeeper’s house, now serving as the Heceta Lighthouse B&B operated by the U.S. Forest Service. The entire house can be rented for a unique two-night holiday experience on Thanksgiving or Christmas for $3,500 (6 rooms, 5 bathrooms, 2 parlors, a large dining room, a guest kitchen, a hosted wine and cheese social, and one 7 course breakfast).
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse: Located at the Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site near Newport, tours of this wooden lighthouse with attached living quarters are available throughout the year. Visitors climb two flights of stairs to explore the watch room. The lantern room is not open to the public.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse: Located at the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, stands the tallest lighthouse in Oregon. It was built in 1872 and first lit in 1873. Children were not permitted to climb the 114 stairs of the tower due to safety concerns when the lighthouse first opened in the late 19th century. Children must now be accompanied by an adult and must be over 42 inches tall to climb the tower (when tours resume normal operations). The tours of the lighthouse were modified after March 2020. The 2022/2023 season only allows for a ground floor “quick look” tour when conditions permit (10-15 minutes).
Cape Meares Lighthouse: Located at Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint near Tillamook stands the shortest lighthouse on the coast. But it packs a punch. It was first built in 1890 and the light from the kerosene powered lens could be seen over 21 miles out to sea. The lighthouse is 38 feet tall. The lighthouse and gift shop are closed during the winter, though park grounds remain open. Tower tours have been canceled to protect the Fresnel lens.
A Mile Out to Sea
Tillamook Rock Lighthouse: Built in 1881 and vacant since 1957, about 1.2 miles offshore from Tillamook Head stands the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. The lighthouse was purchased by real estate investors for $50,000 in 1980. It was listed for $6.5 million in 2022. The property can only be reached by helicopter with the owner’s permission. Otherwise, it is a federal crime, as it is part of the Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. A four mile hike from the Tillamook Head Trailhead to the lighthouse overlook will reward you with a beautiful view of the structure (don’t forget your binoculars).