The lighthouses on the Oregon Coast have their own personalities, histories and charm.
From the Cape Blanco light at the farthest south location to the Tillamook Rock light in the north, they have a story to tell. Some of them are tall and stately, others are short – but they all had, and many still have, a vital role to play in keeping the shipping lanes safe for the many passing ships in the night.
The lights built before radios, radar and satellite positioning were spaced along the coast so that one could always be seen by the captains guiding the wind driven, picturesque ships with canvas sails stretched out on tall masts. The lighthouses Yaquina Head, Heceta Head and Cape Meares found on the central Oregon Coast are some of the best.
If you can visit only one lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head near Newport makes a good choice. This historic site has it all: It’s situated on a point of land out in the ocean, with an interpretive center, lighthouse tours and an operating light. The tallest light in Oregon has a pattern of two seconds on, two seconds off, two seconds on and 14 seconds off and is Yaquina Head’s “signature.”
The interpretive center’s displays are well done with exhibits and videos regarding light construction, light keeper duties, lenses that directed oil-burning light out on the ocean 20 miles, ship wrecks, and marine life, including whales. The head is also a place to look for whales passing by. There are trails around the lighthouse and down to tide pools.
Close-by attraction: Oregon Coast Aquarium, http://aquarium.org
Heceta Head Lighthouse
Does it get any better than this? Indulge your fantasies. Drive to the Oregon Coast and go south until you see the most photographed lighthouse in Oregon. A lighthouse whose natural setting is one of the most awe-inspiring found anywhere. The historic Heceta Head Lighthouse, built in 1894, sits on the side of 1,000 foot promontory 200 feet above the rocky shoreline.
Wait, there is more. The nearby Keepers’ House – built in 1894 as a duplex for the assistant lighthouse keepers and their families – is now a B&B offering a seven-course breakfast, easy walks to the nearby light, exceptional views, and a trail down to a sandy beach. The lighthouse is open to the public for tours at 11 a.m. daily.
Close-by attraction: Sea Lion Cave, www.sealioncaves.com
Cape Meares Lighthouse
It is short and stout. No, it isn’t a teapot but rather a 38-foot lighthouse. Cape Meares Lighthouse is the shortest on the Oregon coast. But it makes up for height by sitting on a towering 200 foot cliff. The original lens projected light that could be seen 21 miles out to sea.
Standing within 5 feet of the lighthouse behind a safety fence that protects from certain death from falling over the edge allows the senses to take over. Looking directly west, of course, is the Pacific Ocean.
Close in are several sea stacks with curved arches and waves breaking through them. The rocks have been designated as a wildlife refuge with thousands of birds flying and nesting on the protected land. Below, waves can be heard crashing on the rocks and seals can be heard barking.
For some reason it is the wind that is remembered, the constant clean, chilly breeze against the face and the taste of salty lips.
Here is a classic look of the rugged Oregon Coast that for more than 100 years light keepers experienced and kept written logs. They wrote about the sunsets, family events, the storms and repairs.
Also: Be sure to check out the octopus tree.
Close-by Attraction: Tillamook Cheese Factory, www.tillamook.com
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