Spotlight: Oregon's Yaquina Head Lighthouse
By Kristi Bray, Recreation.gov
Children explore the tide pools around Yaquina Head Lighthouse, north of Newport, Oregon. (Jeri Goldenstein, Share the Experience)
A bright beacon for ships navigating the rugged Pacific coastline, Yaquina Head Lighthouse is also a beacon for explorers of a different nature — those seeking to learn the long-standing history of the area's coastal inhabitants, observe wildlife and ascend the steps of the historic lighthouse.
Known as Yaquina (pronounced "yah-quin-uh") Head Outstanding Natural Area, this coastal headland extends one mile (1.6 km) into the Pacific Ocean and hosts Oregon's tallest and second oldest continuously operating lighthouse, first lit on August 20, 1873. Although a tour of the lighthouse draws many here, you will also find exhibits at the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center depicting the area's diverse natural landscapes and rich human history, trails to connect you to the area's viewpoints and beaches, and abundant wildlife including marine life within the area's tide pools.
Directions to Yaquina Head Lighthouse
Yaquina Head is located near Newport along the central coast of Oregon. If traveling from the Portland area, the drive will take approximately 2.5 hours and winds through the lush fields and forests typical to Oregon's coastal mountains, with plenty of opportunities to stop and stretch your legs and grab a bite to eat.
Please note, in 2017 there will be delays due to road construction on U.S. Highway 20 from Corvallis to Newport as crews work to create a safe, smooth and scenic drive.
Tour the Lighthouse
Standing 93 feet (28.3 m) tall on the westernmost point of the headland, the Yaquina Head Lighthouse once guided trade ships along the coast and still operates as an active aid to navigation today. Join a costumed ranger for a tour of the lighthouse as you hear tales of times past and learn about the great history of the structure and its caretakers. Tours run about 45 minutes and include a climb to the top of the lighthouse. Although children are welcome on the ground floor portion of the tour, only those that are 42 inches (1.06 m) or taller may climb to the top of the lighthouse. Due to the popularity of the lighthouse tour, advanced reservations are recommended. The tour is free, however, there is a $3.55 reservation fee per ticket if reserved in advance. Tours may also be reserved in person on a first-come, first-served basis in the Interpretive Center on the day of the tour.
"This is not JUST a lighthouse. From the lighthouse area you can easily view tons of birds in their natural habitat, plus watch for whales. Worth every penny." Isaac H., June 2016
Explore Things to Do at the Headland
Beyond the lighthouse and in and around these coastal waters, wildlife abounds. Try spotting harbor seals (PDF) in Quarry Cove or off Cobble Beach. They live here year-round and are easiest to spot during a low tide.
Be sure to bring your binoculars as gray whales (PDF) can be seen throughout most of the year from the headland. If your visit coincides with their migration, keep a lookout from December through February as the whales navigate south toward Baja's warmer waters or in the spring (March-May) as they head north to their summer feeding grounds in the Bering Sea. During the summer months, many whales choose to forgo the long trip to the Bering Sea and instead remain in the cool, shallow waters of the Oregon Coast to feed.
A visit to the coast would not be complete without exploring tide pools (PDF) such as those found at Cobble Beach. Remember, this area is protected so tread lightly on these fragile lands and take only pictures. At low tide, you will find sea stars, anemones, hermit crabs and other interesting and fun intertidal life. High tides are also a pleasure as the waves send the smooth cobble stones cascading against each other, creating a unique sound and experience
Explore More of Oregon's Coast
Oregon State Parks pepper the coastline — from nearby Yaquina Bay State Recreation Site to the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area and far beyond. If lingering along the coast, be sure to explore the Siuslaw National Forest for excellent camping and some of the best views along the coast (try Cape Perpetua Scenic Area).
- Lighthouse Tours
- Abundant Wildlife
- Scenic Vistas
- Newport (10 minutes)
- Lincoln City (30 minutes)
- Florence (1.5 hours)