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Five Favorite West Coast Lighthouses

Born and raised on the West Coast I've frequented lighthouses along the Pacific Coast numerous times throughout my forty-five years.  The Coast offers a wealth of photographic opportunities and incredible rocky headlands to explore. With its beautiful beaches, state parks, lighthouses and hiking trails it is a place for all coastal lovers to visit.

One of my dreams is to drive from our home (near #1 on the map) south along the coastline to Mexico. According to numerous sources, it is one of the most beautiful coastlines in America; which I fully agree with.  Make sure to bring proper attire for conditions which may include extreme wind and fog...even during the summer.

1. North Head Lighthouse, Washington: My favorite Lighthouse in the world is about 30 minutes south of home in Ilwaco, Washington. The first time I saw this lighthouse in person it just touched my heart and I felt connected to it somehow. Lit for the first time on May 16, 1898, the North Head Lighthouse is 65 feet tall and hovers 194 feet above sea level. If you love beautiful ocean views then you won't be disappointed as you have unobstructed views of the North, West & South. You can even vacation in the old caregivers homes on the property.

North Head Lighthouse ~ Winter 2008©
North Head Lighthouse ~ 2010©

2. Point Reyes Lighthouse, California:  Perched on a craggy cliff, this lighthouse was first lit in 1870. The Lighthouse was intended to keep ships headed into and out of San Francisco from coming to grief on the rocks of Point Reyes, the headland that gives the national seashore its name. The lighthouse was retired in 1975, but is preserved today as a pristine example of nineteenth century high-tech.   A concrete stairway of over three hundred steps leads down to the lighthouse itself but don't worry...the stairway has multiple platforms where exhausted climbers can sit and rest.  This is one of the windiest places around so if the wind tops 40 mph or more (which happens often), then you'll find the stairs closed.

© 2000 Betsy Malloy and Licensors

Point Reyes Lighthouse ~ Angelique Eeek
3. Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, Washington:   The first lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest was lit in 1856. Given a black stripe to distinguish it from the North Head Lighthouse (see #1 above), located two miles to the North, this stoic tower had to be dismantled just before completion when discovered that it wasn't large enough to accommodate the lantern room that would hold a four-ton, first-order Fresnel Lens.  You can hike the 1 1/2 mile (been there, done that) path to the lighthouse base and although it is closed to the public for climbing, the grounds around it are open daily.  The lighthouse is 53-feet tall and has a focal plane of 220 feet above the sea. The views are astoundingly beautiful and it feels like you are on top of the world.

Cape Disappointment ~ 2009©

Cape Disappointment, taken from Waikiki Beach ~ 2009©

Cape Disappointment ~ 2009©

4.  Coquille River Lighthouse, Oregon:  This small (47 ft. tall) Italiante-style structure is the smallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast and is extremely charming. Located on the Southern Oregon coast, where the Coquille River empties into the Pacific Ocean, this lighthouse was lit in 1896.  The lighthouse was a logical step for improving navigation at the river’s mouth so it acted as both a coastal light and a harbor light.  Though abandoned in 1939, it was renovated in 1979 and offers a tour to the top during summer.  This is definitely a lesser known lighthouse; however the nearby sandy beach with waves crashing up against the rocks made for a lovely spot to have a picnic or just daydream for a while. Right next door is Bullards Beach State Park which offers a campground that is nestled among shore pines and well protected from the strong ocean breezes.

Coquille River Lighthouse ~ 2003©

Creative Commons License ~ 2009, Einahpets32 (Stephanie) of Flickr

5.  Yaquina Head, Oregon:  The height of this Central Oregon Coast lighthouse is astounding and truly makes you feel small and insignificant in the scheme of things. Built in 1873, it stands a whopping 93 feet high and was constructed of 370,000 bricks. A 1000 watt globe has replaced the original oil wicks, and it now generates over 130,000 candlepower.   There are great tide pools on the rocky beach below that attract many people, especially at very low tides.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse ~ © 2003

 Some rights reserved by kaiyen of Flickr

Selecting five lighthouses is extremely difficult as there are almost 30 lighthouses that still stand strong on the California coast; 11 along the Oregon coast and 24 of them in Washington (three of which are all but gone).  These are just my personal favorites, but really I love them all! I guess I'll have to write another post about more of these historic beauties.

If you're in the Midwest then you may enjoy this article that we found: Five Midwest Lighthouses to Love


  1. I have been to both of the lighthouses in Washington and have always wanted to drive down the coastal line as well. Maybe someday. Great post!!

  2. What beautiful lighthouses!! I would love to take that drive as well. I have always wanted to go to Oregon and Washington. I am lucky enough to live on Lake Michigan where there are beautiful lighthouses to see. Thank you for showing these and telling about them!

  3. I have always just loved lighthouses...would dearly love to see all of these.
    xo bj

  4. This is a very interesting article with magnificent photos. I wondered how Cape Disappointment got its name.

  5. Very beautiful. The really is something solidarily beautiful about lighthouses. They light the way home.

  6. I love lighthouses. I was at Point Reyes a couple weeks ago--beautiful.

  7. What a great list! Thanks for sharing it with us coast lovers. I have not hit any lighthouses yet but would love to. Hope you had a great Monday.

  8. so fun! I have been to all of these lighthouses - am I a West Coast beach girl or what?? LOVE Point Reyes, we had fabulous time there last January. Foggy, drippy, misty, just like a lighthouse should be. We even got to see Elephant seals!


  9. Awesome! I just love lighthouses! The beacon of light that not only warns of danger also brings the lost home! Thanks!

  10. I was at two of these lighthouses several years ago. Cape Disapointment and Northhead lighthouses. Was able to tour the Northead Lighthouse. The tour guide was very knowledgeable of the history and the workings of the lighthouse. Got some great pictures of Northhead lighthouse inside and outside.


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