The central Oregon coastline is a place of tremendous contradiction. We can enjoy days of calm seas only to see those same waters turn into a wildly dangerous place of towering storm-whipped waves. A visit to some of the lighthouses near Florence is a terrific way to learn more about how sailors survived Oregon’s stormy seas.
The History of Oregon Lighthouses
To understand the role that the lighthouse plays in our area’s history, you need to try to visualize traveling on the ocean without the aid of modern navigation tools. Imagine steering a small fishing boat along our rocky coastline in the middle of the night while being thrown from side to side by storm fueled waves. Uniquely varying light patterns shining from each identified every one of Oregon’s lighthouses and guided countless people, trapped at sea during violent weather, to safe shores.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers crafted most of our historic lighthouses between the years of 1870 and 1896. The presence of the constant beam of light over the ocean helped the commercial fishing and shipping industries to thrive along the coast of Oregon. By the 1960s, automated beacons eliminated the need for the constant presence of lightkeepers, and all 11 of our remaining historic lighthouses joined the National Register of Historic Places.
Lighthouses Near Florence
Are you interested in exploring a historic lighthouse in person? You can easily visit several historic lighthouses during your visit to Florence. The 19-century lighthouses at Heceta Head, Yaquina Bay, and Yaquina Head are all located a short drive from the Old Town Inn.
Heceta Head Lighthouse State Scenic Viewpoint
The Heceta Head Lighthouse and Light Keeper’s Home are located a short drive north of downtown Florence on the Oregon Coast Highway. A trip to Heceta Head is an exciting way to explore the workings of a still operational historic lighthouse. Today, Heceta Head features an automated fresnel lens that casts a shining beacon of light some 21 miles out to sea to guide ships on their journeys safely.
Oregon State Park Rangers present an interpretive program on the history of the lighthouse twice daily. The interpretation includes a guided tour of the ground floor of the light station. An excellent selection of hiking trails on the property will treat you to fantastic scenery, spectacular ocean and forest views, and the awesome opportunity to spot wildlife in their natural environments.
The Heceta Head Lightstation offers guided tours of the first floor of the former lightkeeper’s home. Check here for more information regarding tours of the historic lightkeeper’s quarters.
Yaquina Bay Lighthouse
Situated a comfortable one-hour drive north of Florence in Newport, a visit to the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is well worth the short trip. Constructed in 1871, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse is the only remaining wooden lighthouse on Oregon’s coastline.
Yaquina Bay operated as a lighthouse during the years of 1871 and 1874. It reopened in 1996 as a private navigation aid, and the light from Yaquina Bay shines out across the water each day from dusk to dawn.
The lighthouse is unique among Oregon lighthouses as the lightkeeper lived inside the tower. Tours of this historic structure are available on most days of the week except for major holidays. You can find out complete visiting details at the Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses website.
Yaquina Head Lighthouse
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse sits within the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area in Newport, OR. Erected in 1873, Yaquina Head stands ninety-three feet tall and is the tallest of the Oregon lighthouses. It continues to function as a lighthouse today.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) controls the operations of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Due to staffing uncertainties, tours of the lighthouse do not occur each day. Check at the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center & Interpretive Gift Store when you arrive to find out if it is possible to tour the lighthouse.
Pacific Maritime Heritage Center
A visit to the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center in Newport is a terrific way to complement your lighthouse tours. The Center presents a wide array of interactive activities designed to introduce you to the maritime culture, shipping industry, and ocean science that makes the central Oregon coast such a special place. There is even a working pier to explore.
The Pacific Maritime Heritage Center invites you to visit Thursday through Sunday for the nominal admission fee of $5 per adult. Children younger than age 12 receive free admission. Read here for full information.
Umpqua River Lighthouse
During a scouting expedition in 1849 to find the best places to position lighthouses along the northwest coast, Alexander de Boche chose the mouth of the Umpqua River. The spot was chosen because it was believed that the mouth of the river would become a large-scale shipping center of timber. After many strenuous months of labor and various setbacks, the Umpqua River Lighthouse was finally finished in 1857, making it the first light along the Oregon Coast. Learn more about this lighthouse here.
We hope that you’ll include a visit to one of our local lighthouses during your trip to Florence. A day trip to one of our favorite Oregon lighthouses is a don’t miss adventure into the maritime history of the central Oregon coast.
The Old Town Inn has an outstanding location near everything that makes Florence, OR such a fantastic vacation destination. Contact us today to make room reservations.