Tips for visiting Yaquina Head Lighthouse on the Oregon Coast

Posted By Allison on May 19, 2014


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UPDATED MAY 2017

Welcome!

Is there anything more picturesque than a lighthouse? Read on for tips for visiting one of the best lighthouses on the Oregon Coast.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse (pronounced ya-QUIN-uh) is a top destination for families on the Oregon Coast. Yaquina Head is Oregon’s tallest lighthouse, but there are a lot of other fun things to do here too, including tide pools, whale watching, hiking, and a museum.

The lighthouse and surrounding area are known as Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, and it is truly outstanding. Yaquina Head Lighthouse is located just a few minutes drive from Newport, Oregon and the renowned Oregon Coast Aquarium.

My family visited Yaquina Head Lighthouse when my son was an infant and my daughter was a preschooler. It was one of the highlights of our Oregon Coast vacation.

Here’s what you can expect on a visit to Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

Lighthouse Tours

Take a lighthouse tour to learn how the lighthouse works and what it would be like to be a lighthouse keeper. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the Pacific Ocean and the scenic Oregon coast. Lighthouse tours are offered by Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses at no additional charge.

Tours must be reserved in person on the day of the tour and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign up for a tour at the Interpretive Center. Get current information about tour availability at www.yaquinalights.org/tours-at-yaquina-head-lighthouse.

Good shoes are required to ascend the steep and winding staircase to the top of the lighthouse. Visitors should be physically able to climb 114 stairs to the top of the lighthouse.

Children must be at least 42 inches tall and must be able to walk the tour on their own. All children under age 12 must be accompanied by someone over age 16. Our children were too young to tour the lighthouse, but it was still worthwhile to walk around it and take photos.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Interpretive Center

The Interpretive Center, which is run by volunteers from Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses, was our first stop in the park. Here, we learned about the history of the Yaquina Head Lighthouse and found some fun games and activities for my preschool age daughter. This is a fun place to learn, play, rest and browse the gift shop.

There are parking areas at the Interpretive Center and the lighthouse, about a half-mile apart. The Interpretive Center is a good base if you want to park once and explore the rest of the park on foot.

Tide Pools

Follow the trail from the Yaquina Head Lighthouse to explore the tide pools below. At low tide, you may spot sea stars, green anemones, spiny purple sea urchins, mussels, volcano shaped barnacles, turban snails, hermit crabs and many more.

Wear sturdy shoes to visit the tide pools. The trail is rocky and the tide pool area can be slippery. I wore flip flops and they limited my enjoyment of the tide pools because they didn’t protect my feet at all. Closed toe athletic shoes are best, but sport sandals with sturdy soles and straps would probably be fine too. Carry jackets with you as well. The weather can be chilly and unpredictable on the Oregon Coast, even in the summer.

Remind everyone in your family that the tide pools are a protected area. Do not step in the tide pools or touch the animals. Keep a close eye on young children to keep them from injuring themselves or the sea life.

If tide pools are a priority for your family, be sure to visit at low tide. Find the tide predictions for Yaquina Bay at www.tides.info.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Wildlife

The rocks just beyond the tide pools were covered with harbor seals during our July visit. That’s not the sort of thing we see in the wild in Salt Lake City, so it’s fun memory for our family. It should be pretty easy to spot seals year-round near Yaquina Head Lighthouse.

We also spotted a gray whale from the trail between the Interpretive Center and the lighthouse. December-May is the best time to see migrating whales near Yaquina Head Lighthouse. However, about 150 gray whales spend their summer feeding along the Oregon Coast, so you might also see them during a summer vacation. Orcas are occasionally spotted as well.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse is an excellent place to go bird watching. Depending on the time of year, you might see bald eagles, peregrine falcons, brown pelicans, swallows, vultures, kestrels and red-tailed hawks.

Nature Walks

Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area has several short nature trails for those who are hoping to spot wildlife or enjoy the scenic beauty of the Oregon Coast. All of the trails are about one mile or less, round trip. The trail from the Interpretive Center to the lighthouse is wide and paved, as are paths to three observation points.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Oregon Coast Quests

Now that my children are older, Oregon Coast Quests are the type of activity that we would really enjoy. Each Quest takes about 45 minutes. From the BLM website,

“Yaquina Head has three Quests that give our visitors a comprehensive view of the history and management of this breathtaking park. Quests are clue-directed hunts that encourage exploration of natural areas. “Questers” follow a series of word clues and learn about the environment. Once all the clues are found, the secret location is revealed – a box where visitors can sign their name and get the official Yaquina Head quest stamp.”

Oregon State University sponsors the Quest program and more information can be found at http://hmsc.oregonstate.edu/visitor/oregon-coast-quests. Oregon Coast Quest books are available at many stores along the Oregon Coast.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

Good to Know

Where: Just off of Highway 101, near Newport, Oregon.

When: Open year-round, though hours change seasonally. Summer is the most popular time to visit, with the longest hours.

How Much: $7 per vehicle. Pass is good for three days. Here are other options you may wish to consider:

How Long: 2-4 hours for most families.

Amenities: Picnic facilities, modern restrooms, gift shop. No food is sold on-site, but Newport has a good selection of restaurants and grocery stores.

Websites:

How else can I help?

Looking for a flight? Portland International Airport is the nearest major airport to Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Find the lowest prices on flights with AirfareWatchdog or Skyscanner, then book directly through the airline. Find out why HERE.

Need a place to stay? There are lots of hotels and vacation rentals in and around Newport, Oregon. Read our tips for finding a great vacation rental HERE. Check prices and availability of hotels on TripAdvisor now.

Need a rental car? Driving your own car is the best way to visit the Oregon Coast. Compare rates for dozens of top agencies at CarRentals.com.

Packing list: Sturdy shoes and a jacket are a must for every member of the family. Sierra Trading Post is one of my favorite places to find quality outdoor gear for discount prices.

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Allison
Hi there! I am the founder of Tips for Family Trips. I am a married mom of two children, ages 10 and 12, living near Salt Lake City, Utah. We took our first child on a two-week road trip when she was four weeks old and we have been traveling as a family ever since. We love to get out of the house to see and do fun things, both far away and in our own neighborhood.

8 Comments

  1. Awesome! I’m too far as a Californian. Looks like I’ll be planning trip to Oregon!

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  2. This is now on my list of places to see when my husband and I drive out west on our whirlwind trip. Thanks for putting the idea in my head and for the tips.

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  3. Is there any way that my handicapped spouse can enter the light house? She can use a walker but can’t climb those steps. I see the area has some handicap sidewalks, but there really must be one to get into the lighthouse or it is not ADA compliant. Hopefully, the entry to the lighthouse and gift shop will be ADA compliant by mid-June.

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    • I don’t have experience with this since our children were too young to tour the lighthouse. Tours of the historic lighthouse are given by volunteers. I believe that Friends of Yaquina Lighthouses will be able to best answer your questions. Best wishes for a wonderful trip!

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      • Thanks, Allison. Perhaps if there is no gift shop or interesting things to see once in the door, then the wife won’t feel deprived of not getting inside. She sure can’t climb those winding stairs to the light, but if there is something of interest on the first floor I hope she is able to see it.

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        • The interpretive center was the place to find a gift shop and other interesting things to see. The “house” part of the lighthouse looked pretty small. The tour line was outside the door.

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