The Oregon Coast has always been a favorite place to visit for me, and is especially so now as a photographer. Finding photography locations on the coast is easy - they're everywhere. Those dramatic rocks and waves are so different than the dry high desert of Central Oregon. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I really started appreciating these last 11 lighthouses still standing proud on our coast. Photographing them is a lot of fun, just as much as learning their history. With so many shipwrecks off the Oregon Coast since well before Lewis and Clark, the government realized how badly they were needed and finally started building them in the 1850s. Lighthouses are such an example of strength, perseverance and comfort. To me, they ultimately reflect finding your light out of darkness.
Since visiting and photographing Oregon lighthouses, I even bought my girlfriend, Julie (who also loves history) a membership to the U.S. Lighthouse Society. I had no idea it even existed and it's something I'd have normally just bought as a gift for Grandma, or a for a child, but it's a great program that helps keep up the lighthouses. Plus, you can buy a passport, and get it stamped at the different lighthouses (when they're open).
I find photographing the lighthouses at sunset are best on the Pacific Coast since the sun sets over the ocean. The problem is that you can only do one lighthouse each night because they're too far apart. So plan one night per lighthouse if you want to see more than one at sunset.
Here are 3 of my favorite lighthouses to visit and photograph:
1. Coquille River Lighthouse - Bandon, Oregon
The little Coquille River Lighthouse sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and the Coquille River. It was built in 1891 and went out of service in 1939, but is still an amazingly well preserved structure. It's also one of the shortest lighthouses you'll see. This photograph was taken just as the sun was going down and there was a break in the clouds on the horizon. The sun threw this awesome glow onto the lighthouse and the rolling waves behind me creating this epic photographic opportunity.
To see this lighthouse, go to the Bullards Beach State Park in the cute town of Bandon. You can camp at the beautiful state park campground and walk, bike or drive the couple miles out to the lighthouse. If you drive to the lighthouse for sunset, just remember what time the gate closes so you don't get caught in there!
2. Heceta Head Lighthouse - Florence, Oregon
This is one of the most famous and photographed lighthouses on the Oregon Coast. This structure was built in 1859, stands 56 feet tall, and shines a beam of light that is visible for 21 nautical miles. The lighthouse sits high up on a cliff and the views are stunning. It's a fee park and it takes a short walk uphill to get to the lighthouse. Once there, you can hike the Oregon Coast Trail up behind it to get better views of the lens. There are usually tours so inquire to see if they're running.
Did you know there's also a Bed and Breakfast that you can stay at right next to the lighthouse?? It's in the old lighthouse keeper assistant's house and it's beautiful! On the road you walk up to the lighthouse, you can walk the grounds of the B&B to take in the views. There's normally a little gift shop open as well. The funds from the B&B help fund the maintenance of the house. You can have your wedding there or just a romantic night's stay with one of the most outstanding views on the coast. Check out their website: hecetalighthouse.com
3. Yaquina Head Lighthouse - Newport, Oregon
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse is Oregon's tallest lighthouse, and was built in 1873. This one is actually located on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area. It is a fee park but worth it. The area is also fantastic for tide pools. This lighthouse usually has tours so just inquire within. There's a great trail on the hill above the lighthouse that you can go up and see even better views of the ocean north and south.
I highly suggest visiting, touring and photographing the lighthouses if you can, because it's fascinating how strong these were built to withstand such torrential storms. Plus the lighthouse keepers that lived there had to be durable as well. Living on the edge of the Oregon Coast wasn't easy 150 years ago, but the lighthouses saved so many lives on that unforgiving rocky coast line, which made that rough life worth it to them.