The westernmost point in Oregon is a great place to check out a beautiful lighthouse, and learn more about the history of early settlers in the area. Cape Blanco features an historic house and campground within the State Park boundary, and at the end of the cape, on Federal land, the oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon.
There it is, the oldest standing lighthouse in Oregon, the Cape Blanco Light, towering 270 feet above the Pacific Ocean. The Lighthouse was commissioned in 1870.
To get to the light, you’ll need to drive through Cape Blanco State Park, which covers most of the cape, and also offers some worthwhile attractions — including the Hughes House, a 3,000-square-foot, 11-room house built for a rancher in 1898. The house has been restored, and tours are available April through October.
The lighthouse tours also operate during those same months. A tour costs $2, unless you have a National Parks Pass. Since the very tip of the cape is on Federal land, it’s not part of the state park, so the NPS pass works here.
I bought my ticket at the gift shop near the parking lot, then walked up to the lighthouse.
A team of two lighthouse experts are inside, and they both take the time to tell you a little about the history of the lighthouse and the people who used to haul oil up the steps, in order to keep the light burning. The tour begins in the room just prior to this one, and then you’re allowed to pass into the tower itself.
I appreciate the fact that the tour guides knew I’d be wanting to take a lot of pictures, and they didn’t rush me.
The circular staircase and brick walls make for some beautiful photographs.
Once you’re almost at the top, you can look back down the tower, while you await the summons from the second tour guide to complete the climb.
On those final few steps, you’re almost climbing a ladder, and you’ll need to squeeze through the floor into the glass room that houses the giant lens.
I’ve seen a few lighthouse lenses, and they are always impressive. This fragile glass structure is a second-order Fresnel, put in service in 1936. The original lens was a first-order — meaning the original lens was slightly larger than the current one.
The lighthouse was automated in 1980. Instead of an oil-fueled flame, a tiny little light bulb now provides all the light needed to cast a beam out to the horizon.
The second tour guide, positioned atop the lighthouse, will answer any other questions you have. Then, head back down.
On the grounds surrounding the lighthouse, you’ll have a nice view of the coast, looking north.
Just after leaving the parking area, watch for a turnout at the side of the road. From here, you’ll be able to look at the rocky shore to the south.
The Bottom Line
There are plenty of other lighthouses along the Oregon Coast, and some of them are closer to the highway. However, I think it’s well worth your time to detour off of US 101 and head out to the Cape Blanco Lighthouse. The views are spectacular, and the history lesson is interesting. Plus, you get to say you visited the westernmost point in the state, and the oldest lighthouse in the state!
As the westernmost point in Oregon, it’s easy to find Cape Blanco on a map. The park and lighthouse are located west of US 101 on a narrow, paved side-road that leads through rolling, peaceful pastures. Watch for the turnoff 4 miles north of Port Orford, then travel another 5 miles on Cape Blanco Road.
Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Gold Beach, out to Cape Blanco, and then on to Bandon: