Seaside Stories

Keeping Watch on Our Waters

July 7, 2013 | by Jon Rahl

The question is actually quite common. “How can I get to the Tillamook Lighthouse?” We hear it on a fairly regular basis by folks popping into the Seaside Visitors Bureau seeking information on the nine lighthouses that populate the Oregon Coastline.

While we wish it were possible to take a tour of “Terrible Tilly,” the lighthouse nearest to Seaside, she’s located more than a mile offshore from the banks of Tillamook Head and over five miles from most locations along the expansive Seaside beach. Tilly’s lore simply lives on by spying her from the shores of Seaside and Cannon Beach and listening to or reading the tales of those that know her so well.

For those hoping to step foot in a lighthouse near Seaside though, there are actually other options beyond traveling south along the Oregon Coast. Just a little over an hour from downtown Seaside, and beyond the popular Astoria-Megler Bridge over the Columbia River, sit two historic lighthouses along the southern edge of the Long Beach Peninsula in the state of Washington.

North Head and Cape Disappointment Lighthouses keep a watchful eye on the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River, respectively, and both are situated perfectly inside Cape Disappointment State Park. Cape Disappointment is the older of the two 50-foot-plus beacons, first lighting up the entrance to the Columbia River in October of 1856. Cape D’s neighbor to the Northwest, known simply as North Head, has stood guard since May of 1898 – built to protect the precious ships traveling towards the mouth of the Columbia from the north.

On a typical July day, with the North Oregon Coast a patchwork of sun and clouds, I headed north with my family to Astoria and over the bridge to Washington to check out these over 100-year-old structures. A Washington State Park Discover Pass is needed (they are $10 for a day or $30 for an annual pass), but purchasing one gets you access to both relics.

We arrived at North Head first where the lighthouse is a quarter of a mile from the parking lot and the former lighthouse keeper’s residences. It’s an easy walk with both a gravel and paved path available. We took one path out and the other back in. The structure is beautiful and offers tremendous views in all directions. It also offers visitors the opportunity to climb to the top. It’s free for ages seven to 17, and adults 18 and older cost just $2.50 each. You must be seven to climb the tower. Please note: The lighthouse is currently closed for renovations and will reopen again sometime in 2017.

Cape Disappointment is a bit more difficult to get to but worth the half-mile walk in both directions for those that can do it. Her 40 additional years of rain and wind have taken their toll but both lighthouses take your mind back to a simpler time. It’s easy to imagine the lighthouse keepers trudging up and down the steps to keep mariners safe. Fortunately for us, the two lighthouses legacies live on where, thanks to the Washington State Parks, we can enjoy their beauty and history – all within a day’s drive of Seaside!

Editor’s note: Additional information can be found on the Cape Disappointment State Park website. You can purchase a Washington State Discover Pass on site or via the Discover Pass website.

Leave a Reply

and so much more!

The Pull of Progress – Seaside in 1921

Postwar Seaside saw a boom in growth and development.

Learn More
Murals, Swing Jazz, and Marine Life: Experiencing Seaside’s Arts & Culture

Seaside, Oregon, is known for its downtown murals and active arts scene. Photo: Rick Mickelson As one of the best known beach dest...

Learn More
Golden Age Arcade

Seaside's classic golden age arcade.

Learn More
Grant’s Getaways: Paddling the Neawanna in Seaside

If our summer heat wave is getting the best of you – sapping your energy and leaving you feeling generally uncomfortable, perhap...

Learn More
Beauty and the Beach (and a Photo Bomb)

The sundial in Seaside has been around since the 1940s - you can check it out on the promenade today.

Learn More
Gayway Park in the early 1960s

Gayway Park in the 1960s was a major family attraction in Seaside, Oregon

Learn More
Riders of the Storm

Winter weather on the Oregon Coast is the flipside to flipside to golden summers, but it can be just as beautiful.

Learn More
Family Reunion

Seaside is a hot spot for family reunion get-togethers.

Learn More
Views of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse are well within your reach thanks to the adventure of the Tillamook Head Trail just south of Seaside.
How to Get Epic Tillamook Rock Lighthouse Views

Your quest to see Tillamook Rock begins on the south side of Seaside at the end of Sunset Boulevard.

Learn More
Hot Summer Car Shows help usher in the summer season in Seaside.
Hot Summer Car Shows

Two Seaside car shows help usher in and wind down the summer travel season

Learn More
Bell Buoy Stays in the Family

SEASIDE SPOTLIGHT: Our first profile in a series focused on the behind-the-scenes movers who make Seaside the unique destination i...

Learn More
Unique Seaside Spots to Stay

(photo courtesy of the SaltLine Hotel)   From oceanfront studios and restful retreats to in-house spas and pet-friendly suite...

Learn More
Keeping Watch on Our Waters

Washington lighthouses, just an hour's drive from Seaside, are historic wonders

Learn More
Seaside’s Beloved Old Cypress Trees

Cypress trees are not native to the Seaside area, as they are to parts of Southwest Oregon, near the California border. Under idea...

Learn More
A Tradition of Tea

Seaside has a 26 year tradition it loves to share with visitors. Those in town for the holiday season are invited to step back in ...

Learn More
Mushroom Foraging Near Seaside

Oregon’s North Coast is a popular spot for treasure hunters. While some people might look for pirate treasure though, the on...

Learn More
For a Taste of Oregon’s Beautiful North Coast, Visit Seaside

Seaside has been a vacation destination for nearly as long as Oregon has been a state.

Learn More
Episode Four: the Seaside Museum & Butterfield Cottage

Audio walking tour of the Seaside Museum & Butterfield Cottage

Learn More