Cape Meares Lighthouse

The Oregon North Coast has one of the most scenic drives anywhere. For nearly 40 miles between Tillamook and Pacific City, the road wends its way in and out and around the 3 Capes Loop. Cape Kiwanda, Cape Lookout and Cape Meares are said to be the sister capes. Heading west out of Tillamook, the road takes you to Cape Meares Loop and meanders, and I really mean meanders, all over the 3 capes. One can take the route either from the north (Cape Meares) or from the south (Cape Lookout). We like to travel from the north and end up in Pacific City at the Pelican Pub & Brewery which is right on the water on Cape Kiwanda.

One Christmas Day we were driving up the coast and traveling the 3 Capes Loop. We were very hungry and came upon the Pelican. We were surprised they were open. They were not only open but they were serving the most wonderful holiday buffet with traditional turkey, dressing and all the trimmings. What a treat!

Whatever time of year you arrive on the 3 Capes, don’t miss the Pelican.


The Pelican is about our last stop on this beautiful drive. Almost the first is the Cape Meares Lighthouse. Not only is the lighthouse in this beautiful coastal place but the area is also a wildlife refuge. There is a parking lot to park in and then a short walk through Oregon’s trees to the top of the light.


Near the park entrance is the trailhead to the Big Spruce which is Oregon’s largest Sitka Spruce. There is a lot to see and do here. Check it out before you go.

As with all lighthouses, this one has a rich history. It is named after Captain John Meares who was the first to sail into Tillamook Bay. The lighthouse was built in 1889 with bricks made on site and covered with iron plates. At 38 feet it is the shortest lighthouse in Oregon.

The original light consisted of a 5 wick oil lamp with a reflector. It was turned by a 200 pound lead weight wound with a mechanism similar to a grandfather clock. The lens is a Fresnel lens made in Paris and was shipped around Cape Horn before coming up the west coast to Cape Meares. It was then taken 217 feet up the cliff by a wooden crane built from native timbers.

As with all lighthouses this one has a signature flash consisting of  30 seconds of fixed white light from its primary lens followed by 5 seconds of red flash from the bull’s-eye lens once a minute. The light can be seen 21 miles out to sea.


The oil lamp has been replaced a couple of times eventually becoming the automated light it is today. The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1963 and was heavily vandalized during the several years it was vacant. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department took it over and reopened the lighthouse for tours.

There is much more history especially having to do with the theft of the four bull’s-eyes and their piecemeal return nearly 20 years later starting with a drug raid in Portland. But…’s time to get to the ghost story that every lighthouse has. Cape Meares Lighthouse doesn’t seem to have a resident ghost but there is ghostly history all around it.

The Octopus Tree that resides in the park was utilized by Native Americans in the area as a burial place. They caused the odd shaped tree much in the same way a Bonsai is created and would place the deceased in their canoes and put them in the candelabra shaped tree. Natives have lived here for 3,000 years and it is estimated this tree is over 2,000 years old.


Bayocean is one of Oregon’s most famous ghost towns and sits just below Cape Meares. It is hidden and unknown to most tourists. Built in 1912 this small hamlet on the coast is described as having been a “glittering resort town.” It lasted only 10 years as such and then died with a more complete death coming during the Great Depression. As tidal conditions changed most of this former coast resort town was later destroyed.

Who knows what ghosts may be lurking about Cape Meares Lighthouse with this rich, ghostly history?! Come visit us and travel north along the beautiful Oregon Coast to find out!



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