Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area is one of Oregon’s most enduring attractions, and for good reason. The 100-acre park — just three miles north of Newport — features awesome natural beauty and fascinating history, as well as opportunities to observe the staggering diversity of wildlife on the Oregon Coast.

The centerpiece of the park is Yaquina Head Lighthouse. When it opened in 1873, its 93-foot tower — the tallest on the Oregon Coast — was visible from miles away. Since then it’s been a beacon to sailors, but to tourists as well, who flock to the site to take in the natural beauty and to get a closer look at the majestic lighthouse.

And it has never looked better. From its perch on the wave-battered basalt headland, Yaquina Head Lighthouse is primed for postcard photo ops having recently received a fresh coat of white paint.

Guides in period dress enthrall visitors with tales of days gone by when dedicated keepers worked around the clock to guide ships at sea. Lighthouse tours, including a climb up the circular 114-step staircase, are offered daily (except Wednesday); spots fill quickly and are reserved on site.

A network of trails connects the lighthouse, the shore and the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center, where you can learn about the natural and cultural history of the park, including fascinating stories of the keepers and families who served at this isolated post.

Bird-watchers train their binoculars on the off-shore rocks for glimpses of peregrine falcons, common murres, pelicans, cormorants, eagles, hawks, towhees and oystercatchers — just some of the numerous species in the area.

Down below the headland, harbor seals and sea lions loll on the rocks, and gray whales are often seen swimming past. During the summer months, these giants sometimes linger to feed in the shallows.

Some of the Coast’s best tide pools are found at Yaquina Head, where low tides reveal colorful urchins, sea stars, and anemones, along with many kinds of aquatic plants. Rangers are on hand to answer questions and guide visitors in their tide pool explorations.

Pack a picnic and your camera to spend an unforgettable day in an unforgettable location.

Photo by Sumio Koizumi