We had heard many fascinating tales about lighthouses along the rugged Oregon coast saving ships and lives for over a century. We decided to make a road trip from San Francisco to visit one. Here’s the story of our trip.
Breaking up a long drive
Ours was to be a considerable drive of 552 miles, estimated to take approximately 9-hours, so we decided to break our journey into two days.
The first thing we looked for was a convenient bed and breakfast along the route.
We contacted the Old Thyme Bed and Breakfast, 217 miles north of San Francisco in the town of Redding, which came recommended by a subscriber to our articles.
The inn is just minutes from Interstate 5, where we spent most of our driving time, and gave us the perfect break in our travel.
After a super slumber and a delicious breakfast, we were ready for the final leg of our adventure.
On the road again
Interstate 5 traffic continued to be light from Redding to Weed, California, and the scenery improved with each passing mile. The intermittent views of Mt. Shasta from I-5 were often breathtaking.
The most picturesque route to the central Oregon coast begins after leaving I-5 at exit 136 and connecting to Oregon state highway 138. Be sure to make the drive along 138 in the daylight, because you do not want to miss the panoramic blend of lush forests and verdant mountains.
By mid-afternoon we were approaching the coastal town of Reedsport, Oregon. From there it’s a quick 20-minute drive along historic highway 101 north to the art-deco inspired Siuslaw River Bridge that spans the river running along the Florence waterfront.
It was a beautiful crisp day on the Oregon coast.
We took lunch at the Bridgewater Ocean Fresh Fish House in the quaint “Old Town,” section of Florence.
Our selections were fish and chips and fried oysters. Exceptionally fine sea food at reasonable prices.
The ambiance of Florence is “American Quaint,” and we were immediately comfortable with the town and our surroundings.
On to the lighthouse
One of the reasons we chose Florence for our base camp was its close proximity to the Heceta Lighthouse.
In 1891 President Benjamin Harrison reserved a coastal headland known as Heceta Head, in Lane County, Oregon, for the sole use of a lighthouse, which was subsequently constructed and dedicated three years later.
The lighthouse, boasts a 1.2 million candle power light — the most powerful on the Oregon coast. It can be seen from far out at sea, and also, from various points along Hwy 101.
The last keeper left when the giant light was automated in 1963. Thereafter, the keeper’s notably unique residence went vacant.
The Heceta lighthouse keeper’s dwelling was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.
Twenty-two year later in 1995, Lane County opened the building for tours and a six guestroom B&B.
We had the privilege of spending two nights in the Mariner II (the one we recommend) guestroom at the Heceta Lighthouse Keeper’s Bed and Breakfast.
Our room was one of three with an en suite bath. If you enjoy traveling back in time, this is a place you will not want to miss.
Painstakingly furnished with period antiques, the vintage Queen Ann style keeper’s house is a giant step back to the late 1800’s.
The house is reputed to be haunted, and the setting is perfect for the phenomenon, but alas, we did not see any ghosts.
The view from our room was inspiring. The windows were like a powerful lens through which our expectations of the beauty of the rugged Oregon coastline became a reality.
A stay at the Keeper’s home includes a house tour, lighthouse tour, wine and cheese social, and a gourmet breakfast. All worth the price of admission.
See the lighthouse in daylight and after dark
It’s a brief walk from the keeper’s house to the lighthouse atop the craggy knoll.
There is also a cliff trail that rises above the lighthouse.
The view from that vantage point invites your gaze over the shimmering ocean and the southern aspect of the Siuslaw National Forest and its rocky shoreline.
A flashlight is provided in every guestroom in the inn, along with encouragement to climb the easy trail after dark.
At night the lighthouse is showcased in the dramatic glow of its illuminated Fresnel lens, which tirelessly scans the sea under the gaze of a million stars.
Do not miss breakfast
Original innkeepers Mike and Carol Korgan are both certified executive chefs. They are retired now, but their daughter Michelle, and partner Stephen have upheld the tradition of fine dining at the house.
A seven-course day-opening meal awaits each guest. At this table, delicious food keeps coming until every guest is fully nourished and satisfied.
Accompanied by rousing coffees and teas, the multi-plate tapas style breakfast was a great way to start the day. The experience was further enhanced by the congeniality of our fellow guests.
For those heading to Oregon and ready for an authentic 19th century lighthouse keeper’s experience accompanied by a gourmet-envy seven-course breakfast, we think you will enjoy the Heceta Head Lighthouse B&B. Learn more about it here.
Because this vintage B&Bs has very few guestrooms, be sure to make reservations several weeks in advance to avoid disappointment.
“Get out there, but be prepared.”
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© Travels with Wayne and Judy Bayliff
Photos © Judy Bayliff