One of the most iconic landmarks along the Oregon Coast is the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse. Given the nickname “Terrible Tilly,” the lighthouse was once the most expensive West Coast lighthouse ever built but was fraught with poor and unpredictable weather conditions and a dangerous commute for lighthouse builders and keepers. Today, visitors can view the lighthouse from Ecola State Park. Find out everything you need to know about this great attractions!
The Tillamook Rock Lighthouse is just the beginning! Discover even more fantastic Oregon Coast attractions when you access our free Vacation Guide. We’ve listed the best parks, beaches, fishing spots, and more along the Oregon Coast. You’ll also find our picks for the top restaurants, wineries, and cafes in the region. Planning your trip is easy when you use our free Vacation Guide!
The Story of Tillamook Rock Lighthouse
In 1878, the government decided that ships sailing around Tillamook Head needed a lighthouse to guide their journey. Since there was no suitable place to build a lighthouse on the headland, they decided to utilize Tillamook Rock, which is 1.2 miles off the coast. Stonemason John Trewavas set off to survey the island in 1879. When he attempted to land on the rock, however, his body was swept out to sea. This was the first of many deaths that would occur at Tillamook Rock Lighthouse.
A team of quarrymen built the lighthouse in 575 days, using a rig line between their ship and the Tillamook Rock to transport tools. Less than three weeks before the lighthouse opened, a ship called the Lupatia sailed too close to the shore in thick fog. The boat went under, and the bodies of all 16 crew members washed up on the rock the next morning. Finally, the Light was lit on January 21, 1881.
Groups of men kept the Tillamook Rock Lighthouse shining for 77 years. But the isolation, constant storms, and blaring foghorns took a toll on the mental and physical conditions of the keepers. The men even reported hearing low, bone-chilling groans on the stairwell that led up to the lantern. The haunted light was decommissioned in 1957 and was replaced by a red whistle buoy.
Tillamook Lighthouse fell into the hands of Mimi Morissette and Cathy Riley in 1980. They gutted and converted the structure into the Eternity at Sea Columbarium, a storage house for urns full of cremated human remains. The post-mortem museum collected 30 urns before the Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board took away its license in 1999.
Today, Terrible Tilly is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a common nesting spot for seabirds. Its ghostly structure is visible from the beaches and headlands of Ecola State Park. Head to Indian Beach to get a great view of this dramatic lighthouse! You might be able to see some of the local wildlife, like sea lions relaxing on the shore or whales breeching in the distance.
Experience the Oregon Coast with Starfish Vacation Rentals
After you visit Tillamook Rock Lighthouse, return to a gorgeous home from Starfish Vacation Rentals! We have a wonderful selection of properties in Cannon Beach, near Ecola State Park. Consider booking Pacific House, a three-bedroom, two-bathroom property that’s perfect for families who don’t want to sacrifice comfort or privacy during their vacation. Relax in front of the fireplace or cook a meal at the BBQ.
Take a look at our full inventory of homes and book today! We look forward to having you.