The Lighthouses of Washington Part 1
Updated: Apr 12, 2018
My son and I try to take a lighthouse journey at least once per year. This year, we chose to head out over spring break and explore the lighthouses of Washington State. To do this, we are starting our journey in Portland, Oregon so that we can be comprehensive and catch the lighthouses in the south of the State of Washington.
This approach also allows us to visit a lighthouse that we missed on an earlier trip; Warrior Rock Lighthouse at Warrior Point, Oregon. In 2016, we made an attempt to hike to the lighthouse but we were interrupted by the Columbia River, which broke its banks and flooded the island as we were hiking it. One minute, we were walking on a dry trail and the next, we were trying to make our way through a foot or more of water. Eventually we turned around and agreed that we would try to make the journey again in, sometime in the future. Finally, we are going to make another run at it…but I will get to that part of our trip a bit later.
For now, we chose to land in Portland and rent a car and drive! Our journey should take us over 900 miles and across the entire state of Washington.
Day 1: Portland
We started our day at 5am. Both my son and I wanted to get a early start and I arranged for us to fly from SFO on Alaska at 8:15am. At it turned out, there was a great deal of first class airfare and for a grand total of $50 more, we were able to both upgrade. It was well worth it.
Alaska First Class is really comfortable.
We decided that since this was going to be such a long driving trip that we would splurge for a “sweet ride” and chose to rent a Volvo XC-90. A car whose drive we loved but whose navigation we developed a strong hatred for. After we picked up the SUV, we made our way to the Embassy Suites in downtown Portland.
This is a great old hotel in the heart of the downtown area. It is within walking distance of most of the city sights and restaurants.
One of the most striking features about the hotel is the Lobby. Walking in through the grand entrance, you can almost see the patrons of old standing in their turn of the century attire and ordering drinks.
Our first stop was lunch. We chose the E-San Thai Cuisine restaurant. Amazing meal!
After lunch we went back to the hotel and grabbed an Uber and headed out to the Pittock Mansion. The Pittock Mansion was built in 1912 and became the center of the Portland social scene for several decades.
This home is uniquely situated on the highest point above the city. Incredible views.
The house has an amazing wood paneled library.
Incredible oval rooms provide this feeling of opulence and scale in the home.
We then made our way to the Portland Japanese Gardens via another Uber.
The grounds are picture perfect with beautiful waterfalls...
And picture perfect views in every direction.
Powells City of Books was our next stop. An entire city block books on several floors. We found a whole section of the bookstore dedicated to lighthouse books and another focused on military books. $250 later, we were having a huge package sent back to our house. Lots of fun reading when we get home! This is a stop I would recommend to anyone visiting Portland. The day of bookstores is coming to a fast end and this is one of the largest bookstores left in the country.
We then went back to our hotel and made reservations for diner at Mother's Bistro and Bar.
Day 2: Portland & Warrior Rock Lighthouse
We started our day with a walking tour or Portland. We did not have very high expectations of the tour but found ourselves enjoying it.
Here are some of the highlights.
We started by visiting the theater district of Portland. This is a part of the city which heralds back to the 1920s with some art deco theaters along side some more recent modern buildings.
We also found ourselves enjoying the enormous amount of street art that the City of Portland has invested in.
There was also a strong tie to nature in much of the architecture. You could see great trees throughout the downtown walk standing along side their most important buildings such as the original federal courthouse.
We even visited the worlds smallest park which legend (and the reporters of the local newspaper say was planted by leprechauns).
The latter half of the day was spent traveling to Warrior Rock Lighthouse. The backstory with this lighthouse is that my son and I tried to make the long hike across the island it sits on when the Colombia River broke its banks and we were cut off. We ended up struggling to make it back to our car after having given up on reaching the lighthouse.
This year, we were determined to make it all the way to the light. We drove from the city to the Cracker Barrel Market on Sauvie Island. There, we purchased a parking permit for the island ($10 dollars) and then started down Reeder Road. The parking area for the lighthouse is at the far end of Reeder Road…about 20 miles. Then, there is the hike to the lighthouse…another 5 miles out and 5 miles back.
After parking the car, we started our long hike to the lighthouse. This turned out to be a great opportunity to talk about lighthouses, school, friends and travel with my son. After about 90 minutes, we made it across the island and to the lighthouse.
The lighthouse is not particularly remarkable. It is essentially a large pedestal with a light on the top.
Not far away, there are the ruins of the light keepers house. All that remains today is the brick chimney.
We then started our long hike back to the car (5 miles away).
This probably sounds arduous but the truth is, it was a lot of fun and it gave the two of us the opportunity to catch up. We also had a tremendous sense of satisfaction having beat the trail and reached the light after the defeat we suffered trying to reach it a year earlier.
It was a great way to kick off our lighthouse journey.
Day 3: Astoria & The Washington Pacific Coast
Excited to continue our journey, we woke up early and drove to Astoria, Oregon. It was a relaxing drive knowing that we did not have to visit Warrior Rock Lighthouse. Looking back on how we planned things, we both agreed that we were better off having done the hike the day before.
After about 2 hours, we arrived in Astoria. We decided to drive up to the Astoria Column. It has a large 130-foot pedestal that can be climbed within the inside and at the top; it opens to a large balcony that presents a view of the entire area. The only problem was that it was raining and foggy, which did not give us much of a view. However, we were left with the satisfaction of having climbed the Astoria Column!
Our next stop was the Columbia River Maritime Museum, located on the waterfront of Astoria. While we had already visited this attraction, we thought it would be a relaxing place to see again while we waited for a restaurant (Buoy Beer Company) to open at 11am.
Our favorite highlights were:
The relocated lantern and lens of Barbers Point Lighthouse in Hawaii.
My son’s second attempt to be a weatherman on TV.
The lens of North Head Lighthouse.
The Columbia Lightship.
From there, we ate at the Buoy Beer Company.
After lunch, we left for Grays Harbor. This was about a 2 hour drive through a very rural part of Washington state.
Grays Harbor Lighthouse, our first stop, towered over the landscape of the region. You can see it long before you arrive.
As we pulled in front of the lighthouse, we noticed that the lighthouse was open. This came as a pleasant surprise, even though we had arranged to meet someone who runs the lighthouse anyway to give us a tour. After spending some time in the gift shop, we toured the tower. As we climbed the 135 steps, our tour guide graciously provided us with a history of the lighthouse.
The stairs going up the lighthouse were made of iron and were almost ornamental. One of the most interesting parts of the stairs was the bottom stair pillar, which was designed to look like a lighthouse.
The view at the top was one of the best views we have on the trip.
From there, we drove about 10 minutes to the Westport Maritime Museum, where we took in a beautiful first order lens from Destruction Island Lighthouse (more on that later).
Enjoyed the lens, the many sea charts and photos of the Destruction Island.
As we drove another two hours to our hotel, we felt proud of what we had just achieved, and thankful for the kind people who helped us along the way.
Although we were already driving through remote areas, it was interesting as we watched the houses and abandoned gas stations disappear. Soon, we were driving through forests, finally entering Olympic National Park.
Because we had had such a successful, well-timed day, we had the opportunity to view Destruction Island lighthouse, located a few miles offshore. The best viewing point is one turnoff to the north of the Kalaloch Lodge.
After, we drove a few minutes to the Kalaloch Lodge where we stayed in an ocean view cabin. A great tip if you stay at the Kalaloch Lodge…make dinner reservations, as there is nothing else to eat nearby. What a great way to wrap up the day!
Day 4: From Cape Flattery to Fort Worden
This day was planned as an aggressive day for us. We woke up at 6am and were on the road by 6:30 to make our first stop.
As we drove to our first main destination, Cape Flattery, we decided to take a quick detour over to Slip Point Lighthouse. This is located in the town of Clallam Bay, on the way to Cape Flattery.
There is no lighthouse; it was torn down many decades ago. However you can still view the original keepers house.
After driving about 30 minutes to the town of Neah Bay, where we acquired a pass to park near our hike to the lighthouse. We came to the trailhead and hiked down a hill through beautiful forests to lookout points over looking Tatoosh Island, where the lighthouse is located.
The view was incredible, and we could even see a lighthouse across the Strait of Juan de Fuca on Vancouver Island.
One of the interesting features of the walk was the raised boardwalk that covered much of the trail.
We then took two long, narrow, windy mountain roads to Port Angeles, where we stopped to look at a lighthouse called Ediz Hook that was moved from its original location into the main town.
As you can see, the people who moved the lighthouse removed the tower and lantern room, leaving a small cottage behind.
After about 30 minutes of driving, we arrived at John Wayne Marina to pick up our boat to New Dungeness Lighthouse. This lighthouse is located at the tip of a spit 5 miles long, and because of time constraints, we did not have time to hike to the lighthouse and back.
After arriving at the lighthouse, we were greeted by volunteers, who kindly gave us a lovely tour of the lighthouse and keepers house.
We returned to the harbor by boat and continued our journey to Fort Worden in Port Townsend.
At Fort Worden, we saw Point Wilson Lighthouse. The lighthouse is being transitioned to the National Lighthouse Society and is still partially operated by the Coast Guard.
Afterwards, we went to our residence at Fort Worden. We made a decision to rent an apartment on the base…a great decision. There are herds of deer running through the grass outside of our unit.
Another great day!
Day 5: From Marrowstone Point to Seattle
After a good night sleep at Fort Worden, we ate breakfast and drove to our first lighthouse. The lighthouse, located at Marrowstone Point, is on another fort called Fort Flagger. Along with Fort Casey (see day 8), the three forts defended the port of Seattle.
As we were driving to Marrowstone Point, we passed a faux lighthouse, which looked interesting (we had heard of it before). It was built to look like Mukilteo Lighthouse.
As you can see, there are actually two lighthouses, as one replaced the other.
The small keepers house is located behind.
We then returned to the fort/hotel to grab our things, and then drove about an hour to see Skunk Bay and Point No Point Lighthouses.
Skunk Bay lighthouse was not built by the United States Government, but was built for Jim Gibbs, a former lighthouse keeper at the time of construction. The lantern originates from Smith Island Lighthouse, located many miles north off the coast of Whidbey Island.
Just a few minutes away is Point No Point lighthouse, the headquarters of the United States Lighthouse Society. On our way, we passed a home that was built the bridge section of a ship.
We pulled over to take a picture.
At Point No Point, we had arranged to meet someone, who took the time to kindly give us a tour of the Lighthouse and allowed us into the gift shop.
As a flagship lighthouse for the US Lighthouse Society, the lighthouse was in immaculate condition.
The keepers house was also extremely well maintained and doubled as the headquarters building for The Society.
After driving for about two hours south, we reached Gig Harbor lighthouse, visible from across the harbor. It is not historic, as it was constructed in 1988.
We drove a little longer until we had reached the ferry that took us onto Vashon Island, where our next lighthouse awaited us.
About twenty minutes after reaching Vashon Island, we arrived at Point Robinson lighthouse.
There we were yet again great by someone who gave us a tour of the lighthouse.
One rare feature of this tour is that we were able to stand on the balcony, giving us a beautiful view of the Puget Sound Region.
Finally, we took the ferry back to the mainland (after a long wait at the terminal) and drove to our hotel in downtown Seattle.