Ilwaco Lighthouses & Etc., WA

Just south of Long Beach, WA is the small town of Ilwaco, home to Cape Disappointment State Park. This area is also known as the Graveyard of the Pacific because about 2,000 ships have sunk in this area since 1792. The Coast Guard station there trains mariners for dealing with rough seas. Other attractions around Ilwaco include the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center, North Head Lighthouse, Cape Disappointment Lighthouse, Waikiki Beach, and Dead Man’s Cove.

Cape Disappointment is an extremely dangerous place for ships but exceedingly beautiful place for scenery. This high cliffs and turbulent waters make for fine viewing and photos. The two lighthouses are perched atop cliffs that offer stellar views of the coastline. North Head Lighthouse is only a couple of minutes walk from the parking lot.

North Head Lighthouse, WA
North Head Lighthouse, WA

When you park at North Head Lighthouse there is a broad, paved trail that leads to the lighthouse. When we visited in 2020 I noticed that the lighthouse had some very nice restoration work done and she was looking very nice. There is a new viewing area to the side of the lighthouse where you can get some good photos (this was taken from there).

Coastline from North Head Lighthouse
Coastline from North Head Lighthouse

If you look south from the viewing are you get a nice view of the coastline. From this location you can see the WA coast, the jetty at Waikiki Beach, the mouth of the mighty (and dangerous) Columbia River, and the Oregon coast in the distance.

North Head Lightkeeper's Trail
North Head Lightkeeper’s Trail

Rather than take the normal trail at the North Head Lighthouse parking lot I opt for the Lightkeeper’s Trail. From the parking lot walk to the left through the outbuildings. You will see a very small path that leads to the lighthouse. You can get some really nice photos from this path and most tourists are not aware of this trail. You get lots of different views on this trail but this is one of my favorites.

The Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center is just a short drive from North Head Lighthouse. The interpretive center is worth visiting but there are lots of things to see around the center. You can visit the remains of the Fort Canby, see some incredible views of the coastline, and take a trail to Cape Disappointment Lighthouse and Dead Man’s Cove. It is about a half mile walk to the lighthouse which includes a bit of an incline. Once you get to the lighthouse you are treated to some stunning views of coastline including the jetty, Columbia River, and Oregon coastline.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

If you drive down to Waikiki Beach you can walk the jetty at the mouth of the Columbia and you can get a view of the lighthouse from below.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment Lighthouse

Other sights in the Ilwaco area include Fort Columbia which is only a few miles south, and the Astoria area just past the 4+ mile Astoria Bridge that connects Washington to Oregon. The Long Beach, Ilwaco, and Astoria area offers a bit of everything: hiking, photos, bird watching, shopping, historic places, architecture, etc. If you visit this area be prepared to take some time and enjoy what this area has to offer.