Visitors to Cape Meares on the Oregon coast needn’t choose between history, wildlife and scenery; they can easily admire all three.
The chief historic attraction is the Cape Meares Light, located on state park lands surrounded by the Cape Meares National Wildlife Refuge. Commissioned on Jan. 1, 1890, the light -- at the tip of the cape’s main headland -- offers panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. In spring, visitors can see nesting peregrine falcons and common murres on coastal rocks and headlands. Winter brings sightings of gray whales, scoters, western grebes and common loons.
Through Oct. 31 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. daily, clients can enter the base of the lighthouse tower, a quarter-mile down from the refuge parking lot. Admission is free. Both levels of the lighthouse were closed to the public in early 2010 after vandalism damaged the historic Fresnel lens, but the lower level -- containing a gift shop -- has reopened.
Back up the hill at the Cape Meares State Scenic Viewpoint and Refuge Overlook, visitors can view Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge to the south and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge to the north, on a clear day. This makes it the only viewpoint in the country where three National Wildlife Refuges can be seen at once.
Elsewhere on the refuge, huge sitka spruce and western hemlock, some of them hundreds of years old and more than 200 feet tall, provide habitat for a federally threatened bird species, the marbled murrelets, as well as nesting bald eagles. The popular Oregon Coast Trail runs through the center of the refuge.
The refuge hiking trail and the scenic viewpoint are open year-round from sunrise to sunset.