A lake, a lighthouse, and expansive ocean views are all minutes apart at Umpqua Lighthouse State Park. The State Park campground has been our home base during several trips to see the Winchester Bay area. A 5-mile radius packs in a plethora of sights. It is more than enough to fill a weekend with sun, sand and plenty of fresh ocean air.
Check out the Oregon Coast Lighthouse Roundup.
Even with the hustle and bustle of kids and a dog or two frolicking in the water, this charming lake cannot help but elicit a great sense of relaxation. Perched on a comfortable bench a bit above the sandy lakeshore, you can enjoy a scene of parents lounging on the grassy slopes to the left and teens sunbathing on the sandy beach below. Fishing, kayaking, and canoeing are all common activities on Lake Marie. The day we visited, a fly fisherman danced his line across the water from his inflatable pontoon boat. If you want to actually get your feet in the sand, it’s only about 50 steps – even less if you use the 4 or 5 stairs (but there are no handrails).
|Terrain:||Direct path to bench is a paved downward incline. The Lake Trail route is a dirt path covered with pine needles which starts off very steep and has irregularities to negotiate.|
|Seating:||Bench with back. There is also a picnic table in the grass between the parking lot and the bench.|
|Fee: Day pass or camping receipt|
|Restrooms:||Up a path that goes through a grassy picnic area. I did not walk it but I’d estimate it’s more than 200 steps from the indicated bench.|
|Directions:||There are two choices to reach the indicated bench. Easiest access is via the main path from the parking area. You can also reach it on a portion of the 1-mile trail encircling Lake Marie. The terrain is more difficult and it increases the step count to 125, but it allows you to get a taste lake trail without tackling it in full.|
Whale Watching Station
Even when it is not the season for whale migration, the view from the Umpqua River Whale Watching Station is worth the stop. My husband and I recently camped nearby, so passed this area several times as we headed into town or to see other sights. Every time, we couldn’t help but slow and pull off, taking in the unique aspects of the expansive scene at various times of day.
Just below the viewpoint, ATVs dart over the sand dunes and around the scrub pines. “The triangle”, oyster beds, and the mouth of the Umpqua River are visible a bit farther out, and the wide open sea – perhaps with migrating mammals! – spreads out to the horizon. An osprey or two might be seen circling overhead, and the Umpqua Lighthouse is at your back. Binoculars are good to have handy, or you can use one of the coin-operated viewers. Several signs at the Station make this an educational venue as well.
|Terrain:||Pavement and decking. All flat unless you decide to use the 3 steps with handrail to access the lower landing.|
|Seating:||One bench with back on upper deck|
|Fee: No fee|
|Directions:||You can see the Whale Watching Station from the indicated parking area. You can park right next to it, or park a bit farther away to get in a few more steps.|
Tucked in amongst Coast Guard housing and surrounded by an imposing chain link fence, up close and during the day the Umpqua Lighthouse is not a contender for the most scenic lighthouse. The nearby seascape far outshines this coastal sentinel. But that all changes at dusk! My husband and I rounded the corner one evening and were awed by the spectacle. Streaks of oscillating white and red light beams sparkled out to sea and illuminated the trees towering to the south. It was oddly reminiscent of a high school prom with a rotating mirror ball overhead…but far more romantic!
The step count listed is merely to leave your car and snap a photo. (Note: The photo shown was taken from Salmon Harbor Drive, not the lighthouse parking area.) Lighthouse tours are available, but our visit was just prior to the season so I can’t report the step count or terrain for the tour.
|Seating:||Bench at the nearby Whale Watching Station.|
|Fee: No fee|
|Directions:||You can see the lighthouse from anywhere in the indicated parking area. You can park directly across the street from it, or a bit farther away to get in a few more steps.|