Tillamook, Cape Meares Lighthouse, and Manzanita Beach

February 2000

On an overcast but not particularly rainy Saturday in February, I took a drive out to the Oregon coast, stopping to see Tillamook, the Cape Meares Lighthouse, and Manzanita.


Tillamook was first settled in 1851, at the head of Tillamook Bay.  The name comes from the local Salish tribe and means “land of many waters”.  The Morning Star was launched in 1855, and the post office opened in 1866.

Rich grasslands and mild climate made the area ideal for dairy farming, and the butter produced in Tillamook was reknown.  However, transporting it was an uncertain challenge.  In 1894, a Canadian named Peter McIntosh introduced cheesemaking to the Tillamook dairymen.  Today, Tillamook cheese is sold around the world, with their american cheddar being particularly famous.  At the visitor center, you can take yourself on a free self-guided tour showing the process of making cheese.  The Morning Star is displayed outside.

Cape Meares Lighthouse

Cape Meares is named after a former British naval officer who was the first white explorer to sail into Tillamook Bay.  The Cape Meares Lighthouse was commissioned in 1890, and is constructed of site-formed bricks covered with iron plates.  The first-order Fresnel lens (the largest of six original sizes) was made in Paris, shipped around Cape Horn, and then hauled over 200 feet up the cliff.  The original light source was a five-wick oil lamp, replaced in 1910 by an oil vapor light, and in 1934 with electric.  The lighthouse was decomissioned in 1963 and fell into disrepair until restored in the early 1990’s as part of the Cape Meares Lighthouse and Wildlife Refuge.


Manzanita (named after a local shrub that bears fruit shaped like miniature apples) is a small town overlooking a seven-mile-long beach, about halfway between Cannon Beach and Tillamook.  It is a popular weekend destination for Portlanders, with a number of cottage and townhouse rentals available.  The first resort on the beach was established in 1912, but the town was not incorporated until 1946.