The Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by Flickr/Ralph ArvesenThe Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by Flickr/Ralph Arvesen
Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon. Flickr/Eric Prado
Yaquina Head Lighthouse in Oregon. Flickr/Eric Prado

I have to admit — I have a certain fondness for the rugged Oregon coast. Indeed, it’s where I go to relax, enjoy nature, kick back and just plain get away from it all. But can a place that is rugged also be accessible? Surprisingly, it can.

Accessible Travel in Oregon

The crown jewel of Oregon’s coastal accessibility is located in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, just three miles north of Newport. Congress established this 100-acre coastal headland area in 1980. Several years later, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reclaimed the Yaquina Head rock quarry and converted it to a rocky inter-tidal area. Over the years this area, known as Quarry Cove, evolved naturally. Today, Quarry Cove supports a wide variety of marine life.

Be sure to stop at the Yaquina Head Interpretive Center. This gated parking area is reserved for visitors who are disabled, and a ranger must open the gate. The interpretive center has numerous exhibits, which depict the history of the area.

Yaquina Head Lighthouse

A must-see attraction is the Yaquina Head Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse dates back to 1873 and has been called one of the most beautiful lighthouses in America.

The Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by Flickr/Ralph ArvesenThe Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by Flickr/Ralph Arvesen
The Yaquina Head Lighthouse. Photo by Flickr/Ralph Arvesen

As the tallest lighthouse on the Oregon Coast, this white, conical, brick tower is strategically located on narrow point of land, which juts out into the Pacific Ocean. While the lighthouse is only accessible by stairs, you can catch a good view of it from the adjacent asphalt trail. There is also an accessible boardwalk and ocean viewing platform behind the lighthouse, where you can spot seals, puffins, murres, cormorants and (sometimes) whales in the surf.

Oregon Coast Aquarium

For a look at marine life from a different perspective, visit the Oregon Coast Aquarium, located on Yaquina Bay in Newport. This 39-acre site showcases seabirds, marine mammals, fishes, invertebrates and plants native to the Oregon coast. The aquarium features accessible parking and restrooms, level pathways and barrier-free access to all exhibits.

Seahorses at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by Flickr/Mark Brooks
Seahorses at the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Photo by Flickr/Mark Brooks

Exhibits here range from an aviary filled with puffins, to killer sharks in Passages of the Deep. Don’t miss the twice-daily “keeper-talks” which focus on fascinating details about the care and feeding of the resident animals. And, for a look at some truly unique ocean gems, visit the Enchanted Seas rotating exhibit, where you’ll find seahorses, pipefish, cuttlefish or other endangered species. Don’t miss the sea dragons, as they are truly beautiful and a rare find in captivity.

Newport’s Nye Beach area is certainly worth a visit while in the area. It’s a typical, funky beach town with shops and restaurants and tons of ambiance. Parking is located near Third Street and Coast Drive, and there is a ramp down to the sandy beach area. Some of the old shops are not wheelchair accessible, but it’s a nice place to just sit and watch the ocean.

There are a number of accessible lodging options in Newport, including the Beach House Bed & Breakfast, which is located in the heart of Nye Beach. The Coast Street Room is a good choice for slow walkers and part-time wheelchair-users, as it features level access and plenty of room to maneuver. The bathroom has a pedestal sink and a standard shower and toilet. It’s best suited for someone who can walk at least a few steps, and has affordable prices (including a continental breakfast).

One of the yurts at Beverly State Beach Parks. They also have accessible yurts available. Photo by Flickr/Rick Obst
One of the yurts at Beverly State Beach Parks. They also have accessible yurts available. Photo by Flickr/Rick Obst

Accessible Travel: Oregon State Parks

And, if you enjoy the great outdoors, but cringe at the thought of pitching a tent, consider staying in an accessible yurt at one of Oregon’s state parks. These permanent domed structures are furnished with the basics and can sleep up to five people and include plywood floors, framed doors, furniture/beds, electricity and skylights.

You must bring your camping items like bedding, dishes and food – everything but the tent. They offer affordable nightly rates. The two closest accessible yurts to Newport are at Beachside (between Waldport and Yachats) and Beverly Beach (north of Newport). Advance reservations are a must, as the accessible yurts go fast.

So make plans to visit the Oregon Coast soon. The crowds are down, the prices are low, and the weather is relatively mild during the first half of the year. Best of all, it’s very accessible.

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  1. My wife and I planned a trip to this location. she is in a wheelchair and was delighted to think she would be able to experience this. Fortunately before actually traveling there I called and spoke with a ranger about tides, etc., and was told there are no tide pools and that what was a wonderful idea turned into a failed experiment. So if you are disabled and are thinking this will be a great thing to do Don’t do it. It isn’t happening.

  2. Just wondering if you can give me a list of hotels near quarry cove or websites would be even better…you mentioned that one bed & breakfast place that is cheap priced, is it near quarry cove? Im interested in going soon. Since its wheelchair accessible, because Im confined to a wheelchair. And I just LOVE the beach but can never enjoy it as much as my family & friends do. But now I can, thanks to you! Thank u for sharing this site/blog. I been searching online for years for a place where there just HAS to be something more accessible. Now I will be able to enjoy the even more because I have who I have been with the longest.

    Thank u! I cannot say enough.

  3. Nice article, Candy. The Oregon coast is absolutely a great place to visit for folks of all levels of mobility! is a web site dedicated to encouraging enjoyment of the scenic outdoors for folks that are not in wheelchairs yet are not at 100% health. It describes places to enjoy that can be reached in short distances (measured in steps), and provides information necessary to help people determine if the destination is appropriate for their use. Some day it may expand (it is still a young site), but at this point all the destination are on the Oregon Coast. 🙂