Privately owned since 1932, the wildlife preserve Sea Lion Caves is a part of the Cape Perpetua Marine Reserve. Made up of basalt rock, the grotto has the height of a 12-story building (125-foot) and the floor size of a football field (two acres).
The world's largest caves are located 10 miles north of Florence and 14 miles south of Yachats on Highway US-101. The cave is accessible by a steep path from the visitor center and the elevator. On the way to the elevator, you'll enjoy a fantastic panorama of the ocean, the picturesque Heceta Head Lighthouse, and views of sea lions swimming in the surf, lives of seabirds, and sights of annually migrating whales in the winter season. The elevator will bring you to the grotto which is a natural seasonal home to Steller (Northern) sea lions. Roaring, fighting, swimming, or just lounging on the rocks, sea lions can be viewed behind a wire fence in the huge grotto.
The grotto's walls are covered with lichens, algae, and minerals that stain the surfaces green, pink, purple, and red.
The colony of animals uses this cave as a shelter from winter weather. They move to rock ledges outside of the cave in spring and summer. So, if you want to find sea lions in the grotto, the best times for visiting are the late fall and winter months.
When inside the grotto, you'll find the skeleton and bones of ancient sea lions. Interpretive displays and a short video about the cave and its animals are available. Flash photography is not allowed in the grotto.
Sea Lion Caves Inhabitants
Steller Sea Lions or Northern Sea Lions
Caves are the natural seasonal home to Steller (Northern) sea lions, the only known mainland habitat for hundreds of those animals.
Steller or Northern Sea Lions are the largest species of the eared seal family. Mature males can weigh up to 2,400 pounds (over 1,000 kilograms). They are about 10 feet (3 meters) long. Females are 700 pounds (317 kilograms) and 7-8 feet (2-2.4 meters) in length. They are yellowish-brown with dark brown flippers and have a deep loud roar. Sea lions have visible ear flaps and can turn their hind flippers under the body which allows them to walk.
The sea lions are extremely polygamous and may mate with 15-30 females during the breeding season. The most powerful males (bulls) fight and hold the best territories. The Steller sea lions are summer breeders; females typically give birth to a single pup each year and may nurse them for up to three years.
California Sea Lions & Harbor Seals
The cave and sea cliff rocks just outside the cave are the hauling area for a few California sea lions and harbor seals.
The high vault of the cavern is a resting area for seabirds. Three types of gulls (western, herring, and California gulls) can be seen near the caves. You may also see cormorants, pigeon guillemot, grouse, tufted puffins, quail, and much more.
Sea Lion Caves | General Description
Identified by Guinness Book of World Records as America's largest sea cave
Region: Central Oregon Coast • USA
Open: 363 days a year (except Thanksgiving & Christmas) from 9 am to 4 pm
Service: Parking (including RV & Trailers), gift shop, interpretive displays, video.
Day-use fees: Yes
Opened to the public: 1932
Grotto Height: 125 ft (38 m)
Grotto Acreage: 2 acres (0.81 ha)
Directions to Sea Lion Caves
From Florence, drive 10 miles north via Highway 101.
From Yachats, follow about 15 miles south along Highway 101.