While not all are in operation today, the coasts of North America are home to some of the most incredible lighthouses in existence. A beacon of safety for sailors all over the world, few recognize the important role lighthouses have played in the development of ocean travel over the years.
Some of the most popular and visited lighthouses rest on the east coast, specifically in the New England Area, but there are dozens of magnificent lighthouses up and down both the east and west coasts. Each deserves credit for being available to those in need of a lighted path. Here are some of our favorites.
5. Heceta Head Lighthouse
On the shores of Yachats, Oregon you’ll find Haceta Head Lighthouse standing proudly within Haceta Head State Park. The Heceta Head Lighthouse was built around 1894 and stands a full 205 feet above sea level. Its light, considered the absolute brightest along the Oregon coast, can be seen by ships over 20 miles out to sea.
Because of the lighthouse’s unique cliff-side location, it is a hot location for photographers from all over the world. The Keeper’s House has been restored over the years and how houses an interpretive center with guided tours of the grounds and lighthouse. Tours are offered regularly during the summer months and by appointment throughout the rest of the year.
The Keeper’s House is also used as a bed and breakfast, with a maximum capacity of 14 guests at a time. The antique furniture, seven-course breakfast, and relaxing fireplace parlors are perfect for creating a romantic atmosphere, whether you’re just looking to get away or want to celebrate a special occasion.
4. Cape Lookout Lighthouse
The Cape Lookout Lighthouse on Cape Lookout National Seashore in North Carolina is an icon with historic significance. The area is home to 5 lighthouses spaced within the confines of 40 miles. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse wouldn’t exist today if the one that had been built before it, on the exact same spot, hadn’t been a complete failure due to a low tower and a number of other defects.
The lighthouse has been in existence for over 150 years and, surprisingly, has withstood not only the test of time but a series of strong hurricanes. The most severe damage to this lighthouse occurred during the Civil War, after which it was repaired. The towers of Cape Lookout Lighthouse have a diamond pattern, with black diamonds facing north and south towards shallow waters and the white diamonds pointing to deeper bay waters.
3. Boston Light
On Little Brewster Island in Massachusetts you’ll find Boston Light. Built in 1783, the lighthouse is the second-oldest working lighthouse left in the country. Even though the Graves Light has since overshadowed the Boston Light, it is still used by the Coast Guard and they watch for it’s light, visible up to 16 miles in the distance, to flash every 10 seconds.
The Boston Light stands proudly at 89 feet tall and still has an official lighthouse keeper. It is, however, closed to the public. If you’d like to visit the lighthouse you have to make special arrangements before you visit the island.
2. Portland Head Light
Portland Head Light, located in Cape Elizabeth, is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. The lighthouse itself is over 200 years old and was originally constructed during the Civil War to aid in the prevention of ship raids.
There are only four lighthouses in the United States that haven’t been rebuilt completely and the Portland Head Light is one of them. The lighthouse is surrounded by the beautiful Fort Williams park area and is only five miles away from Portland, making it easily accessible to visitors who wish to stop by and marvel at the incredible structure.
1. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Right off of Highway 1 in Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park you’ll find one of California’s most popular lighthouses. In 1853 a ship known as the “Carrier Pigeon” crashed not far from Half Moon Bay, after which the area was renamed to Pigeon Point.
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is kept in operation by the US Coast Guard, but is closed to the public due to structural concerns. Visitors can tour the grounds and view the lighthouse from the outside and travelers are welcome to stay in what was once the keeper’s house, now converted to a hostel.
Each November the lighthouse staff chooses one night in which they keep all 24 spectacular beams turned on for a full five minutes. This special opportunity gives photographers a chance to capture the lighthouse in its full glory!
No matter where you plan to travel this year, make sure you add a stop at a lighthouse to your itinerary. If you’re traveling up and down either coast you’ll likely find yourself near at least one or two, and the experience is well worth the extra time to stop!