The Best Places To See Lighthouses In The US

Everyone loves a good lighthouse, not only are they a great viewpoint, should you have the luck to go up and meet the lighthouse keeper, but they are also an amazing architectural feature of any maritime shore.

Best Places To See A Lighthouse In The US

In the US, most lighthouses are publicly owned and are maintained by the Coast Guard themselves, as they serve a really important function, at least the ones that are still functional, of directing and warding boats to shore.

There are actually near 700 lighthouses spread across the US, with many of them being active. Although, those that are active, are mainly automated these days, while there are a few lighthouse keepers for specific reasons.

Many of these lighthouses are available for viewing, whether you want to go inside and climb their spiral staircase, or you simply want to view from the shore.

In this article we will cover some of our favorite lighthouses, both those that are historic, interesting, as well as beautiful.

Keep reading to learn more about lighthouses in the US.

1. Boston Light, Little Brewster Island, MA

This is an interesting lighthouse to start with as the original lighthouse, that stood where Boston Light now does, was the first lighthouse to be erected on the shores of what is now the US.

The island actually sits on Little Brewster Island in outer Boston Harbour.

This first lighthouse was erected in 1716 and predates the founding of the US itself. The original lighthouse was damaged in the conflicts of the American Civil War

The man who kept the original lighthouse was George Worthylake, the first lighthouse keeper in the US, although before it was officially founded.

He and his family actually drowned when returning to the island from the mainland, making him not only the first lighthouse keeper but the first to die on duty.

Even Benjamin Franklin memorialized him in a ballad named ‘The Lighthouse Tragedy’.

The current lighthouse dates from 1783 and is the 2nd oldest working lighthouse in the US. While automated in 1998, a law was passed in 1989 that meant it had to be manned manually by a keeper as well.

These days, mainly due to the waning importance of the lighthouse, with most large vessels going through Boston Harbor’s North Channel, the keepers mainly act as tour guides.

The lighthouse is available to tour and is accessible from a ferry from Columbia Point, or private boat.

2. Sandy Hook Lighthouse, NJ

This is the number one oldest lighthouse in the US, oldest working one that is, having been built before the Boston Light was rebuilt as well as outlasting it.

It was built to help boats navigate into New York Harbour, and as it was funded by New York Assembly it was originally called New York Lighthouse.

It actually survived an attempt to destroy it from the Brits in the Civil War but was occupied by the former for a period of the Revolutionary War.

The lighthouse was ratified to the New Jersey state as the Federal states were declared in the constitution and a letter from George Washington to the Senate in 1790 officially passed its ownership to Sandy Hook and it was known as the Sandy Hook Lighthouse instead, although still servicing the New York Harbor.

The lighthouse isn;t used as a lighthouse that often anymore due to how the geography of the shore has changed over time, particularly due to littoral shift – it is now almost one and a half miles inland from the tip it originally occupied.

These days it is served by National Park Ranger who provide tours every half hour from 1pm – 430pm

3. Heceta Head Light, Florence, Oregon

This lighthouse is mainly of interest for its scenic location, as well as the fact it is well restored. Located in Heceta Head, a state park near Florence on the coast of Oregon.

It has the strongest light on the Oregon Coast that can shine for 21 nautical miles, with the original lighthouse built in 1894 and restored to around 56 feet.

The assistant lighthouse keeper’s house is actually a bed and breakfast and now, where you can actually stay, a perfect place to settle to view the state park in its glory, only around 2 miles from the frequented Sea Lion Caves.

For how secluded and ‘in the sticks’ the lighthouse is, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 for its architectural and engineering interest, its original construction relying on most building materials being shipped or transported all the way from Florence. But was restored to its former glory in 2011

The lighthouse is automated these days, like many, and the keeper’s house was sold for $10 in 1940 and demolished for its lumber. There are many tours coupled with the bed and breakfast.

If you get a chance to visit the lighthouse it is worth going to Mapleton to see the Alpha Bit bookstore that was built using the lumber from the keeper’s house.

4. Big Bay Point Light Station, Michigan

If you want to experience what it would be like to wake up as a lighthouse keeper, there’s no better place than Big Bay Point, the only lighthouse with a bed and breakfast in the same building.operational lighthouse.

It was originally erected due to its position midway between Granite Island and Huron Islands, as the two lights were invisible to each other when the fog rolled in.

It’s partly of interest due to its interesting status as haunted. The original lighthouse keeper’s son died of a leg injury in 1901.

The lighthouse keeper himself vanished the same year, but his body was found fresh a year and a half later hanging from a tree. The red haired family is rumored to appear in the mirrors, with similar haunted activities in the night.

5. Split Rock Lighthouse, Silver Bay, Minnesota

The SIlver Bay Lighthouse is not the oldest lighthouse by any means, but it is considered to be one of the most picturesque.

If you simply want to visit a lighthouse that has views for days, this is the one to visit, near Silver Bay in Minnesota.

It was originally built in response to the amount of ships lost at sea during the famed Mataafa Storm of 1905 where 29 ships were lost near Lake Superior.

When it was originally built it had no roads or routes to it at all, but the level of success garnered by its scenic views led to a road to be built to allow access to it.

While it was electrified in 1940, it was soon retired in 1969. Yet, the fact it is such a scenic location and building it has remained around mainly due to the level of tourism it receives, having been maintained and restored since its retirement.

6. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Buxton, North Carolina

At 198 feet, this is the tallest lighthouse in the US, and 2nd in the world, and is also regarded as one of the best to see mainly for its black and white striped design.

It is located in the Outer Banks, a group of barrier islands off North Carolina. Yet, the amount of ships that ran aground in this area earned it the nickname ‘Graveyard of the Atlantic’ as a result and led to the construction of this lighthouse itself.

The previously described area now doesn’t really exist due to rising sea levels making the lighthouse rather redundant, while the structure is so fascinating it was left to the National park Service as a historical building although still technically active.

As the shore keeps eroding, it is slowly being moved further back. The people who managed to move the structure actually earned an Engineering Achievement Award and is still known to be the tallest masonry structure ever moved.

Final Thoughts

While these are our favorite lighthouses, there are many to visit in the US, with equally interesting stories. From historical, to haunted, to just straight up beautiful visiting lighthouses is a really great day out for the family or any budding photographer.

As many lighthouses are now automated this leaves a lot of room for tours and the like, that can help the buildings earn money for their restoration so these magnificent structures can stay around for longer and continue to make jobs in their local areas.

Alex Kallen
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