America’s Most Beautiful Lighthouses You Can Visit

See the light!

They come in everything from candy-striped to red brick, but they're always as pretty as a picture as they dot the coastline. And, what's more, they mean serious business, standing strong and burning bright to guide mariners to safe waters. It's a fascinating combination that makes lighthouses perennially popular with tourists. Here, we round-up the loveliest of the lot. ”

Bodie Island Light Station, North Carolina

Built in 1872, this stripy wonder stands at 156 feet (47.5m) tall and is one of only a few dozen remaining tall brick tower lighthouses in the US. It's also one of the only examples that has its original Fresnel lens still operating. A renovation in 2018 ensured that the spiraling 214-step stairway to the top is climbable by the public. You can find it on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the lighthouse is open for self-guided climbs from April to October.

Point Bonita Lighthouse, California

The Point Bonita Lighthouse was built in 1855 to guide shipping in the San Francisco Bay Area. At the time, it was the third lighthouse built on the West Coast and helped shepherd ships through the treacherous Golden Gate straits. Perched precariously on the rocks, the lighthouse is still active and is maintained by the US Coast Guard. It’s open to visitors on Sunday and Monday from 12.30pm to 3.30pm with access via a hearty half-mile hike across the point’s stunning landscape.

Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, Oregon

Built in 1871, soon after the founding of the city of Newport, this wooden 51-foot (15.5m) lighthouse sits atop a bluff at the mouth of the Yaquina River and is believed to be the oldest structure in the city. Decommissioned in 1874, it was restored as a privately maintained beacon in 1996. Tour times are announced daily and allocated on a first-come, first-served basis at the site’s interpretive center, which opens at 10am.

Gay Head Lighthouse, Massachusetts

You’ll find this dinky tower in Aquinnah on Martha’s Vineyard, where a lighthouse has been warding off trouble since 1796 – although the current 52-foot (15.8m) brick building dates from 1842. Her long history has been preserved and celebrated by the Martha's Vineyard community, who have ensured the lighthouse's survival. It’s been open to the public since 1986 and this year is open until October from 10am to 4pm and for sunset viewings on Thursdays and Fridays from 6pm to 8pm.

West Quoddy Head Light, Maine

Be the first to welcome the day at West Quoddy Head Light, which is on the most eastern point of the continental United States. The original tower was built in 1808, and the current 49-foot (15m) tall tower was added in 1858. You can climb the 50-step circular iron staircase to the top during the summer months, with guided tours typically taking place on Saturdays.

Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia

You get two for one at Virginia Beach. The ‘old’ Cape Henry Lighthouse, opened in 1792, was the first federally funded public works by the then brand new US Government. It's near the ‘First Landing’ site where English settlers arrived. The old tower is open year-round to climb or take a guided tour, and there are also more extensive tours taking in the whole history of the area. The black-and-white ‘new’ lighthouse was built in 1881 and is closed to the public.

Biloxi Lighthouse, Mississippi

Built in 1848, Biloxi was one of the first cast-iron lighthouses in the south. Standing at 64 feet (19.5m), the lighthouse was in service until 1939. The tower has been battered by – and survived – many storms, including Hurricane Katrina, and has become a symbol of resilience. It’s open to the public and can be visited daily for self-guided or group tours.

Block Island Southeast Light, Rhode Island

First lit in 1874, the Block Island Southeast Light replaced a previous building that fell victim to Mother Nature and is one of the most sophisticated lighthouses built during the 19th century. Located at the southeastern corner of Block Island, the red-brick building has a 52-foot (15.8m) tall and 25-foot (7.6m) wide tower, featuring Victorian and Gothic Revival influences. Although it was taken out of service in 1990, you can climb the cast-iron spiral staircase on a tour when the site opens for the summer.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station, Florida

This beautiful 175-foot (53m) tall tower 10 miles south of Daytona Beach is the tallest lighthouse in Florida and the second tallest masonry lighthouse in the country. Built in the 1880s, it’s also one of the best-preserved light stations in the US and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1998. Visitors can climb the 203 steps to the top for views over the Ponce Inlet. The lighthouse is open to visitors year-round.

Currituck Beach Lighthouse, North Carolina

Built in 1873, this red-brick tower looks out over the northern Outer Banks in Corolla village. The lighthouse has a powerful lens, the light from which can be seen for 18 miles and is still in service. Visitors can climb its 220 steps from March to December and take in several exhibits about the lighthouse as they go, before enjoying the dazzling views of Currituck Sound, the Atlantic Ocean and the Currituck Outer Banks from the top. .

Cape Neddick Lighthouse, Maine

Built in 1879 on a tiny off-shore island, or 'nubble', in York, this Victorian charmer – lovingly knowns as Nubble Light and Cape Neck to locals – is still in use today. Although you can't get on the island, it is very close to shore and visitors have long flocked to Sohier Park to gaze across the channel at the perfectly composed scene. The park is a lovely spot with a lighthouse gift shop and is open from April to October, weather permitting. .

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, California

Perched on a cliff along California's beautiful Highway 1, 50 miles south of San Francisco, the 115-foot (35m) New England-style lighthouse is one of America’s tallest. Although it's still operational you, sadly, can’t go in the lighthouse building itself due to structural concerns. However, restoration is underway and the surrounding buildings are operated as a hostel. Facilities are basic but the dramatic setting and oceanview hot tub are anything but. .

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Michigan

This 112-foot (34m) tower was built in 1867 on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. It was the first lighthouse in the area, and is now open from May to November. Visitors can take on the 130 steps to the watchtower room and see the spectacular views of both Ludington State Park and Lake Michigan. The Keepers Association has recreated the station as it appeared in 1948 and, during the summer months, volunteers live in the second story of the original keepers' quarters and provide tours. .

New London Ledge Light, Connecticut

This quirky three-story, 11-room brick house sits in the Thames River at the mouth of New London harbor on its own man-made island. Its unique appearance is due to the fact that two wealthy local homeowners wanted the lighthouse to look like their own splendid houses. Completed in 1909, it's still in use. Tour times vary but can be checked here and include beautiful twilight trips too. .

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