Lighthouse Park

A lighthouse park, a nice place to get the feel for the era of the beacon tower you're visiting. A great place to spend a day, bring the family, have a picnic. Maybe it's part of an entire trip to the town it's in or nearby. Some really great Lighthouse Parks are around.

Mural at Cape May Point State ParkCape May Point State Park Mural Shows the Lighthouse

U.S. Lighthouse Parks

The United States shoreline measures 95,471 miles - according to the last calculation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. That includes all territories, possessions, including adjacent tidal rivers and Great Lakes.1 Lighthouse Parks under various jurisdictions might be found along any of them! Let's see.

New England

Along the Atlantic Ocean, with some terrific coastal islands, scenic peninsulas, find some enchanting, desirable Lighthouse Parks. Take a look:

MAINE:

  • Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse - On the Southwest side of Mount Desert Island, a very scenic area. Drive Route 102A to get there.
  1. On the National Register of Historic Places, added January 21, 1988
  2. Property of the U.S. Coast Guard
  3. Free parking, but no lighthouse entry
  4. Many surrounding trails, open 9am til sunset daily
Bass Harbor Head LighthouseIn Arcadia National Park
  • Two Lights State Park - Near Portland, there are indeed two lighthouses in the park. One has a working light, the other a private residence. Which one was featured in Edward Hopper's painting: Lighthouse at Two Lights?
  1. Ocean-view picnic tables
  2. Shoreline hiking/walking trails
  3. In Cape Elizabeth: Take Hwy. 77 to Two Lights Rd. onto Tower Dr.
  • Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park - The town of Bristol, operates this tract from Parks & Recreation Dept.
  1. Nicely run. A variety of things to do and see
  2. Download their Free Informative Brochure>

MASSACHUSETTS:

  • Fort Pickering Light - In Winter Island Park in Salem, gateway into Salem Harbor. Friends of Winter Island volunteer preserving the history of the lighthouse and Fort and other island features.
  1. Winter Island Marine Park is open year-round, but cannot enter the lighthouse.
  2. RV campsites available, boat launch, picnic areas, bath house, & a small beach
  3. Adjacent Salem Willows Park has more picnic areas and walking trails
  • Marblehead Light - A different sort, a light station in Chandler Hovey Park, managed by the town of Marblehead, The U.S. Coast Guard owns and manages Marblehead Light, but the light is licensed to Marblehead Rotary Club. Therefore:
  1. The lighthouse park is open to the public year-round.
  2. Marblehead Light is open to the public only by special arrangement.

RHODE ISLAND:

  • Rose Island Lighthouse - This unique spot is a 501c3 foundation.
  1. Tours: guided (summertime) or not
  2. Birding, picnicking, fishing, garden & tide-pool walking
  3. Museum, kayaking, swimming
  4. Overnight stays available in five different historic rooms. Prices from $172 to $190 per night. Further details: (401) 847-4242 or leave detailed message with contact info/email to: reservations@roseisland.org

CONNECTICUT:

  • Sheffield Island Lighthouse - On the National Register of Historic Places. The Norwalk Seaport Association manages the lighthouse and surroundings. With 501c3 status to preserve historic significance.
  1. At Sheffield Island dock (by Stroffolino Bridge, corner Washington & Water St., So. Norwalk) take the Seaport ferry to Sheffield Island, and the lighthouse. Reservations not required but recommended. Round-trip ferry tickets: $28-adults, $16-ages 4-12, $7.00-children ages 3/younger. Weekends: May, June, Sept. Daily: July & Aug. 
  2. Tour the 10-room lighthouse. 
  3. Take the Nature Trail through Stewart B. McKinney Wildlife Refuge.
  • Lighthouse Point Park - Managed by the City of New Haven. Gates open 7am to sunset, season: April through October. The Lighthouse at the Eastern point of New Haven Harbor. This lighthouse park has many activities, especially geared for town residents and families.
  1. Swimming beach with life guard on duty in season - children with adult supervision
  2. Rest rooms/bath-house
  3. New Haven residents: Free Parking (must get pass). Non-resident vehicles: $25/day, $100/season. Out-of-state: $30/day.
  4. Boat Launch/Lighthouse Pavilion Rental

Outer Banks

Where do the Outer Banks start and end? They're the length of barrier islands off the East Coast of the U.S., beginning with Southern Virginia. Some people differ on the actual ending, including differing Capes, extending to Cape Fear at the farthest. But looking at a map could be a deciding factor. For our purposes, Bald Head Island in North Carolina seems like a good Southerly marker. In fact, looking closely at a map, there are outer barrier islands further South into South Carolina, and even into Georgia. But purists have their specific ending for OBX!

VIRGINIA:

  • Cape Henry Lighthouse - Very historic lighthouse, from the 18th century. Located within a military base: Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story. You must take a shuttle to get to the lighthouse, for specific security requirements. Once there, you can climb to the top if you're at least 42" tall.
  1. For all details: Plan Your Trip>

NC CARRITUCK BANKS:

  • Carrituck Beach Lighthouse - The first lighthouse our cousin Richard brought us to, that was really the spark for our lighthouse yearning! Such a nice setting, with a beautiful keepers' home (duplex).
  1. Everyone can climb to the top, children with adults along
  2. 70% of the $10 fee is tax deductible
  3. The lighthouse is adjacent to Corolla Park's historic Whalehead home and the Outer Banks Center for Wildlife Education. 
  4. Beach access in walking distance from the lighthouse.
  • Bodie Island Lighthouse - Lonesome setting for a nice visit. Ensure your lighthouse park experience:
  1. Walk the boardwalk on the north side.
  2. On the South walk down the country road & take some of the National Seashore wilderness trails
  3. Lighthouse open 3rd Fri. of April thru Columbus Day
  4. Climb if 42" tall, weigh <260 lbs., wearing flat shoes, children with others aged 16+, be able to climb 200 steps on own (not be carried)
  5. No running, doubling up on stairway, bringing food/drink (except water)

ROANOKE ISLAND:

  • Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse - Set in the surroundings of the Roanoke Maritime Museum, and George Washington Creef Park, this is a wonderful little Manteo souvenir we took home with us!
  1. Small lighthouse in Roanoke Sound, recreates the 1877 original lighthouse at the southern passage to Croatan Sound.
  2. Completed, then dedicated in September 25, 2004
  3. The lens on loan from the U.S. Coast Guard, dates from the 1800s
  4. Managed by the N.C. Maritime Museum. It exhibits local Manteo displays
  5. Hours in spring, summer & early fall: usually Tue.-Sat. 9am - 5pm

CAPE LOOKOUT:

  • Cape Lookout Lighthouse - Takes some work to reach, so plan a day trip. Worth it!
  1. Within Cape Lookout National Seashore, southernmost lighthouse on the Outer Banks, accessed via boat only: Arrange private, OR take Island Express Ferry Service from Beaufort or Harker’s Island (reservations recommended, especially in summer), generally operates from April through Nov.
  2. Only facilities: restrooms/water fountains, seasonally open for climbing for small entry fee, generally mid-May until Mid-Sept.
  3. To climb: Shoes required, height: 44"+, children with adult supervision
  4. Be prepared with snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent

So. Carolina & Georgia

SOUTH CAROLINA:

  • Hunting Island Lighthouse - Within Hunting Island State Park. Climb 167 steps!
  1. $2 to view from the top.
  2. Hours: 10am to 4:45pm March thru Oct., then til 3:45pm Nov. thru Feb.
  3. Park Admission per person: Adults - $5, SC Seniors - $3.25, Children 6-15: $3/ under 6 - Free
  4. There's lots to do at this lighthouse park: hiking, birding, fishing, swimming (own risk), camping, etc.

GEORGIA:

  • Sapelo Island Lighthouse - On National Register of Historic Places, in Darien by ferry.
  1. Lighthouse park setting includes the Sapelo Island National Estuarine Research Reserve
  2. Visitors tour marine institute, Reynolds Mansion, 1905 lighthouse foundation, oil house, and restored 1820 lighthouse - climbing 77 steps
  3. Hog Hammock is the settlement, about 70 people. Many descended from slaves on Sapelo plantations. The community preserves Gullah culture and language, a mixture of African, European, and American customs and dialects.
  4. To visit, contact Sapelo Island Visitors Center: 912-437-3224 for details.
Sapelo Island Lighthouse Photographed during the era of World War I, with a man  in observation.Historic Photo of Sapelo Lighthouse During World War I Era

Florida

With an Atlantic Ocean shore and the Gulf of Mexico on its Western coast, Florida has 1800 miles of coastal area to protect.2 Not all its lighthouses are open to visitors, but there are unique visits in this signature state.

  • Cape Canaveral Lighthouse - Located on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Restorations are an ongoing project. 
  1. Only the 1st five floors can be climbed. You must have shoes, no flip-flops.
  2. Advance reservations required; tour must be scheduled so pre-approved security clearance and escort is secured
  3. This process takes 2 days for U.S. Citizens & 4 days for foreign visitors
  4. Weekly tours to Canaveral Lighthouse, Historic Spaceflight Launch Complexes and exploration of Spaceflight programs are 3-1/2 hours
  5. For details call 321-307-2900 or email: Contactus@Canaveral.Tours
  • Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse - With a museum, and set in the beautiful surroundings of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area.
  1. Climbing allowed, 105 steps
  2. Must be 48" tall, children <16 adult supervised
  3. Fees: Adult-$12, US Veterans/Seniors (60+)-$10, Children (6-18)-$6.
  4. Free: Children <6, Active US Military & their immediate families with ID
  5. Entry includes Lighthouse Climb, History Museum & park Grounds
  • St. Mark's Lighthouse - On the National Wildlife Refuge of the same name, in Florida's panhandle.
  1. Jurisdiction of US Fish and Wildlife Service
  2. Lighthouse keeper's home open 1st Fri. & Sat. of each month: 10am - 4pm
  3. Lighthouse cannot be climbed
  4. Refuge open daylight hours
  5. Entry: Fee for Refuge, & $2 to enter Keeper's home
  • Tortugas Harbor Lighthouse - Get there by boat, at Fort Jefferson National Monument. We did it, what a great trip!
  1. Mounted atop walls of unfinished Fort Jefferson, worked on for over 30 years beginning in 1846.
  2. No entry fee, but find a ferry or private boat to navigate 70 miles Southwest of Key West to the Dry Tortugas
  3. Restoration is in progress
Tortugas Harbor Lighthouse at Fort JeffersonOn the walls of Fort Jefferson
Dry Tortugas Lighthouse - On Loggerhead KeyThe Other Dry Tortugas Lighthouse - On Loggerhead Key

Gulf of Mexico

Many opportunities for lighthouse parks along this coast have been lost. Destroyed because of terrible storms and past hurricanes. Strong enough to topple lighthouses! Or weather them down, damaging them over time, so they deteriorate and collapse.

Topography changes for some, surrounding them with water. They sink into the sand and silt. That's the story along the Gulf. There is one U.S. lighthouse park to still mention.

TEXAS:

  • Port Isabel Lighthouse - Resides in a State Historic Park. Need more details (tours?), call (956) 943-2262 or email them: info@portisabel-texas.com
  1. 75 steps, with 3 small ladders bring you to the top (must be 38" tall, 4 yrs. minimum): 9am - 5pm
  2. Park encompasses the Port Isabel Lighthouse & Keepers Cottage, Treasures of the Gulf Museum and Port Isabel Historical Museum
  3. At the Keepers Cottage purchase Combo Site Ticket for all: Adults-$9, Seniors (55+)-$7, Students (K-College:ID)-$4, Ages Under 6 Free
  4. Lighthouse Only: Adults-$4, Seniors-$3, Students-$2, Kids Age 4 & 5-Free

Pacific Coast Lighthouses

When considering Pacific Lighthouses in the U.S., don't only think three mainland states, but remember two others! In fact between all five states there's a total of 40,298 miles. But include Alaska's Arctic Ocean, then add another 2521 miles.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:

  • Old Point Loma Lighthouse - At Cabrillo National Monument. Stunning views at this spot West of San Diego Harbor.
  1. Hours: 9am - 5pm
  2. The self-guided tour, includes a foot-path up the hill to the light station
  3. Along the way take in some WWII historic sights
  4. Drive down the hill to the tidepools (our grandsons always loved this!)
  5. To climb to the top, Plan Your Guided Tour
  • Anacapa Island Light Station - In Channel Islands National Park. Some effort to go there, but worth it!
  1. Must arrive by boat via Island Packers [(805) 642-1393] from Oxnard or Ventura, then climb over 150 steps just to reach the viewing area.
  2. But not too closely - since the fog horn's so loud it'll damage your ear-drums!
  3. Arrange your trip to East Anacapa Island for any summer day, arriving at East End Landing Cove. No Entrance Fee to the Park.
  4. But no services on the island (including water). Overnight camping is allowed. You must pack everything in & out again.

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA:

  • Point San Luis Lighthouse - In Avila Beach, overlooks San Luis Bay.
  1. Uniquely designed keeper's Victorian home. Volunteers are 501c3 organized for maintenance and historical promotion. 
  2. Operated as a historic site with PG&E & the Port San Luis Harbor Commission help
  3. To visit, tour arrangements needed: the Lighthouse is on Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant property. For security, roadway & hiking trail closed to the public. Fre parking at Wild Cherry Canyon, where a van picks you up to access the 1-3/4 hour tour.
  4. Contact them: SanLuisLighthouse@gmail.com or (805) 540-5771
  • Point Pinos Lighthouse - Oldest, still operating West Coast lighthouse.
  1. Open Mon., Thurs., Fri.: 1-4pm & Sat./Sun.: 10am - 4pm. (Except closed Christmas, Thanksgiving, News Years Day)
  2. Adults: $5, Ages 7-17: $2, 6/under: Free
  3. Contact: info@pointpinoslighthouse.org
Point Pinos LighthousePoint Pinos Lighthouse in Pacific Grove

NORTHERN CALIFORNIA:

  • Point Cabrillo Light Station - State historic lighthouse park in Mendocino
  1. This wonderful place can fill an entire vacation, with the historic 1909 Light Station's 30.5 acres, plus 270 acres of wild coastal bluffs and grassland.
  2. Lighthouse Lantern Room and Fresnel Lens Tours are scheduled scattered days throughout the year, approximately once a month.
  3. Tours run 10am to 4pm.
  4. There's a half mile walk to the lighthouse
  5. Tickets: $5. Children must be 42" tall
  6. Besides the lighthouse, there are 3 restored Lightkeeper homes, a restored Blacksmith & Carpentry Shop, 3 other restored vintage buildings. Some of these units are converted overnight rental stays!
  • Battery Point Lighthouse - Situated on a tidal island! In Crescent City.
  1. A 1964 tsunami stranded the keepers while flood waters battered the town
  2. Visits & tours occur according to low tide, within 10am - 4pm
  3. For exact details it's best to call: (707) 464-3922

OREGON:

  • Cape Meares Lighthouse - At the State Scenic Viewpoint, 10 miles west of Tillamook
  1. It's all on Three Arch Rocks National Wildlife Refuge, open all year, 7am to dusk
  2. The lighthouse is free entry with a gift shop. Seasonal opening hours: May through Sept.
  3. Attractions in this setting include nature trails, and the distinctive Octopus Tree
  1. Overlooks the entrance to Winchester Bay. Stay at the park year-round with campsite, or rental yurts & cabins.
  2. Day use, dunes area & fresh-water lake.
  3. Lighthouse tours via County Parks & Rec - Info (541) 271-4631
  • Coquille River Lighthouse - Find it in Bullards Beach State Park, 2 miles north of Bandon
  1. The Lighthouse was built in 1896, decommissioned in 1939, then abandoned for 24 years prior to the creation of this lighthouse park.
  2. The lighthouse is open from mid-May through September, hours are daily: 11 am - 5pm
  3. Although restored, the tower is off limits, ruled unsafe, but the fog/signal room is open to visit
  4. Cabins/yurts available, plus campsites, including RV with hookups. Many outdoor activities: fishing, hiking/bicycle trails, boating, birding, beach access, ranger programs
  5. Call the park: 541-347-2209

WASHINGTON:

  • North Head Lighthouse - In Cape Disappointment State Park, overlooking the area where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean
  1. Open May through Sept., 11am - 3pm. Fee for those 18+: $2.50
  2. Minimum age 7 years to climb
  3. Set foot on the spot where Lewis & Clark first viewed the Pacific
  • Grays Harbor Lighthouse - In Westport, the state's tallest, architect Carl Leick's proudest accomplishment.
  1. June thru Aug. open 11am-5pm. Sept.-Nov. 24 & Feb. thru May: open Thurs. to Mon., Noon - 4pm. Closed Dec. & Jan.
  2. 40” tall & 5 years old Minimum - Entry: $5, Active & Retired Military - $4, Active & Retired Coast Guard - Free
  3. Adjacent is Westport Light State Park with 560-acre day-use activities, 1,215 ft. of Pacific & Half Moon Bay shoreline beaches.

HAWAII

  • Barber's Point Lighthouse - In Barber's Point Beach Park, on Oahu near Kapolei
  1. Seen for historic value, built in 1933, replacing 1888's original. As the lantern room is gone.
  2. Showers & restrooms. Not recommended for swimming. Rocky beach, little sand, with strong currents & no lifeguards.
  3. Nice grassy area for picnicking, ball-play.
  • Kilauea Lighthouse - Fabulous spot: Kilauea Wildlife Refuge. Lighthouse park in a tropical paradise!
  1. North Shore of Kauai, the Garden Isle. Open Tues. thru Sat., 10am to 4pm, closed federal holidays.
  2. Refuge Entry: $10, Ages 15 & under- free. 
  3. Lighthouse Point Entry Fee: $5 ages 16 & older. Under 16 - free.
  4. Enter 200 yard walkway leading to Daniel K. Inouye Kīlauea Point Lighthouse. More info: (808) 828-1413
Kiauea Point Lighthouse on Kauai in a vintage photo.
A scenic view of Kilauea Point Lighthouse on the North shore of Kauai in Kilauea Wildlife RefugeNational Park Service public domain Photo of Kilauea Lighthouse in Hawaii

ALASKA:

  • Cape Decision Lighthouse - Takes effort to go! Not many in Alaska are an easy reach. They're a 501c3 that's worth checking out!
  1. Their plan is to "maintain the Light Station... for experiential education, backcountry recreation, scientific research and the arts."4
  2. Location: Southeast part of Alaska, at southern end of Kuiu Island
  3. Get there by volunteering for summer work debris clean-up trip, or arranging a group visit. Contact them: (253) 678-5303 or ​capedecisionlight@gmail.com
Map of Southeastern Alaska locating the area of Cape Decision LighthouseCape Decision Lighthouse Location

More Lighthouse Park Visits

We've researched around, sometimes visited lighthouse parks throughout the United States. Since that's the country we live in, it's easier. But we're working on many other lighthouse parks to visit, with trips to lighthouses around the world. So stay tuned. We'll get there!



References

1 NOAA (10/05/17). How long is the U.S. shoreline? National Ocean Service website. Retrieved from oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/shorelength.html

2 Susan (2020) Visiting Florida lighthouses. Travel Guideline. Retrieved from travelguideline.net/visiting-florida-lighthouses.html#Sanibel_Island

3 Coastline of the United States (6 Apr. 2017). Infoplease. © 2000-2017 Sandbox Networks, Inc., publishing as Infoplease. Retrieved from infoplease.com/world/united-states-geography/coastline-united-states

4 Cape Decision Lighthouse Society (Founded in 1977). Mission. Grass-roots 501(c)3 Alaskan corporation, 923  Capital Ave, Juneau, AK, 99801. Retrieved from capedecisionlight.org/missionvision.html