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13 Must-Visit Lighthouses Around the U.S.

| Updated Feb 24, 2020

Our nation's beautiful lighthouses along the east and west coasts, as well as the Great Lakes — all great destinations for our RV Lifestyle Fellow Travelers. 

It can be hard, however, to decide where to go. 

As an idea starter, I put together a list of the “13 Must-Visit Lighthouses Around the U.S” below, with the help of the National Trust for Historic Preservation

Cape Flattery Lighthouse – Tatoosh Island, Washington

You can catch a glimpse of the Cape Flattery Lighthouse — one of our National Treasures  —from the end of an isolated trail at the most northwesterly point of the lower 48 states, where the Makah people have lived for millennia. The lighthouse, first constructed in 1857 by the U.S. Lighthouse Service, is situated just three-quarters of a mile from the edge of Cape Flattery on remote Tatoosh Island in Washington State.

New Dungeness Light Station – New Dungeness, Washington

Punctuating the end of a five-mile ribbon of sand and driftwood at the entrance to Puget Sound, New Dungeness has served as an essential beacon for sea captains traversing the Strait of Juan de Fuca in Washington State for more than 150 years. This historic lighthouse is maintained by volunteers, who stay for about a week at a time.

Heceta Head Lighthouse – Florence, Oregon

A two-year restoration project brought this landmark lighthouse back to the way it looked when the light at the top of the 56-foot-tower was first lit in 1894 in Lane County, Oregon. And it remains just as impressive at its perch 205 feet above the ocean.

Point Reyes Lighthouse – Inverness, California

To help mariners navigate the tricky Point Reyes Headlands, the U.S. Lighthouse Service built this lighthouse in 1870 in Inverness, California. At sundown, the lightkeeper would light the oil lamp inside the first-order Fresnal lens, which would then be rotated by a brass clockwork mechanism, sending a beam of more than 1,000 prisms out to the sea.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse – Pescadero, California

At 115 feet tall, Pigeon Point Lighthouse, now a part of Pigeon Point Light Station State Historic Park in California, is one of the tallest lighthouses in the United States. Although the tower has been closed since 2001, its 2,000-pound Fresnel lens is still on display on-site at the fog signal building, and visitors can take guided history tours around the lighthouse grounds from Thursday through Monday.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station – Ponce Inlet, Florida

At 175 feet tall, Ponce de Leon Inlet Light Station is Florida’s tallest lighthouse. It was completed in 1887, and when the kerosene lamp in the first-order fixed Fresnel lens was lit, it could be seen nearly 20 miles offshore. Once a month, during the full moon, the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse Preservation Association hosts special evening tours of the site.

Bodie Island Light Station – Nags Head, North Carolina

Visitors to Bodie Island Light Station in Nags Head, North Carolina, can now climb all 214 spiraling steps to the top of the 156-foot-tall lighthouse. The reward is stunning views of Pamlico Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Don’t miss the original lightkeeper’s home, which is now a ranger station and visitor center.

Cape Henry Lighthouse – Virginia Beach, Virginia

The Cape Henry Lighthouse, ca. 1792, silently guards the entryway into the Chesapeake Bay. Standing near the “First Landing” site of the Jamestown, Virginia settlers where in 1607, Captain Newport raised a cross to offer thanks for their safe crossing of the Atlantic, the Lighthouse has stood sentinel since it was completed in 1792.

Gay Head Lighthouse – Aquinnah, Massachusetts

Gay Head Lighthouse in Aquinnah, Massachusetts was the first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard and one of the first in the U.S. to receive a first-order Fresnel lens in 1856. Standing atop the National Natural Landmark Gay Head Cliffs, the lighthouse serves as a beacon to Wampanoag tribal heritage and is the only lighthouse with a history of Native American Lighthouse keepers.

Rose Island Lighthouse – Newport, Rhode Island

On an 18.5-acre island off the coast of Rhode Island, a mile into Narragansett Bay there sits the Rose Island Lighthouse. The wood-framed structure was built in 1869 and for a hundred years, its keepers battled extreme weather and isolated island conditions. Today, the lighthouse is reachable only by boat. You can stay there overnight or take the Jamestown Newport Ferry out to Rose Island for the day to tour the lighthouse and museum.

Boston Light – Boston, Massachusetts

A candlelit pillar that guided tempest-tossed mariners to safety, Colonial America’s first lighthouse was so far ahead of its time that nearly 50 years passed before another was constructed in the United States. Three centuries later, the blinking eye of Boston Light—the only remaining U.S. Coast Guard beacon with a resident keeper—still shepherds sailors through the city’s island-studded harbor.

Nantucket Lightship/LV-112 – Boston, Massachusetts

Essentially a floating lighthouse, Nantucket Lightship/LV-112—one of our National Treasures—guided countless vessels through the dangerous, often fogbound waters off the Massachusetts coast. Constructed in 1936 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989, Nantucket Lightship/LV-112 was called the “Statue of Liberty of the Sea,” as it was the first and last U.S. landmark seen by ships traveling to and from Europe.

Little Sable Point Lighthouse – Mears, Michigan

This 107-foot tower seems to pop right out of the sand dunes that surround it. It's just 130 steps to the top – a great  climb for spectacular views of the surrounding forests and dunes on the Lake Michigan shore. Its sister tower, Big Sable, isn't far away. If you want to make a full day of lighthouse visits, the two Sables, Ludington North Breakwater Lighthouse, and White River Lighthouse, which are all within 60 miles of each other. 


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Mike Wendland

Published on 2020-02-24

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

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