7 Lighthouses in the Northeast Worth a Drive

nauset lighthouse

Lighthouses remain crucial to maritime navigation, but they also draw visitors from far and wide. 

Throughout the Northeast, you’ll find plenty of lighthouses worthy of a visit. You can even climb to the top of some to take in panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

A lighthouse-themed road trip could be a fun way to explore and learn more about a place. They also make for great pitstops on your way to other destinations. Here are seven can’t-miss lighthouses in the Northeast.

Barnegat Lighthouse, N.J.
(Photo courtesy of AAA Northeast member Janis Lee)

Barnegat Lighthouse

Barnegat, N.J.

Located in Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, the Barnegat Lighthouse was constructed in 1859 on the northern tip of Long Beach Island to help maritime pilots avoid the shoals and shifting sandbars along the shoreline. Each year from Memorial Day through Labor Day, visitors can climb the 217 steps to take in the scenic views from the top of the lighthouse. At the Interpretive Center visitors can check out the lighthouse’s history and learn about the changing nature of the coastline surrounding the lighthouse. Other activities in the park include a maritime forest trail for hiking, fishing, bird watching and picnicking. 

Beavertail Lighthouse

Jamestown, R.I.

Located on the southernmost tip of Jamestown overlooking Narragansett Bay, the Beavertail Lighthouse stands at 64 feet high. Constructed in 1856, the current structure is the third to stand at the site, which was home to the third lighthouse in the colonies. While the lighthouse museum is open seasonally from May through October, the lighthouse is open for climbing on specific dates, so check the online calendar to see if dates match up with your visit. If they do, you can climb the 49-step spiral staircase and 7-foot ladder to reach the observation catwalk. At the top, you will be rewarded with gorgeous 360-degree views.

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The Lighthouse Museum

Stonington, Conn.

Constructed in 1840, this lighthouse stands sentry at the entrance to the harbor of Stonington. Featuring stonework, ornamental cornices and granite lintels above the doorways and windows, the lighthouse looks a bit different than many lighthouses. Visitors who can climb the 29 circular steps and ladder to reach the top will enjoy views of Long Island Sound as well as three states. Open seasonally from May through December, the site includes the lighthouse and museum, which holds artifacts not only about Stonington’s maritime and agricultural history, but also artifacts predating the lighthouse that document the city’s earliest history.

Montauk Point Lighthouse, Montauk, N.Y.
(Photo courtesy of AAA Northeast member Joseph Kelly)

Montauk Point Lighthouse

Montauk, N.Y.

The first lighthouse in New York State, Montauk Point Lighthouse was built in 1796 overlooking the Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean. Following an addition in 1860, the lighthouse now stands more than 110 feet tall, with 137 iron steps to the top. Today, visitors can tour the lighthouse museum to learn more about the lighthouse and the role it played in American maritime history, climb to the top for panoramic views and shop at the gift shop. The lighthouse is also home to special events throughout the year, so check the online calendar to see what’s happening when you plan to visit.

Nauset Light

Eastham, Mass.

(Pictured at top of story)

Since 1838, maritime pilots have relied on the light shining from the coast of Eastham to help them find their way around the coastline of Cape Cod. The latest lighthouse structure in Eastham, Nauset Light was constructed in 1877 using cast iron and brick lining. Painted red and white, it features two rotating aero beacons to provide guidance. Today, visitors can take a free tour of the lighthouse to learn its history, climb the 48-foot-high tower and visit the lookout room. You’ll find a calendar on the lighthouse’s website with tour dates and times so you can plan your visit.

Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse

Oswego, N.Y.

Overlooking Oswego Harbor, the Oswego West Pierhead Lighthouse was built in 1934, replacing the existing lights. Today, visitors can reach the lighthouse by boat for a tour, which are offered by the H. Lee White Maritime Museum each year between June and September. Before or after your tour, take time to explore the museum to learn about the area’s maritime history and see the original fourth order Fresnel Lens that used to provide light in the lighthouse before its replacement with an automated lantern.

Rose Island Lighthouse

Newport, R.I.

Constructed in 1869, the Rose Island Lighthouse lit up for the first time on Jan. 20, 1870, over Narragansett Bay. It operated until 1970, when it was decommissioned by the U.S. Coast Guard. In 1985, the lighthouse was deeded to the City of Newport, and, through the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, was restored and returned to private operation in 1993. Today, visitors can take the Jamestown Newport Ferry to the island from May through October to tour the lighthouse and the Fort Hamilton barracks. For an extended stay, you can even book overnight island accommodations each year from April 1 through Oct. 31. 

What’s your favorite lighthouse in the Northeast? Tell us in the comments.

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28 Thoughts on “7 Lighthouses in the Northeast Worth a Drive

  1. Don’t forget the little red lighthouse under the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan!

  2. Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester, Ma You can walk the nearby breakwater which is an adventure.

  3. No article on lighthouses should overlook one of the most famous lighthouses: Boston Light. Two others in the area are Minot’s Ledge Light (a/k/a Lover’s Light for its 1-4-3 beacon) and Grave’s Light.

  4. There is a lighthouse in Absecon/Atlantic City, NJ. At 171 feet it is the tallest lighthouse in the state of New Jersey and the third-tallest masonry lighthouse in the United States.

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