Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina
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18 Spectacular Lighthouses Across America

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Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina
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Lighting the Way

Lighthouses are historic and charming, and many remain active to this day. Lighthouse enthusiasts travel the country to view and climb them, but even the uninitiated will thrill to the breathtaking panoramas from on high (and sometimes from the ground). Here are 18 lighthouses beckoning, be they along the East and West coasts, in the South, or around the Great Lakes.

Related: America's Most Iconic Buildings and Monuments

Old Point Loma Lighthouse, California
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Old Point Loma Lighthouse

San Diego, California
Off the coast of San Diego, Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a delightful restored lighthouse just a short hike up a hill with spectacular views of the ocean, especially at sunset. The tall, winding staircase is a hefty climb, and open to the public only for special occasions. A single-vehicle pass to enter the Cabrillo National Monument, which includes the lighthouse, is $20.

Greens Ledge Lighthouse, CT
Greens Ledge Lighthouse, CT by Mark (CC BY-NC-ND)

Greens Ledge Lighthouse

Long Island Sound, Connecticut
The historic Greens Ledge Lighthouse sits about a mile off the coast of Norwalk, near Sheffield Island, where it served the Coast Guard in the early and mid-1900s. A local company, The Maritime Aquarium, offers boat tours of the site, affording ample opportunity for photos of the rocky reef where the lighthouse sits.

Related: 30 Boat Tours That Take You Back in Time

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, Florida
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Cockspur Island Lighthouse, Georgia
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Cockspur Island Lighthouse

Near Savannah, Georgia
Cockspur Island Lighthouse, and its island 12 miles east of Savannah, are closed to the public for ongoing preservation efforts. The original lighthouse was destroyed by a hurricane in 1854, and the existing structure, finished the following year, has been beaten up by hurricanes. It can be seen – surrounded by water completely at high tide and retaining its historic beauty – from the end of a short trail that starts at Fort Pulaski National Monument.

Pigeon Point Light Station, California
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Pigeon Point Light Station

Pescadero, California
Pigeon Point Light Station sits in a state historic park named for the lighthouse, among the tallest in the United States. The park is open until sunset, which is the time to check out this historic beauty on a cliff along the coast south of the Bay Area. The structure is closed to the public, but half-hour history tours around its grounds are offered daily, if staffing permits.

Related: The Best State Park in Every State

Diamond Head Lighthouse, Hawaii
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Diamond Head Lighthouse

Waikiki Beach, Hawaii
Diamond Head Lighthouse stands on the southern cliffs of Oahu. The site was developed in the 1870s to monitor incoming vessels, and the lighthouse was added in 1899. The all-white structure has a rounded red roof, which stands out against the verdant shores and aquamarine waters of the Pacific Ocean. It is still in use by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Related: The 50 Most Beautiful Views in the World

Nubble Light, Maine
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Nubble Light

York, Maine
Maine is famous for jagged coastlines and historic lighthouses, and one of the most picturesque is Nubble Light, situated about 300 feet from Cape Neddick Point. The structure is off-limits to the public, but Sohier Park is a fine spot for a view of the lighthouse and for watching the waves crash onto shore.

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, Florida
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Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse

Ponce Inlet, Florida
The red Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is the state's tallest and a National Historic Landmark. A steep climb to the top provides beautiful views of the ocean and surrounding land, not to mention a nice breeze. Access to the lighthouse and museum, which provides a comprehensive history of the site, costs $7 for adults and $2 for children ages 3 to 11. A mandatory mask and social distancing policy is currently in effect.

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse by 1sock (CC BY-NC-ND)

Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse

Anne Arundel County, Maryland 
Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse is one of 10 designated a National Historic Landmark. Unlike the typical lighthouse, this one is hexagonal, relatively squat, and elevated above the water. It's maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and still guides ships in the area. Normally open for public tours during the summer, it's currently closed due to COVID-19.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse, Michigan
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Big Sable Point Lighthouse

Ludington, Michigan 
Big Sable Point Lighthouse in Ludington State Park on the shores of Lake Michigan is a classic lighthouse. The tall black and white structure is reached after a 1.8-mile hike from the parking lot. While most of the lighthouse is closed for the 2020 season, there is no cost to view the main floor of its keeper's quarters or visit the gift shop. 

Portland Head Light, Maine
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Portland Head Light

Cape Elizabeth, Maine 
Portland Head Light sits on the shore of Fort Williams Park and opened for business in 1791. Today there's a museum in the keeper's quarters, and the setting provides photo opportunities worthy of a postcard. Only groups in commercial vehicles are charged for entrance to the grounds.

Related: 20 Things You Never Knew About New England

Split Rock Lighthouse, Minnesota
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Split Rock Lighthouse

Silver Bay, Minnesota 
Situated on Lake Superior, Split Rock Lighthouse is another National Historic Landmark. It sits on a cliff that towers 130 feet above the lake, and a climb to the top — when open — affords a magnificent view of the jagged shoreline and deep blue waters. Although the lighthouse and its keeper's quarters are closed this summer, access to the grounds is $8 for adults and children 5 to 17.

Biloxi Lighthouse, Mississippi
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Biloxi Lighthouse

Biloxi, Mississippi 
The cast-iron Biloxi Lighthouse sustained serious damage after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 but was restored and reopened to the public in 2010. The lighthouse is a treat to visit by day or admire from a distance in the evening. Situated near a pier, it provides a scenic backdrop for fishing or taking a stroll. Lighthouse tours cost $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 12 and under.

Bodie Island Light Station, North Carolina
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Bodie Island Light Station

Nags Head, North Carolina 
Bodie Island Light Station on the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore is one of three lighthouses in the park. The black-and-white-striped lighthouse still helps ships navigate through the "Graveyard of the Atlantic." Self-guided climbs up the equivalent of 10 stories have been put on hold for summer 2020.

Related: 30 Incredible Photos of Ancient Ruins Across North America

Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon
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Heceta Head Lighthouse

Florence, Oregon 
Heceta Head Lighthouse, part of a "state scenic viewpoint," is still sending its beam 21 miles out over the ocean. Lighthouse tours are closed this summer, but the grounds remain open, and the assistant lightkeeper's house operates as a bed and breakfast. Visitors can also explore the nearby tide pools and frolic on the small beach.

Block Island Southeast Lighthouse, Rhode Island
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North Head Lighthouse, Washington
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North Head Lighthouse

Ilwaco, Washington 
North Head Lighthouse may be in Cape Disappointment State Park, but the site is anything but disappointing. The structure underwent renovations around 2018 and, while tours are currently suspended due to COVID-19, visitors go for the park and the view from the spot where the Columbia River meets the Pacific Ocean. Even better, two keeper's quarters are available for overnight rentals. A day pass to the state park costs $10 per vehicle.

Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina
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Cape Hatteras Light Station

Buxton, North Carolina
Cape Hatteras Light Station is a neighbor of the Bodie Island Light Station at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It's the tallest brick lighthouse in the world, with 257 steps to the tower. While lighthouse climbs will remain closed this season, the stark black-and-white striped tower perched on a right red base is still something to behold from the outside. 

Related: 33 Historic National Park Photos for Vintage Views