18 U.S. Lighthouses That Are Worth a Road Trip
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 or from the ground. Here are 18 lighthouses to check out on a beautiful summer road trip, be it along the coasts, in the South, or around the Great Lakes.
Off the coast of San Diego, Old Point Loma Lighthouse will delight all who visit. The restored lighthouse is a short hike up a hill where the views of the ocean are spectacular, especially at sunset. The tall, winding staircase is a hefty climb to the top and open to the public only twice a year. A seven-day pass to enter the Cabrillo National Monument, which includes the lighthouse, is $10 per vehicle.
Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, on a remote island in Dry Tortugas National Park, dates to 1858. It's so secluded that would-be visitors must make arrangements in advance through the National Park Service. The conical tower stands more than 150 feet tall and the kitchen in the quarters below is used by park service volunteers. Access to the park is by boat or seaplane only.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse is completely surrounded by water and sits 12 miles east of Savannah. The original lighthouse was destroyed by a hurricane in 1854 and the existing structure was finished the following year. Due to ongoing preservation efforts, the lighthouse island and the lighthouse itself are closed to the public. Though it's been beaten up by hurricanes, the lighthouse retains its historic beauty and can be seen from land at the end of a short trail that starts at Fort Pulaski National Monument.
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 are offered daily, if staffing permits.
Hawaii's Diamond Head Lighthouse stands on the southern cliffs of Oahu near Waikiki Beach. 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 United States Coast Guard.
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; a bus operates on summer Saturdays. There are daily tours, and a climb up the tower is accompanied by a request for a $5 donation ($2 for children up to age 11) that goes toward restoration. Entrance to the park is $9 a day for a vehicle pass.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, part of a "state scenic viewpoint," is still sending its beam 21 miles out over the ocean. Tours are offered daily, and the assistant lightkeeper's house operates as a bed and breakfast. Pay the $5 parking fee and explore the tide pools and frolic on the small beach after the free tour.
Take a quick ferry ride to the charming red brick Block Island Lighthouse atop Mohegan Bluffs on the island's south shore. The short structure is attached to the keeper's cottage, which serves as a museum. Weekend lighthouse tours are offered when staffing is available; the fee is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors.
North Head Lighthouse may be located in Cape Disappointment State Park, but the site is anything but disappointing. The structure is currently undergoing renovations, so tours are not available, but 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 is a neighbor of the Bodie Island Light Station at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Also black-and-white striped like a candy cane, it's the tallest brick lighthouse in the world. Climb the 257-step staircase for a 360-degree visual of the sea and the shore. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for seniors and children 12 and up.