18 Spectacular Lighthouses Across America

Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina


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Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina

Lighting the Way

Lighthouses are historic and charming, and many remain active. 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 lighthouses beckoning you, 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

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: Boat Tours That Take You Back in Time

Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, Florida
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Loggerhead Key Lighthouse

Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida
Loggerhead Key Lighthouse, on a remote island in the national park, dates to 1858. It's so secluded that would-be visitors must make arrangements in advance through the National Park Service, and masks are required. The conical tower stands more than 150 feet tall; the kitchen in the quarters below is used by park service volunteers. Access to the park is by boat or seaplane only.

Related: Stunning Photos of Every National Park in America

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 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, 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. 

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. Reopened for public tours during the summer, visitors must sign a wellness form and liability waver beforehand

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 standard admission is $8 for adults and $5 for students under 17, 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, on the shore of Fort Williams Park, 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: 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. Access to the grounds is $8 per person, while general admission is $12 for adults and $8 for ages 5-17.

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." Climbing the equivalent of 10 stories requires tickets: $10 for adults and $5 for children 11 and younger.

Related: 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, 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
Martin Szczepaniak/shutterstock
Cape Hatteras Light Station, North Carolina

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 due to an interior paint removal project, the stark black-and-white striped tower perched on a right red base is still something to behold from the outside. 

Related: Historic National Park Photos for Vintage Views