From Nova Scotia, all the way to Florida, the eastern seaboard of North America is home to some of the most important port cities on the continent. As such, they needed to make sure the ships crossing the Atlantic would make it to the harbor, so they constructed lighthouses to make the way safer.
But they didn’t just build lighthouses, they also took the time to make them beautiful. There are the best lighthouses on the East Coast with details on how to visit each one!
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The Best East Coast Lighthouses
Here are the best lighthouses on the East Coast of the US and Canada.
The Best Canadian East Coast Lighthouses
Nova Scotia is synonymous with lighthouses, but it’s not the only place on the east coast of Canada where you can see gorgeous lighthouses! Here are the best East Coast lighthouses in Canada!
Cape Spear Lighthouse (Newfoundland)
Pointe-au-Père Lighthouse (Quebec)
Visit a small Marconi museum in Pointe-a-la-Renommee or take a cruise to see the Haut-fond Prince Lighthouse standing stoically in the middle of the St. Lawrence River. If you seek a unique experience you can stay overnight in Maisons du Phare de l’Île Verte B&B. These lighthouses have given new life to museums, inns, and cafes and provide visitors with new opportunities to discover history, architecture and learn about marine life in the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Known as the most traveled lighthouse in the world (because it’s been moved locations a couple of times), Pointe-à-la-Renommée Lighthouse was one of the most pictures lighthouses on the Lighthouse Trail. You can take a guided tour ($10/person) focusing on architecture and history, including the presence of North America’s first maritime radio station, installed by Marconi in 1904.
Cape Forchu Lighthouse (Nova Scotia)
Peggys Point Lighthouse (Nova Scotia)
Peggys Point Lighthouse is an iconic lighthouse and one of Canada’s most famous tourist spots. It is located in Peggy’s Cove along Canadians east coast in Nova Scotia and is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada, and maybe even the world. It is easily reachable by car or bus tour by driving for one hour from the capital city of Nova Scotia, Halifax.
What’s great about visiting Peggy’s Point Lighthouse is that it’s not the only thing to see in the area. The lighthouse is surrounded by an idyllic fishing village and the scenery is stunning. There is no cost of entry to explore Peggy’s Cove and the surrounding area so you can explore freely and with no limits.
While here you can take photos of the lighthouse, climb and walk on the rocks surrounding it, explore the nearby fishing village, and sit seaside admire the coastal beauty. A quick tip: try to arrive early in the day because it gets quite busy as the day goes on.
Contributed by Samantha Karen from Sam Sees the World
Covehead Lighthouse (Prince Edward Island)
The Best New England Lighthouses
New England is famous for charming historic towns, lobster rolls, and beautiful seascapes. Here are the best East Coast lighthouses in New England!
Cape Neddick Lighthouse (Maine)
Cape Neddick Light Station is located in Cape Neddick, York, Maine. Its history dates to 1879, when it was dedicated by the U.S. Lighthouse Service. Commonly called “Nubble Light”, the lighthouse sits atop a rocky two and a half-acre island. It is separated from the mainland by a 100 feet wide channel.
It is one of the most popular lighthouses in New England to photograph. Crowds of visitors gather before sunset, as many photographers set up their tripods to capture images across the channel in Sohier Park.
Cape Neddick Lighthouse is owned by the town of York, Maine. The tower and grounds are closed to visitors, but the view across the channel is spectacular. To reach the lighthouse from Alt US-1 (Long Beach Ave.) in York Beach, head east on Nubble Road to Sohier Park.
Maine is famous for its delicious lobster shacks and houses. Swing into Fox’s Lobster House and enjoy a delicious meal with a view of Cape Neddick Lighthouse. Or visit a great restaurant in York like Lobster Cove, Union Grill, or 1637 at York Harbor Inn.
I have fantastic memories taking photos at Cape Neddick Lighthouse that span decades – from visiting as a child with my parents to returning as an adult. Just 70 miles north of Boston, you can easily visit on a day trip from there.
Contributed by Alex Kallimanis of Wanderlust Marriage
Portland Head Light (Maine)
Located in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, Portland Head Light is the main attraction in the beautiful Fort Williams Park. The unique quartzite rock formations out front make the views of this beautiful lighthouse that much more stunning.
The lighthouse was originally one of two and was built in 1791, making it the oldest lighthouse in Maine. You might think that it looks familiar, and that’s because it was featured in an Edward Hopper painting that is now on display at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. The lighthouse is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
While here you can explore the park, visit the lightkeeper’s house that now serves as the museum, and even spend some time at the beach!
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse (Maine)
Lighthouses can be a popular attraction for many and, arguably, no place does lighthouse better in the US than the east coast. You’d be hard-pressed to visit anywhere on the east coast without having a lighthouse nearby, but if you want to experience a unique one, then West Quoddy Head Lighthouse is the perfect fit.
Located in the eastern tip of Maine, West Quoddy Lighthouse has a few special pieces of notoriety to claim. For geography nerds, this is the easternmost point in the contiguous United States. For another added piece of uniqueness, this is the only candy-striped lighthouse in the country.
From the lighthouse, you can look across the Quoddy Channel and see Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada, and if you’re lucky you may even be able to spot whales or other marine life. The lighthouse is located in Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, Maine. While it’s a little out of the way, it is the perfect addition to a Maine and New Brunswick road trip or for any lover of lighthouses.
There is a $3 per person fee for the state park. In addition to the lighthouse, you can enjoy a picnic, five miles of trails, and wildlife viewing.
Contributed by Ashley Hubbard of Wild Hearted
Aquinnah Lighthouse (Massachusetts)
Shobha George from Martha’s Vineyard Tourist
Southeast Lighthouse (Rhode Island)
Contributed by Jamie Italiane from Adventures in New England
Mystic Seaport Light (Connecticut)
The town of Mystic Seaport, Connecticut is one of the most charming historic towns in America, One of the features of the town that adds to the charm and gives you a glimpse into its history is the beautiful Mystic Seaport lighthouse on the edge of the water.
While it looks like it has stood there for over a hundred years, that’s only because it’s a replica of an earlier 1901 Brant Point Light on Nantucket. However, the Mystic Seaport Light was built in the 1960s!
The Best Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses
While Canada, New England, and the South (especially North Carolina) are famous for their lighthouses, some of the best American lighthouses are actually in the Mid-Atlantic!
Montauk Lighthouse (New York)
The beautiful Montauk Lighthouse in this historic New York town is a must-see when enjoying a weekend (or a summer) in the Hamptons.
The lighthouse itself is a National Historic Landmark and is the oldest lighthouse in New York State. The Lighthouse was authorized in 1792 by Congress and President George Washington, and it was built in 1796.
The lighthouse is still functioning today. Visitors can learn about the lighthouse and US maritime history at the museum.
To visit, tickets for adults are $12 per person, and discounted tickets are available for children and senior citizens, and parking is an additional $8 unless you arrive after 4 pm.
Fire Island Lighthouse (New York)
On the western end of Fire Island, off the coast on Long Island, NY, sits the Fire Island Lighthouse. The tallest on Long Island, the picturesque black and white structure overlooks Robert Moses State Park and The Great South Bay.
Visitors can climb the 182 steps to the top, learn all about Long Island’s rich maritime history at the small museum, and, on clear days, take in views of the New York City skyline. The lighthouse is open year-round and admission costs $8. Children, seniors, and military pay half price. Less than a mile away sits Lighthouse Beach, part of Robert Moses State Park.
To drive to The Fire Island Lighthouse, take Robert Moses Causeway south to the end and park in state park field five. Walk the short boardwalk to the lighthouse. Alternatively, beachgoers can take a ferry from Bay Shore, NY to Kismet, Fire Island. Simply walk from Kismet to the lighthouse. If vacationing at a Fire Island community, like Ocean Beach, rent bikes or take a water taxi to Kismet.
The Fire Island Lighthouse is located on Burma Rd, Gilgo Beach, NY 11702.
Contributed by Tori from Tori-Leigh.com.
Cape May Lighthouse (New Jersey)
When on the East Coast, and specifically in New Jersey, don’t miss a visit to the quaint beach town of Cape May and the Cape May Lighthouse. Located at the southernmost point of New Jersey, this is easily accessible via car from the north.
For those who are visiting from the south, there is a ferry in Lewes, Delaware that takes you across the Delaware Bay. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry takes about an hour and the fee varies depending on whether you are bringing your car or not. For an individual fare, peak summer fees are $18 round trip.
Once you arrive in Cape May, head south to the Cape May Point State Park. The lighthouse is still operational today and for a $15 fee, you can climb to the top. Make sure to read the historical plaques as you climb to learn more about the lighthouse’s history. The best part is the 360-degree platform at the top to take in the views from every side.
Once you’ve visited the lighthouse, stroll through the Cape May Wetlands State Natural Area, or hang out at the beach, both of which are right across the parking lot. If you’re looking for a beach town with a great lighthouse, look no further than Cape May, New Jersey.
Contributed by Jordan Bradford from The Solo Life.
Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse (Delaware)
Located in the Delaware Bay, the Delaware Breakwater East End Lighthouse dates back to the 1880s. It served a vital role in the safety of the bay, but it was replaced in importance by other lighthouses in the area. It was deactivated in 1996.
In 2004, the local Delaware River and Bay Lighthouse Foundation began a partnership to work on the lighthouse’s preservation as well as running tours of the lighthouse in the summer.
Assateague Lighthouse (Virginia)
On Virginia’s Eastern Shore is the gorgeous Assateague National Park, where you can find one the East Coast’s finest lighthouses. The Assateague Lighthouse is a 142ft structure that was built in 1867 and stands tall and proud in the middle of the park.
The lighthouse is quintessential in its aesthetics with thick red and white hoops adorning the structure as it rises out the marshy wetlands that surround it. During the summer, the lighthouse is open to the public on weekends and the admission is free, but donations are welcome to help pay for the upkeep of the building.
At the top of the 175 stair climb, one will find stunning panoramic views over the island and out to sea. In the park surrounding the lighthouse, you can find the famous Chincoteague wild horses that inhabit the island.
In addition to the relaxing and calming nature, there are also beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Coast where you enjoy the warm, Virginia sunshine. You will need to pay to enter Assateague Park with a vehicle and that will set you back $20 for a 7-day pass.
If you enter the park on foot or bicycle, it is free for the day. For those looking to learn a little more about the history of the area, there is a wonderful little museum just before the entrance of the park.
The Best Southern East Coast Lighthouses
When I think of traveling in the South, I think of visiting beautiful historic American cities like Savannah, important Civil Rights monuments like those in Birmingham, and gorgeous southern beach towns like the ones in the Outer Banks.
Of course, these beaches mean that there are some truly stunning historic lighthouses in the part of the country as well! These are the best Southern lighthouses on the East Coast.
Bodie Island Lighthouse (North Carolina)
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (North Carolina)
Cape Lookout Lighthouse (North Carolina)
Located on a barrier island near the Crystal Coast of North Carolina, the Cape Lookout National Seashore is an absolute delight to visit–and the pinnacle of a day trip to Cape Lookout is the lighthouse that overlooks the sea.
With a classic black-and-white pattern, the Cape Lookout lighthouse is both idyllic to admire and incredibly fun to climb!
In addition to climbing the lighthouse for phenomenal views (207 steps each way) of the islands, sea, boats, and beaches that surround the lighthouse, you can also enjoy the seashore surrounding it by hiking, swimming, camping, or simply strolling along the beach looking for shells.
To visit Cape Lookout, you’ll need to book a ferry or tour leaving from either Beaufort, North Carolina, or Harkers Island, North Carolina. The ferry ride is shorter from Harkers Island, but unless you happen to be staying on the island, it’s a bit of a drive to get there in the first place.
The Cape Lookout lighthouse costs USD 10.00 to climb (not including the cost of getting there), and you can climb it (weather permitting) from May – September. The lighthouse can be climbed Wednesday – Sunday during its season.
Contributed by Kate from Our Escape Clause
Currituck Beach Lighthouse (North Carolina)
Oak Island Lighthouse (North Carolina)
Nestled on North Carolina’s southern shores stands the Oak Island Lighthouse. This working lighthouse is easily distinguishable among others by its distinctive paint pattern – a light gray solid bottom and black solid top. The flash pattern of four one-second flashes every 10 seconds lets sailors identify where they are along the shore.
Visitors wanting to climb up the lighthouse’s 131 steps need to plan. Unlike the other 6 NC lighthouses, Oak Island tours are led by volunteers. Requests to climb the lighthouse need to be emailed two to four weeks in advance to ensure that volunteers are available. While there is no fee to climb, a donation is appreciated.
The lighthouse’s interior is rather unique. Unlike other lighthouses that have spiral staircases, Oak Island Lighthouse features metal ship ladders. The ship ladders mean that visitors generally need to have both hands free to climb up and down safely.
Oak Island Lighthouse’s location on some of the most beautiful beaches in North Carolina makes it a worthwhile stop. Many visitors to Oak Island take the ferry from Ft. Fisher while visiting nearby Carolina Beach and the Wilmington area.
Contributed by Annick from The Common Traveler
Harbour Town Lighthouse (South Carolina)
The Harbour Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island is an iconic American lighthouse. It’s red-and-white stripes and stocky build are an imposing sight over the water.
This is not the oldest or the first lighthouse on Hilton Head. There was a Union lighthouse built here during the Civil War. The Harbour Town lighthouse wouldn’t be erected for another century.
The lighthouse is a museum, but it was always intended to serve as such. You can visit to learn about the history of Hilton Head as well as taking in the fantastic panorama views from the top.
Cape Florida Lighthouse and Lantern (Florida)
Bill Baggs Lighthouse is located on the pristine island paradise of Key Biscayne in Miami, which is one of the best areas in Miami to visit. The lighthouse is situated within the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the southernmost tip of the island, and it dates back to 1825.
It is the oldest structure in the Miami area! It’s survived two centuries of erosion, an attack by Native Americans and countless hurricanes, yet still stands to be one of the most important cultural sites in Miami.
After a dizzying 106 steps in its narrow staircase, visitors are greeted with dazzling views across the Key Biscayne. To the north is the world-famous stretch of Miami Beach and to the east and south is the azure Atlantic Ocean. If you’re lucky you might be able to spot manatees, dolphins, and stingrays!
Back at ground-level, make sure to hire some bikes from one of the rental centers to explore the scenic paths around the park. There’s also kayaking, swimming, wildlife spotting, and fishing, so you can make a full day at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.
Entry to its tower is free with park entry. Visitors can go into the lighthouse every day of the week, except Tuesday and Wednesday. To get to Key Biscayne from Downtown Miami, either take an Uber or the #102 bus over the Rickenbacker Causeway. If you self-drive, there is adequate parking which is $8 per vehicle.
Contributed by Claire from Stoked to Travel
St. Augustine Lighthouse (Florida)
One of the most popular things to do in St Augustine is seeing and climbing the historic lighthouse (opened in October 1874). The St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum property features four separate attractions.
Certainly, climb the 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse for amazing views. For special fun, reserve tickets for a ghost tour or sunset/moonrise climb (includes champagne with a view!).
Second, the 1876 Keepers’ House has four unique features for a pre-1900 Florida home—Victorian style, brick, duplex, and a basement. Make sure to see The Wrecked! exhibit which commemorates the area’s role in the Revolutionary War with shipwreck finds, including the world’s second-oldest known cannon (1782).
The third is LAMP, the USA’s oldest underwater archaeology school featuring wonderful and historic discovery exhibits.
Fourth is Heritage Boatworks which displays and creates authentic traditional wood boats. Current general admission rates are $13 for adults and $11 for children and seniors. Look on their website for a 15% discount code or a 10% printable coupon. Onsite are also hiking trails, a great gift shop, and a snack bar (The Tin Pickle) with local craft beer.
Contributed by Charles McCool from McCool Travel
St. George Island Lighthouse (Florida)
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Don’t Forget Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for your lighthouse road trip make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be away for more than a few days. I
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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