Last updated: 10:51 AM ET, Sun August 09 2015

5 Lighthouses You Have to See

Features & Advice | Tom Bastek | August 07, 2015

5 Lighthouses You Have to See

All photos courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

Lighthouses originated as fires built on hilltops, and written descriptions and drawings of them go back beyond antiquity. What was once used to mark dangerous coastlines, hazardous shoals, reefs, and safe entries to harbors, now mark a major tourism draw along every coast. So in honor of National Lighthouse Day on Aug. 7, here are a mere five lighthouses out of the hundreds still standing that are worth the trip.

Heceta Head Lighthouse - Yachats, Oregon

Originally constructed in 1894, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is the brightest light on the Oregon Coast. Claiming to be the most photographed lighthouse in the U.S., not only can you tour the lighthouse and keeper’s house, you can also stay overnight. A bed and breakfast, run by the U.S. Forest Service, is located in the assistant lighthouse keepers' house and offers you the chance to see the beam of light up close that boats on the water can see up to 21 miles away.

Split Rock Lighthouse – Two Harbors, Minnesota

Split Rock Lighthouse is located southwest of Silver Bay, Minnesota and was originally built in 1910. It was built in response to the 29 ships that were lost at sea during the famous Mataafa Storm of 1905. The light was officially retired in 1969, and now the grounds it sits on are a state park. The site includes the original tower and lens, the fog signal building, the oil house, and the three keepers' houses.

Point Vicente Lighthouse – Palos Verdes, California

Built in 1926 on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, the Point Vicente Lighthouse is still being used today. The light is used by marine craft as a guide into and out of the Los Angeles/Long Beach Harbors.  An onsite exhibit room and the lighthouse grounds are open to visitors on the scheduled monthly open house but due to maintenance issues, the lighthouse tower is closed until further notice. However, as one of the most picturesque lighthouses along the California coast, this is still worth the trip.

Portland Head Lighthouse – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Completed in 1791, the Portland Head Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine.  It is still in use today, operated by the Coast Guard, and can be seen from an amazing 24 miles out to sea. There is a local maritime museum in the keeper’s house as well as a gift shop, with tours given daily. With plenty to do in nearby Portland, this should be a stop on your itinerary.  

St. Augustine Lighthouse & Museum – St. Augustine, Florida

Although the St. Augustine lighthouse was not built until 1824, there was a least some sort of beacon located on the site since the late 1500s. In 1994, after a lengthy restoration project, the lighthouse opened up to the public.  Many different tours are offered including a behind the scenes tour and a maritime archeology tour given with support from the museum’s Lighthouse Archaeological Maritime Program.

Do you have a favorite lighthouse to visit?  Let me know in the comments below.

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