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Tips & Tricks for Places to See Great Lighthouses


What is it about lighthouses that invoke a sense of mystique and wonder? Maybe it’s the fact that they often sit out on dangerous and remote coastlines. Or that these isolated buildings help provide direction and warnings to seagoing vessels in foggy or stormy weather. I like to think of them as symbols of hope and security, protecting and guiding sailors to safety.

Many of the lighthouses we have visited offer tours of the inside, the keepers’ quarters, and even up into the tower to see the light itself. Some have been converted into a bed & breakfast where you can stay overnight, and there are even a few where you can work as a volunteer. You might be surprised at the locations of many lighthouses across the country, so make sure to check for them on your next RV travels.

Guest Post by Robin Buck


Lighthouse Beginnings

In ancient times, sailors were guided to land by fires (lights) that were built on nearby hilltops. Since the fires were up high, they were easier to see from the water and also helped to improve visibility as the boats came closer to shore. In the modern era, increasing transatlantic travel spurred newer and better lighthouse construction progressing from open fires to candles, then gas lanterns, and finally electric lights.

Today, all but one lighthouse is operated remotely using automated technology. Boston Light is the last remaining lighthouse that has an official keeper. Because it was the first lighthouse built in the United States, Congress passed a law requiring it to always be a manned location. You can visit this lighthouse, but the only access is by boat tour because it is located on Little Brewster Island at the edge of Boston Harbor.


Where Can You See a Lighthouse?

About 1500 lighthouses have been constructed in the US, more than in any other country. Today there are about 700 remaining lighthouses located in 37 different states. Surprisingly, Michigan has the most lighthouses of any state because it is surrounded by Great Lakes on three sides. Maine has the second highest number followed by Washington and Florida. You can search online for lighthouses by state according to where you plan to visit.

There are many websites that list lighthouses across the country: the most beautiful, the most historic, the most famous, and the most photographed. This site shows The Ultimate Chart of 100 Lighthouses of the United States. I like it because you can see a picture of the featured lighthouses and compare the architecture, including their many unique colors, shapes, and sizes.


Unusual Lighthouses

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty was once an official lighthouse back in 1886? It operated for 16 years but was eventually declared ineffective because the light from its torch was too dim to be a navigational aid. However, it does have the distinction of being the first lighthouse to use electric lighting (a new technology at the time).

Another unusual lighthouse can be found in Biloxi, Mississippi. It is one of the first cast iron lighthouses in the south and holds the record for most years with a female keeper. After being damaged by Hurricane Katrina, this lighthouse was rebuilt in the middle of a four-lane highway! You can climb up inside the city’s signature landmark and look out over the Gulf of Mexico or you can just enjoy their live 24-hour video feed.

We visited Battery Point Lighthouse in Crescent City, California, on a trip out to see the redwood trees. The tour includes the personal quarters of the keepers, maritime artifacts and displays, and a climb into the light tower. The unusual aspect of this lighthouse is that it sits on a tidal island and can only be accessed at low tide. The 200 feet between the mainland and the island are underwater at all other times, effectively stranding the volunteers for a good part of the day.


Beautiful Views

So many of the country’s lighthouses are stunning that you can’t go wrong with any one you pick to visit. The unique architectural styles and shapes are so interesting, as is the maritime history of the area. From the tallest lighthouse in Cape Hatteras, NC (210 ft), to the shortest near Portland, OR (6 ft), or even a triangular-shaped lighthouse in Charleston, SC, they all have something special to see. Whether you are visiting the east coast, west coast, gulf coast, Hawaii, Alaska, or the Great Lakes, make sure to look for nearby lighthouses to explore. Their scenic locations make beautiful pictures to commemorate your visit.

Robin and her husband, Mike, are Air Force veterans and empty nesters who travel full-time in their Entegra Anthem motorhome. Always ready to explore, they love nature and wildlife, meeting new friends, and discovering America’s many hidden gems. Robin chronicles their adventures and experiences on her travel blog RVing with Robin.