The 16 Most Stunning Lighthouses in the U.S. That You Can Actually Visit

SAVING & SPENDING - TRAVEL
From rugged cliffs to serene shores, explore these stunning lighthouses.
Updated April 11, 2024
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A picture of a lighthouse

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From picturesque structures along gorgeous coastlines to the oldest lighthouse in the country, there are beautiful lighthouses worth visiting across the U.S.

Visiting these beautiful landmarks can be a fun getaway that also helps you save money on travel compared to more popular (and pricier) destinations.

Many have fascinating histories, offer interesting tours, and are near lively cities or shore towns. Here are 16 stunning lighthouses around the country worth checking out.

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Point Bonita Lighthouse: Sausalito, California

Jill Clardy/Adobe point bonita lighthouse on marin headlands

Built in 1855 to help guide ships through the Golden Gate Strait, Point Bonita Lighthouse was one of the first on the West Coast and is still active today.

Most afternoons have designated visitor hours, but you will need to hike a half-mile trail to get to the lighthouse. A ranger also guides weekly sunset tours.

Visiting the Point Bonita Lighthouse is a fantastic day trip if you're visiting San Francisco. It’s also a great way to go on more vacations without spending a lot if you live in the Bay area.

St. Augustine Lighthouse: St. Augustine, Florida

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A stunning black and white structure that offers incredible views of the surrounding city and ocean, there’s plenty to do at the St. Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum.

Visitors can climb more than 200 steps to the top of the lighthouse, tour the museum to learn the rich history of the stunning structure, and bask in the beauty of Anastasia Island.

Diamond Head Lighthouse: Honolulu, Hawaii

Mcdonojj/Adobe diamond head lighthouse in waikiki

Sitting atop the now-extinct Diamond Head volcano, the Diamond Head Lighthouse is a massive and beautiful structure located on the southern cliffs of Oahu.

While the lighthouse is not open for public tours, it can be seen from Diamond Head Road in Honolulu.

Visitors can also consider taking the steep (but stunning) Diamond Head Hike, a journey of about 1.5 miles roundtrip, to view it.

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Portland Head Lighthouse: Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Seven Palms Studio/Adobe waves at portland head lighthouse

Along the shores of Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Lighthouse is one of many stunning lighthouses in Maine.

The lighthouse is only open to the public once a year (on Maine Open Lighthouse Day), but you can always check out the renowned lighthouse museum or enjoy other outdoor activities.

Boston Light: Little Brewster Island, Massachusetts

Wangkun Jia/Adobe boston lighthouse on little brewster island

The Boston Light, which sits on Little Brewster Island, is the oldest continually operating lighthouse in the U.S., dating back to the Revolutionary War.

While there’s no shortage of things to do, eat, and see in the Boston area, lighthouse enthusiasts may want to look into cruise tours.

A tour takes visitors through Boston Harbor to view three lighthouses: Boston Light, Long Island Head Light, and Graves Light.

Big Sable Point Lighthouse: Ludington, Michigan

nlphoto/Adobe big sable point light

The beautiful, black and white striped Big Sable Point Lighthouse stands along Lake Michigan’s shoreline.

A part of Ludington State Park, guests are welcome to tour or climb to the top of the lighthouse from May through October.

Aside from the lighthouse, there’s plenty to do in the park, from camping and dune hiking to paddling and tubing in the lake.

White Shoal Lighthouse: Lake Michigan

johnsroad7/Adobe white shoal lighthouse

More adventurous travelers may want to consider visiting the stunning, candy-striped White Shoal Lighthouse, which is currently being restored.

Visitors can book rooms to stay in the massive lighthouse, which is located in Lake Michigan, about 20 miles west of Mackinac Bridge.

You’ll need to take a Coast Guard utility boat from Mackinaw City in Michigan (a 90-minute journey).

Split Rock Lighthouse: Two Harbors, Minnesota

Daniel Thornberg/Adobe sun rays in saint augustine lighthouse

A stunning brick structure that sits along the coast of Lake Superior, the Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota makes for an incredible day trip if you’re in the area.

The lighthouse is about 20 miles north of Two Harbors, within Split Rock Lighthouse State Park.

It’s open to visitors from April through October, and both the lighthouse site and the park offer incredible views of Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake by surface area in the world.

Biloxi Lighthouse: Biloxi, Mississippi

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Biloxi Lighthouse is a symbol of resilience for the city. First erected in 1848, it has withstood many storms, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 (which took it out of commission).

The lighthouse was restored and re-opened for public tours in 2010. Visitors can climb to the top of the white, cast-iron beauty and then check out the nearby Beau Rivage Resort & Casino afterward.

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Cape May Lighthouse: Cape May, New Jersey

Walt/Adobe cape may point lighthouse

The Cape May Lighthouse, built in 1859, is still active and open to the public.

Guests can climb nearly 200 steps to the top of the stunning, cast-iron structure and enjoy sweeping views of the Delaware Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

The surrounding area includes Cape May Point State Park and a quaint beach town filled with plenty of incredible dining and shopping options.

Montauk Point Lighthouse: Montauk, New York

haveseen/Adobe montauk lighthouse and beach

The famed Montauk Point Lighthouse sits at the tip of Long Island and was the first lighthouse built in New York. It was commissioned in 1792 by George Washington himself.

While lighthouse visitors can tour the area and enjoy sweeping views of Block Island Sound and the Atlantic Ocean from the top, there are plenty of other exciting things to see in Montauk, from beautiful public beaches to great dining to fun festivals.

Diamond Lady Lighthouse: Harkers Island, North Carolina

sbgoodwin/Adobe lighthouse on banks of north carolina

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is known by its nickname, Diamond Lady, due to its beautiful diamond pattern.

The lighthouse sits along the Cape Lookout National Seashore, a tranquil, undeveloped area where guests can explore Harker’s Island, camp out, and more.

The lighthouse is currently closed due to renovations, but visitors can bask in its beauty while visiting the seashore.

Marblehead Lighthouse: Marblehead, Ohio

Paul Lemke/Adobe marblehead lighthouse at sunrise

Marblehead Lighthouse was constructed in 1821 to mark the entrance to Sandusky Bay in Lake Erie. The area was chosen as the safest harbor between the major hubs of Cleveland and Toledo.

The stunning 55-foot tower was almost torn down in the 90s, but residents came together to save it and establish Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.

These days, guests can climb the tower, check out a museum, or explore the beautiful grounds.

Heceta Head Lighthouse: Florence, Oregon

underwaterstas/Adobe heceta head lighthouse in oregon

This lighthouse sits atop the 1,000-foot headland Heceta Head and is at the end of a stunning half-mile hike that passes through the lightkeeper’s house on the way up to the famed lighthouse and viewpoint.

The area also features a bed and breakfast and a sheltered beach, making for an excellent Pacific Northwest getaway.

Rose Island Lighthouse: Newport, Rhode Island

Dennis Donohue/Adobe rose island lighthouse on narragansett bay

The Rose Island Lighthouse, on the shore of Narragansett Bay in Newport, shined its lights for the first time in 1870.

After many lifetimes, the lighthouse is now restored, and the surrounding area is open to visitors.

Guests can take the Jamestown Newport Ferry to the island from May through October and tour the stunning lighthouse, explore the gardens, bird watch, fish, picnic, and more.

Cana Island Lighthouse: Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin

Hank Erdmann/Adobe cana island lighthouse at dawn

Another incredible Lake Michigan lighthouse (this one in Wisconsin), Cana Island Lighthouse, built in 1869, offers sweeping views of the Great Lake and the Door County peninsula.

The island is open from May through October, and visitors can take a hay wagon up to the lighthouse and climb nearly 100 steps to the top.

After exploring the island, guests might consider staying in the surrounding Bailey’s Harbor, which has plenty of natural beauty and great dining options.

Bottom line

Michael/Adobe marshall point lighthouse at sunset

According to the United States Lighthouse Society, there are nearly 800 lighthouses still standing across the country, so you can earn travel miles as you visit each one.

While many no longer operate as they once did, there are plenty (beyond our top 16 here) that are still worth a visit from the curious traveler.

So, back a bag and enjoy the beauty only a lighthouse on a gorgeous shoreline can provide.

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Author Details

Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore Laura Gesualdi-Gilmore is a seasoned freelance writer who also teaches writing courses at Rutgers University. She's based in Jersey City and enjoys travel, live music and, of course, spending quality time with her pup.

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