Contributed by Katie Levy of Adventure-Inspired
Though in many cases lighthouses are no longer a necessity when it comes to travel by sea, they’re still fascinating landmarks and beacons to behold. Many have important histories and meanings, while others are significant simply because they’re beautiful sights to take in. While some coastal landscapes boast a high concentration of lighthouses, to me there are three that stand out as must-visit destinations in the warmer weather to come.
Punta Gorda Lighthouse, King Range National Conservation Area, California
Nestled above a sandy beach and below rolling hills and mountains, the tiny abandoned Punta Gorda Lighthouse serves as a landmark for Lost Coast Trail backpackers. It’s also a perfect day-hiking destination for those willing to walk three miles one-way in the sand on one of California’s most remote stretches of coastal trail and also willing to pay close attention to tide tables.
Punta Gorda was once dubbed “the Alcatraz of Lighthouses” because of its inaccessibility and those sent there to operate it. Originally consisting of three two-story dwellings, a signal house, a concrete light building with a curved iron stairway, and more, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1951 in favor of an off-shore beacon. Punta Gorda has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1976, and both the inaccessibility and history make it well-worth the visit.
Friends and I paid a visit to Punta Gorda on a backpacking trip along the Lost Coast Trail, and our stop there made for some incredible memories. We climbed up what’s left of the lighthouse to hold court over the harbor seals basking in the sun on the beach, listened to the waves crash below, and saw miles of trail we’d covered already, along with what was to come. It’s a pretty special place.
Visit the BLM website for more information.
Bass Harbor Head Light, Acadia National Park, Maine
Standing tall above Bass Harbor’s rocky coastline within Acadia National Park, the Bass Harbor Head Light has served as a beacon for travelers since the late 1800s. Today it’s on the National Register of Historic Places, but remains active and serves as a private residence for a local Coast Guard member and his family.
On a trip to Acadia last summer, I had the lighthouse at the top of my must-visit landmarks list as a result of the number of stunning photos I’d seen. Unlike the remote Punta Gorda lighthouse, Acadia’s Bass Harbor Head Light is accessible via short concrete path from a small parking lot. A short walk takes visitors from the comforts of their vehicles to within inches of Maine’s rugged coastline. Friends and I stopped there after a long day of hiking, and despite not having to work too hard to get there, the Bass Harbor Head Light was a worthwhile visit.
Tibbets Point Lighthouse, Cape Vincent, New York
I was lucky enough to spend many a summer during my formative years in the Thousand Islands region of New York. The Thousand Islands—a collection of close to 2,000 islands in the St. Lawrence River straddling the border between the United States and Canada—is also home to a number of big, beautiful lighthouses. My favorite? The lighthouse at Tibbetts Point in Cape Vincent, New York.
The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse was built in 1827, and in the 1990s, the lighthouse was formally acquired by the town from the Department of the Interior. I have fond memories of visiting the visitors center as a child, which was built in 1993. Over the past nearly two decades, the Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Society funded a series of renovations both inside and outside of the lighthouse.
The Tibbetts Point Lighthouse is particularly special because it marks the point where Lake Ontario meets the St. Lawrence River, and it’s one of the best places to watch the sun set in that part of the state, in my humble opinion!
Visit the town’s website for more information.
There are so many beautiful lighthouses to visit around the country and around the world! Have you been to any of these? What others would you say are must-visit lighthouses, and why?