The 8 Most Beautiful Lighthouses In The United States

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: July 1, 2023
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The majority of lighthouses in the United States date back 100 to 200 years. Most were constructed when shipping constituted the main means of trade and there was no navigational technology. 

Although several of these lighthouses are still in operation today, the majority have been transformed into historical museums that the public can visit. There are several lighthouses that are breathtaking to gaze at, photograph, or even throw an event in. We’ve found the top recommendations in order to find the structures that you absolutely must see. 

This is our list of 8 of the most beautiful lighthouses in America.

Connecticut’s New London Ledge Lighthouse

One of the most remarkable and distinctive-looking beacons in the United States is the New London Ledge Lighthouse. It has square, red-brick chambers with a mansard roof atop and a cylindrical lantern room. 

Local lore holds that Colonial and French architectural elements were incorporated into the lighthouse. This is because New Londoners did not wish to look out to the ocean at a building that would seem out of place among their huge and ancient mansions. 

One of the most significant ports on Long Island Sound was marked with the construction of the New London Harbor Lighthouse in 1761. This lighthouse was a crucial beacon and just the fourth to be built in the colonies. It was insufficient in alerting ships to the dangerous ledges that were near offshore.

New London Ledge Lighthouse, Connecticut, United States

One of the most significant ports on Long Island Sound was marked with the construction of the New London Harbor Lighthouse in 1761.

©Rosa Creanza/Shutterstock.com

Alaska’s Eldred Rock Lighthouse

A little island rests in the choppy waters of the Lynn Canal, encircled by magnificent, snow-capped mountains. The Eldred Rock Lighthouse has been located on the island, which goes by the same name, for more than a century. The oldest existing lighthouse structure in Alaska is Eldred Rock. 

Massive timbers that the US Government transported to the island in 1905 are used to create the octagonal structure. The light had a reach of more than 15 miles and was located 91 feet above sea level. A first-order compressed air siren was used to signal fog. 

There are several modest structures used for upkeep and storage in conjunction with the tower and quarters, including a boathouse, tramways, and other structures.

The Eldred Rock Lighthouse in Alaska, United States

The Eldred Rock Lighthouse in Alaska has been located on an island near Lynn Canal for more than a century.

©Richard Seeley/Shutterstock.com

Minnesota’s Split Rock Lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse, is located in a Minnesota State Park and has stunning views of Lake Superior. It has a drama-filled past, and is one of the most popular and photographed locations in the state. 

The president of a steamship business led a group that urged the U.S. Lighthouse Service to build this craggy landmark after a November gale sank close to 30 ships in 1905. After being finished in 1910, Split Rock Light Station supervised the safe transport of freighters delivering recently mined ore from Minnesota’s Iron Range for 50 years.

If you haven’t been in a while, this is the perfect opportunity to honor a true North Shore classic. 

Split Rock Lighthouse in Minnesota.

Split Rock Lighthouse is high above Lake Superior in Northeastern Minnesota.

©MH Anderson Photography/Shutterstock.com

New York’s Montauk Point Lighthouse

At the northernmost point of eastern Long Island, you will find the renowned Montauk Point Lighthouse. This beautiful lighthouse offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound. No trip to Montauk is finished without a visit to its iconic lighthouse. It’s a must whether you’re there for a week or just an afternoon.

Nothing in Time Square can beat the serenity of this area. One of Long Island’s most well-known and adored landmarks is the Montauk Point Lighthouse. It was built after President George Washington ordered its construction in 1792. 

The fourth-oldest operational lighthouse in the country, it was the first to be constructed in New York. 2012 saw the designation of only 12 lighthouses as National Historic Landmarks. Its height was increased by 30 feet in 1860, and Ira Winn of Portland, Maine constructed a new lantern room. This raises the beacon’s overall height to more than 110 feet!

Beautiful Montauk Lighthouse in Long Island, New York

Montauk Point Lighthouse offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Block Island Sound in Long Island, NY.

©iStock.com/MikeRega

North Carolina’s Cape Lookout Lighthouse

A series of barrier islands that stretches over 56 miles, from the Ocracoke Inlet to the Beaufort Inlet, from the southernmost point of the Cape Lookout National Seashore to the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, is where the lighthouse is situated. Numerous animals, birds, and sea animals call this unpopulated, pristine location home. 

For more than 200 years, the Cape Lookout Lighthouse, popularly known as “Our Diamond Lady,” has served as a beacon on the Cape Lookout coast. Sailors and ships have benefited from the diamond pattern’s optical illusion, which has prevented them from perishing due to unknown dangers in the waters surrounding the island.

One of the most breathtaking views of the southern Outer Banks can be had by ascending Cape Lookout Lighthouse, which is a vision you are unlikely to forget. The Cape Lookout Lighthouse has 207 steps, which is the same as ascending a 12-story structure, leading up to the galley. From the second week of May until the third weekend in September, climbers are welcome to this beautiful beacon! 

Cape Lookout Lighthouse provides beautiful views of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse provides beautiful views of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

©iStock.com/Eifel Kreutz

Michigan’s Marquette Harbor Lighthouse

The “Lighthouse State” may be Maine, but Michigan has the most beacons of any state in the nation. The Holland Harbor Lighthouse, often known as “Big Red,” is among the most photographed of these more than 120 lighthouses. However, another red lighthouse is as picturesque. 

This “Heart Throb Red” lighthouse, built in 1853, is 40 feet tall and overlooks Marquette Harbor. It is located on a concrete cradle at the southernmost point of the harbor wall, where a paved walkway with railings leads to the end. 

Regular lighthouse excursions are available from the Marquette Maritime Museum, some of which are in the evening and feature concepts like “The Paranormal Lighthouse Tour. From its iconic brilliant red color to its rich history and spectacular Lake Superior vistas, there’s no doubt it attracts anyone visiting Marquette. 

Beautiful Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in Michigan

Beautiful Marquette Harbor Lighthouse in Michigan was built in 1853, is 40 feet tall and overlooks Marquette Harbor.

©James.Pintar/Shutterstock.com

California’s Point Sur Lighthouse

The Point Sur Lighthouse, which protrudes into the Pacific Ocean from the breathtaking Big Sur Coast, serves as a mute reminder of a bygone past. The only fully operational turn-of-the-century light station in California that is accessible to the general public is Point Sur, a National Historic Landmark. 

Families resided and operated in the structures atop Pt. Sur from 1899 to 1974. Point Sur is now a deserted town. Even though it is now entirely automated, the distinctive stone lighthouse still directs ships with its light.

To maintain the seclusion and drama, Pt. Sur only allows a certain amount of visitors. Your party will assemble in the parking area beneath the massive rock formation that is Point Sur and a ranger will then take you on a relaxing half-mile upward hike to the lighthouse. 

You and your group will have a lot of time to wander along the catwalk outside the light tower and ascend the lighthouse tower to see the light itself. The walking route includes two stairways with 40–60 steps each and a 360-foot elevation gain.

Point Sur Lighthouse in California, United States

California’s Point Sur Lighthouse is now entirely automated but still directs ships with its light.

©Lynn Yeh/Shutterstock.com

Oregon’s Heceta Head Lighthouse

The lighthouse, one of the most photographed along the coast, is sat atop the 1,000-foot-tall Heceta Head. In 1894, the 56-foot tower’s light was first turned on. Its automated beacon, which can be seen from 21 miles away, is considered to be the brightest light along the Oregon coast. 

From the parking lot, a half-mile route leads up to the tower and viewpoint, passing the lightkeeper’s home along the way. The assistant lightkeeper’s residence is one of the last ones standing on the Pacific Coast and was constructed in 1893. Tourists can reserve a room with an ocean view in order to simulate the life of a lighthouse keeper.

In order to reach Washburne campsite and the beach, the Heceta Lighthouse Trail goes past the lighthouse and falls sharply. The Oregon Coast Trail is a 7-mile network of woodland trails. In addition to getting to witness Roosevelt elk, marbled murrelets, and other animals, travelers are greeted with breathtaking ocean views.

Heceta Head Lighthouse near Florence, Oregon.

The Heceta Head Lighthouse is considered to be the brightest light along the Oregon coast. 

©Bob Pool/Shutterstock.com

Summary Of The 8 Most Beautiful Lighthouses In The United States

#LighthouseLocation
1New London Ledge LighthouseConnecticut
2Eldred Rock LighthouseAlaska
3Split Rock LighthouseMinnesota
4Montauk Point LighthouseNew York
5Cape Lookout LighthouseNorth Carolina
6Marquette Harbor LighthouseMichigan
7Point Sur LighthouseCalifornia
8Heceta Head LighthouseOregon

The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Susan Rydberg


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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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Sources
  1. Lighthouse Friends, Available here: https://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?ID=800
  2. Haines Sheldon Museum, Available here: https://www.sheldonmuseum.org/vignette/eldred-rock-lighthouse/
  3. Split Rock Lighthouse, Available here: https://www.mnhs.org/splitrock
  4. Montauk Historical Society, Available here: https://montaukhistoricalsociety.org/montauk-point-lighthouse/
  5. OuterBanks.com , Available here: https://www.outerbanks.com/cape-lookout-lighthouse.html
  6. Holland Michigan, Available here: https://www.holland.org/trip-ideas/view-big-red-lighthouse
  7. California Department of Parks and Recreation, Available here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=565
  8. Oregon State Parks, Available here: https://stateparks.oregon.gov/index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=86