Both practical and pretty, lighthouses not only illuminate the way for vessels at sea, but also provide amazing photo-ops and plenty of artistic inspiration. While you can find these beauties all over the country, the East Coast has a particularly high concentration of them, and we’ve compiled a list of best and brightest along the Atlantic.
Portland Head Light
Originally commissioned to be built by our first president George Washington, Portland Head was first lit way back in 1791. While the light is now automated, you can still feel the historic charm of this Cape Elizabeth lighthouse. Not only can you relax or talk a walk in the surrounding Fort Williams park, but there’s also a museum, where you can learn about its history, and grab a souvenir as well.
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse
This St. Augustine-area lighthouse is Florida’s tallest, and one of the few that actually offers guided tours. You’re free to explore on your own, of course; there are only 203 steps between you and the amazing ocean views afforded by the top of the tower, but who’s counting? Or, if you’re not up for the hike, head over to the gallery deck to marvel at the inlet, which is just as spectacular.
Cape Hatteras Light
North Carolina has plenty of historic lighthouses, but the Cape Hatteras Light on the Outer Banks is arguably the most iconic. With its picture-perfect black-and-white stripes, it still looks as good as it did when it was built in 1870. Pretty impressive, considering that it it was moved nearly 3,000 feet from its original location in 1999 in order to prevent impending ocean damage. Through Columbus Day, the lighthouse is open for self-guided climbs.
Old Cape Henry Lighthouse
Opened back in 1881, the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse is one of two lighthouses on Cape Henry, and is located within the Fort Story military base. In addition, it’s one of the oldest lighthouses that’s still standing in the entire nation, and the first federally-funded lighthouse. To access it, you must provide photo identification in order to reach the base, but it’s a small price to pay for the awesome experience that awaits you. While the lighthouse tower will be closed during periods of extremely hot weather in the summer, it’s typically open year-round for visitors.