America’s first lighthouse dates to the early 1700s in Boston, but lighthouses have been guiding ships since approximately 300 B.C. when Ptolemy built the first one in ancient Egypt. The purpose of these towering structures is to provide navigational aid to ships at sea, acting as a traffic light of sorts. The lights flash in different patterns to provide different information to the sailors, from locational information to dangerous water warnings.
Currently, there are over 800 lighthouses in the U.S., and Michigan has the most with roughly 140. They are great to photograph and interesting to explore. We’ve provided information and locations for just a few, but if you’re looking for more and all kinds of lighthouse history, fun facts, and locations, visit www.uslhs.org.
Old Point Loma
Lighthouse (San Diego, CA)
This historic lighthouse resides in the San Diego Bay. Built in 1855, it is no longer a working lighthouse, but the structure still stands and serves as a museum where visitors can experience the lighthouse as it was in the 1800s, and hear talks about the history of the lighthouse and how the keepers lived. For information, visit www.nps.gov/cabr.
(Old Point Loma Lighthouse is less than 30 miles from Pio Pico RV Campground)
Boston Light (Boston, MA)
Boston Light, located on Little Brewster Island in the Boston Harbor, was America’s first lighthouse. Built in 1719, it was briefly occupied by British troops during the Revolutionary War. The British blew up the structure when they left it in 1776, but it was rebuilt in 1783. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964, it is currently the second oldest working lighthouse in the country (second to New Jersey’s Sandy Hook Lighthouse which was built in 1764) and is manned by the first female keeper. Visit www.bostonharborislands.org for tour information.
(Boston Light is less than 60 miles from Gateway to Cape Cod RV Campground)
Portland Head Lighthouse (Cape Elizabeth, ME)
On the scenic coast of Maine, you will find the Portland Head Lighthouse. Completed in 1791, it is the oldest lighthouse in the state (Maine has 65 historic lighthouses). The lighthouse, and its picturesque location, is a popular Maine landmark, and a great place for a photo op. Fun fact – artist Edward Hopper painted a watercolor of the lighthouse in 1927 (the painting is on exhibit at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts). The Keepers’ Quarters now serves as a museum with lighthouse history and artifacts. For tour information, visit www.portlandheadlight.com.
(Cape Elizabeth is less than 40 miles from Moody Beach RV Campground)
Lorain Lighthouse (Lorain, OH)
A consistent winner for the “Best Lighthouse on Lake Erie” designation, the Lorain Lighthouse dates to 1917. It was taken out of service in 1965, and replaced with an automated light tower nearby. It was slated for demolition, but several not-for-profit organizations worked tirelessly to preserve the lighthouse, and it was ultimately restored. Today, visitors can tour the lighthouse as well as enjoy sunset dinner cruises to and from the lighthouse that includes a tour. For information, visit www.lorainlighthouse.com
(Lorain is approximately 85 miles from Kenissee Lakes RV Campground)
Heceta Head Lighthouse (Florence, OR)
The Heceta Head Lighthouse in Florence, Oregon, dates to 1894, and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It sits high on the cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean and is still a working lighthouse, casting a beam over 20 miles out to sea, making it the brightest light on the Oregon Coast. The Keepers House is also still standing and now serves as a bed and breakfast. Tours of the lighthouse are available year-round and information can be found at www.hecetalighthouse.com.
(The Heceta Head Lighthouse is less than 15 miles from South Jetty RV Campground)