We’ve listed the best lighthouses on the east coast of the US and Canada. Learn about their history and things to know before your visit.
Best Lighthouses On The East Coast
Our appreciation for lighthouses has really grown over the last few years and we now make it a point to visit them in any destination we’re exploring. To fuel both our and your lighthouse wanderlust, with the help of our blogger friends, we’ve put together this epic list of the best lighthouses on the east coast.
Our list includes lighthouses on the east coast of both the US and Canada and we’ve placed them in order from north to south. So from Newfoundland to Key West, you have 25 beautiful and historic lighthouses.
Map Of Lighthouses On The East Coast
Below you will find a map of the 25 lighthouses on the east coast that we mention in this article.
Cape Spear Lighthouse – Newfoundland
Lora of Explore with Lora
Newfoundland is full of lighthouses but one of the most impressive is the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site. Located on the most easterly point in North America, this lighthouse has important historical significance. It was the second lighthouse built in Newfoundland in 1836, and is now the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province.
Just a 20-minute drive from downtown St. John’s, Cape Spear Lighthouse is situated in a beautiful location facing the Atlantic Ocean. The site is accessible year-round, but tours and exhibits are only open from May to October, daily from 10 am to 6 pm. The entrance fee is $3.90 per adult and there is a large parking lot available.
There are many beautiful hiking trails around the lighthouse that are well worth adding on to your visit. During the spring you can often see icebergs in the ocean, and humpback whales in the summertime. Cape Spear is one of those places that will make you fall in love with Newfoundland!
Head Harbour Lightstation – New Brunswick
Stuart of Go Eat Do
Head Harbour Lightstation is an octagonal structure painted white with a red cross. It warns mariners of the dangers of rocks off the northern tip of New Brunswick’s Campobello Island. The Canadian island was one of US President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s favorite summertime residences and is today the location of Roosevelt Campobello International Park. The lighthouse is a 15-minute drive from that historic site.
The lighthouse, termed Head Harbour Light by locals, is the second oldest in the province. It aids navigation in Passamaquoddy Bay and the Bay of Fundy. The tower was constructed back in 1829. Four other buildings have been added over the past two centuries, the most recent being the boathouse, which was built in 1947.
To visit Head Harbour Lightstation plan your visit to coincide with low tide. Park up in the nearby car park then clamber down the weather-worn metal ladders to cross the bay then climb the steps up to the rocky headland to tour the oft-photographed landmark. Tours are possible between May 1 and October 31, costing between $5 and $25. Be prepared for changeable weather.
Peggy’s Point Lighthouse – Nova Scotia
Kevin of Wandering Wagars
On the rocky shores of St. Margarets Bay, Nova Scotia sits one of the world’s most iconic lighthouses. The classic red and white Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse stands proudly on the rocky shores of a quaint and colorful town of the same name.
The lighthouse stands proudly on a shelf of rock worn smooth by the pounding of the north Atlantic waves. The town itself offers a few options for dining and parking. During the summer sunsets, the rocks around Peggy’s Cove welcome throngs of visitors hoping to catch one of the most beautiful views on Canada’s east coast. But if you wait until the sun dips low, many of the tour groups leave and you can get a great view of one of the most majestic sunsets on Canada’s east coast.
Peggy’s Cove is a working lighthouse, so there are no tours inside the structure. But half the fun of visiting is climbing and exploring the amazing rocks that the relentless waves have worn into incredible shapes and patterns.
Cape Forchu Lightstation – Nova Scotia
Megan of Bobo & Chichi
Located in Cape Forchu on the south shores of Nova Scotia near Yarmouth is one of the most beautiful lighthouse locations and is considered the second most photographed lighthouse in Nova Scotia behind Peggy’s Cove lighthouse.
The original lighthouse in this location was built in 1839, but was replaced with the “apple core” style lighthouse in 1962. Located on a small cape connected by a road and thin strip of land off the coast of mainland Nova Scotia, this lighthouse is surrounded by the rocky shoreline of the south shores and small fishing community.
Cape Forchu Lighthouse is on 19 acres of land and is open to the public. Visitors come to walk along the Leif Erickson Trail that wraps around the rocky and rugged cape with gorgeous seaside as well as amazing views of the lighthouse.
If you’re hungry you can stop for a meal at the Keeper’s Kitchen on the location that also doubles as a gift shop. The trails are open all year long but the gift shop and restaurant are only open for the summer season. This is a great place to come for a sunset and at night as Cape Forchu is one of North America’s Starlight Destinations.
In recent pop culture, Cape Forchu was used to film The Lighthouse featuring Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe who is up for an Academy Award for his role in the film. However, you won’t be recognizing the apple core Cape Forchu lighthouse in the film as they built their own lighthouse on the cape and removed it after filming completed. Even though the lighthouse is different, you can still recognize the gorgeous views from Cape Forchu in the film.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse – Maine
Want to see an epic sunrise? Visit the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Lubec, Maine. It’s one of the best lighthouses on the east coast because it’s located on the easternmost point in the continental US so you’d be the first to see the sun’s rays in the country!
The original lighthouse was built in 1808 and was replaced with the current lighthouse in 1858. The tower is 49 feet tall and has a 5.5 foot tall Fresnel lens from France. The light became fully automated in 1988 and is now maintained by the US Coast Guard.
Next to the lighthouse is a visitor’s center which was once the home to generations of lightkeepers and their families. The visitor’s center is open from Memorial Day to mid-October and has interactive exhibits about the lighthouse and the area as well as artwork done by local artists.
Although tours of the lighthouse are given sporadically (typically Saturdays in July and August), you can roam around Quoddy Head State Park year round. There are trails and picnic tables, and of course, beautiful views!
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse – Maine
Amy and Nathan of Two Drifters
A small and squat lighthouse, Bass Harbor Head Light is better known for its glorious position on the rocky Maine coast than for its impressive height.
Initially built in 1858, the lighthouse was completed in 1876, with the addition of a tower and a fog bell. It is situated on the southwest tip of Mount Desert Island, Maine, and lies within the grounds of Acadia National Park. It is, in fact, the only lighthouse on the island, a popular Maine vacation spot.
While still functional today, the Bass Harbor Head lighthouse became automated in 1974. There are no tours of the lighthouse available, but visitors are welcome to come and see the remarkable views. The lighthouse is located off Route 102A and has a designated parking area that is open daily from 9:00 AM to sunset.
There are a few paths leading from the parking area, either to the base of the lighthouse itself or to a vantage point to the left of the lighthouse, as seen in the photo. Be aware that many, many people gather here, especially around sunset, hoping to grab their epic lighthouse photo. Because of that, it can get crowded at this time of day. Exercise caution if you choose to clamber over the sharp, wet rocks (as I did and ended up with a few bruises and very wet pants).
This is a beautiful lighthouse and the view of it over the water truly is an iconic Maine image. If you’re spending time visiting the island, be sure to add a visit to Bass Harbor Head Light to your Acadia National Park itinerary.
Rockland Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse – Maine
Lori of Travlinmad
The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse in Rockland Maine (mid-coast) is considerably younger than many lighthouses dotting the eastern coastline of the US and Canada. Construction of the small lighthouse only came in 1892 and followed the long breakwater which was built first to protect Rockland Harbor as a commercial port.
The breakwater extends south from Jameson Point 4,364 feet (nearly a full mile) into Rockland Harbor, and the small lighthouse at the end is the cherry on top after the long walk to get there. Park your car and stroll the length of the breakwater — it’s a sort of rite of passage for first time visitors.
The breakwater itself is made of huge granite blocks which can be slippery when wet. Spaces between the blocks make the walk a bit tenuous, but easy-going if you don’t get distracted by the view.
Visitors can walk through the beautifully restored, 3-story lighthouse and climb to the top of the lantern for a bird’s eye view of the harbor. There’s no admission charge and you’ll see a multitude of working lobster boats coming and going. In warmer months, the historic wooden schooners taking passengers out on a Maine Windjammer cruise is a site to behold.
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse – Maine
Sage of Everyday Wanderer
Although the Portland Head Light is one of the most popular (and photographed) lighthouses in Maine, there are several other lighthouses in the Portland area. One of my favorites is the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.
To reach this gorgeous lighthouse on the East Coast, you have to wind through the oceanside campus of the Southern Maine Community College. Jutting northeast out into Luckse Sound, you’ll see the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse at the end of a jagged granite sea wall.
While you cannot go inside the lighthouse, you can snag one of the few parking spots along Lighthouse Circle Road and carefully walk along the sea wall for amazing views of the lighthouse and sound. But keep in mind, this is not a smoothly paved wall. Rather, it’s a 950-foot-long breakwater made by piling 45 tons of granite in the water between the lighthouse and the dry land.
Portland Head Lighthouse – Maine
Lindsay of I’ve Been Bit
There’s a reason Portland Head Lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in the USA – she really is a beauty! This historic lighthouse was built in 1791 and is the oldest lighthouse in Maine.
Situated along the shores of Fort Williams Park, it warns oncoming vessels of the entrance to the primary shipping channel into Portland Harbor. Take your time exploring the shoreline along the paved trails as they offer some incredible views of Maine’s rocky coast.
The former Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters has been transformed into a museum where you can learn more about this iconic landmark for just $2 ($1 for children). While the museum is only open from May until November, you can admire Portland Head Lighthouse within Fort Williams Park all year round.
No matter what time of the year you visit, I guarantee you’ll be mesmerized by the tides as they roll in with ferocity. It really is a must-see on any Portland itinerary!
Nauset Lighthouse – Massachusetts
One of Cape Cod’s most famous lighthouses, and one of the most unique lighthouses on the east coast, is the Nauset Lighthouse in Eastham. You might recognize it from the front of the popular Cape Cod Chips. The Nauset Lighthouse, also known as the Nauset Beach Light, has had an interesting history as it has been rebuilt and moved multiple times due to coastal erosion.
The current lighthouse was built in 1877, but in nearby Chatham and it had a twin lighthouse which is still there. The wooden lighthouse that had been in Eastham was retired in 1923, so the northern lighthouse in Chatham was dismantled and brought over to Eastham. It was moved again in 1996, in one piece, approximately 300 feet to where it currently stands because of erosion.
The Nauset Lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and tours are free to the public in season. Nauset Light Beach is nearby and has a parking lot which offers great views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Gay Head Light – Massachusetts
One of the best things we did during our day trip to Martha’s Vineyard was visit the Gay Head Light in Aquinnah. This was actually the first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard, back in 1799. It was considered a very impressive lighthouse and has been welcoming tourists for centuries.
Recently, in 2015, the Gay Head Light was moved 134 feet to keep it safe from the eroding cliff side. Tours quickly resumed and visitors can now see granite stones that were placed in a circle marking the spot where the lighthouse had previously stood.
The lighthouse is open from mid-June to mid-October daily from 10am to 4pm. If possible, we recommend visiting on a Thursday of Friday because they have sunset viewing from 6 to 8pm. The sunset views are incredible! Admission to climb to the top of the lighthouse is $6 and children under 12 get in free.
Brant Point Lighthouse – Massachusetts
Alison of Green With Renvy
Thirty-six miles out to sea, one of the first welcoming sites for tourists on the island of Nantucket is the beacon of the historic Brant Point lighthouse. Established in 1746, the lighthouse has been keeping ships safe for centuries and is now owned by the US Coast Guard. This is the smallest of three lights on the island and the 2nd oldest in America.
Although the lighthouse itself isn’t open to the public, the grounds allow for sweeping views of the harbor and adjacent luxury yachts. Located just a short walk from town off of Easton St, Brant Point is a favorite spot for photo ops, especially couples saying “I Do” on the island. Visitors leaving The Grey Lady (nicknamed for the islands notorious fog) by ferry toss a coin overboard as they cross the point, insuring that one day they will return to this enchanting time capsule of nautical life.
For an interesting take on the important role the lighthouses played in Nantucket’s history, make sure not to miss the Nantucket Lightship and Lifesaving Museum.
South East Lighthouse – Rhode Island
Jamie of The Daily Adventures Of Me
Any trip to Block Island, Rhode Island should include a stop at South East Lighthouse. Built in 1875 on a bluff overlooking the rocky shore of the island, it was the most architecturally complex lighthouse built in the 19th century. Like many lighthouses, it has been physically moved away from the eroding cliffs.
If you are visiting when the lighthouse is open (in season) be sure to take the tour. It is more than worth the $10 fee to climb the circular staircase, learn about lighthouses and shipwrecks. The biggest treat is the intact, working green Fresnel lens. The views are spectacular, as well, looking over the Atlantic and the Mohegan Bluffs.
Fire Island Lighthouse – New York
James of Travel Collecting
The Fire Island Lighthouse is a beautiful lighthouse with wide black and white horizontal stripes that dominates the western end of Fire Island. The lighthouse was first built on the site in 1826, though the current lighthouse tower dates from 1858.
It was yellow when it was first built, but was changed to the current black and white stripes in 1891. The lamp has been lit by whale oil, lard oil, mineral oil, kerosene and, since 1938, electricity. It was decommissioned as a working lighthouse in 1973, but in 1986 was recommissioned and is still a current working lighthouse today.
It is possible to climb the 182 steps to the top of the 168-foot tall tower. It’s open daily and costs $8 for adults. There are great views of the ocean, Fire Island, the nearby bays, and on a clear day you can even see New York City in the distance.
They have occasional specialty tours of the lighthouse, plus there are permanent exhibitions in the lighthouse, the lighthouse keeper’s quarters and adjacent modern building. There is a First Order Fresnel Lens that was used from 1858 to 1933, information about the lighthouse, and an exhibit on the United States Lifesaving Service in the nearby boathouse.
This section of Fire Island is in Robert Moses State Park. You can drive there, then park in the Field 5 parking lot and from there, it’s about a 20-minute walk. The nearby beach is less crowded than those right next to the parking lot, which is an added bonus if visiting the lighthouse.
Cape May Lighthouse – New Jersey
Abbie of Speck on the Globe
Nothing is more iconic than talking a stroll down a New Jersey beach and seeing a towering lighthouse as a beacon of safety through the Delaware Bay. The lighthouse at Cape May was built in 1859 and is still operational. With 199 steps to the top, the views extend over Cape May and Wildwood and on a clear day you can see south onto Delaware.
Not only can you climb the lighthouse by day, but there are special full moon night climbs, where from 8pm until 10pm you can visit the lighthouse and see the moon and stars from above.
The Mid-Atlantic Center for Arts & Humanities also have events for lighthouse enthusiasts of all ages. In the summer, they host family fun days weekly at the Cape May Point State Park as well as a free weekly talk with the Keeper of the Cape May Lighthouse.
Parking at the lighthouse is always free, and there is a $10 admission fee for adults, $5 for children. Veterans and active duty military always have free access.
Thomas Point Shoal Light – Maryland
Stella of Around the World in 24 Hours
Annapolis, Maryland is the perfect destination for anyone who loves the water. It has a wonderful location right on the Chesapeake Bay. And one of the best sights off the coast of Annapolis is the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse, built in 1875.
This unusual beauty is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the United States. It’s also one of only ten lighthouses in the country to be declared a National Historic Landmark because it’s the only screw-pile lighthouse in Chesapeake Bay on its original location.
You can see Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse up close via a paid tour during warm weather months. Watermark Cruises from Annapolis Harbor will bring you right past the lighthouse. Several cruises leave from Annapolis Harbor every day.
If you have more time, you can take tours of the interior of the Thomas Point Shoal Lighthouse with the United States Lighthouse Society. On this tour, you’ll be able to climb all the way up to the lantern room.
Annapolis is a small and walk-able city, so there’s no need for a car to get around. But if you can’t leave your car behind, there are several lots that offer metered parking near Annapolis Harbor.
Pro Tip: Consider a weekend getaway in nearby Frederick, Maryland!
Assateague Lighthouse – Virginia
Julie of Fun in Fairfax VA
Visitors are drawn to the Eastern Shore of Virginia because of its most famous inhabitants, the wild ponies popularized in the Misty of Chincoteague book series. One fun and beautiful way to locate the ponies is by climbing to the top of the Assateague Lighthouse for a spectacular view of the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
The current red and white striped brick lighthouse opened in 1867, its construction delayed several years by the Civil War. Two flashes still warn ships of Assateague’s shallow waters and aid in navigation. Be prepared to walk an easy quarter-mile trail, then climb 175 steps to reach the view. Rangers may be on hand to point out groups of ponies in the surrounding marshland.
After your climb, explore the refuge by bike or on foot, for the best chance at seeing ponies and other birds and wildlife. The park also provides access to a nice stretch of Atlantic Ocean beach at Assateague National Seashore.
The Assateague Lighthouse is open daily April through November. There is no admission fee to climb, but donations are welcome and there is a $20 per vehicle fee to enter the refuge.
Currituck Beach Lighthouse – North Carolina
Theresa of Fueled By Wanderlust
The Currituck Beach Lighthouse, located in the small village of Corolla, Outer Banks, has been lighting the way for sailors along the treacherous North Carolina coast since 1875. The structure is distinctive against its fellow Outer Banks lighthouses for its red color, as this last brick and mortar lighthouse in North Carolina was intentionally left unpainted. Having the largest of seven lenses of its kind, the light from the tower can be seen for 18 nautical miles.
Today, the Currituck Beach Lighthouse welcomes visitors of all ages to explore the grounds, as well as climb to the top of the lighthouse. The lighthouse is open seasonally, from mid-March to December 1st, and keeps regular hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day.
While visiting is free, including parking, a climb to the top of the Currituck Lighthouse has an admission fee of $10. If you do choose to climb the 220 steps to the top, you will be greeted with sweeping views of the Currituck Sound on one side, and the Atlantic Ocean on the other.
Bodie Island Lighthouse – North Carolina
Christina of NC Tripping
Just south of Nags Head in North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Bodie Island Lighthouse stands 156 feet and is one of only a dozen remaining brick tower lighthouses in the United States. Pronounced “body”, this iconic lighthouse was first built in 1847, rebuilt because of poor foundation in 1859, destroyed by Confederate troops in 1861, and today’s structure completed in 1872.
With horizontal black and white stripes, Bodie Lighthouse is equipped with an original first-order Fresnel lens, flashing 160,000 candlepower beacon over 19 miles. Of the five lighthouses in the Outer Banks, Bodie is the easiest to access due to its close proximity to Nags Head and Kill Devil Hills where most vacationers stay.
Those wanting to scale the 214 spiral steps to the top must do so between the third Friday in April through Columbus Day. Parking is easily accessible and visitors are encouraged to stop by the Visitors Center for more historical information and maps for scenic nature trails around the lighthouse. Beautiful views of Bodie Island, the Atlantic Ocean, and Pamlico Sound are visible from the top. Tickets cost $10 for adults and climbs start every 30 minutes.
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse – North Carolina
Maggie of Pink Caddy Travelogue
Many accolades belong to the famous Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It’s one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world, it guards one of the most dangerous stretches of the Atlantic seaboard, and at 210ft tall, it’s also the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States (and 2nd in the world). And in 1999, became one of the largest masonry structures to ever be moved – yes, moved.
The black-and-white candy-striped beacon has been guiding sailors to safety through the most dangerous stretch of Atlantic coastline, known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” since 1870. But the ever-shifting sands of North Carolina’s Outer Banks eventually threatened the structural integrity of the lighthouse and the decision was made to move it inland.
So in 1999, a feat of modern engineering moved the lighthouse almost a mile from its original location. Today, the lighthouse is open to visitors to climb its 257 steps during the summer months, though the museum and visitor’s center is open year-round. Admission is free.
St. Simons Island Lighthouse – Georgia
Melody of Wherever I May Roam
I love climbing to the top of lighthouses for panoramic photographs and just the sheer accomplishment of it. There is no trouble making it to the top of St. Simons Island Lighthouse Museum in Georgia, with only 129 steps. It is one of the shortest lighthouses in the country at 104’ tall.
Built in 1872 to replace the original tower that was destroyed in the Civil War, it is one of only five remaining lighthouses in Georgia. The Keeper’s Dwelling, the two-story brick part of the structure, is currently a museum with a fantastic selection of historical photos.
Hours of operation are Monday through Saturday, 10-5, and Sunday 12-5. Prices are $12 for adults/$6 for ages 6-12/ and free for children under 6. A $2 military discount (with ID) is given.
St. Augustine Lighthouse – Florida
Known as the “Nation’s Oldest City” because it is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in North America, St. Augustine’s top attractions include it’s popular lighthouse. Standing at over 140 feet tall, climbing the 219 steps to the top offers impressive 360 degree views.
Completed in 1874, the lighthouse and Keepers’ House Museum are open year round except for Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. The Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate and has many interesting exhibits and artifacts. Admission is $12.95 for adults, although the lighthouse offers special guided tours for an extra cost like their Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse – Florida
Located just 30 minutes from West Palm Beach, the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse has been preventing shipwrecks along the Florida coast since 1860. Incredibly, the majority of work on the 108-foot lighthouse, adjacent oil house, and keepers’ house were completed in less than six months!
Admission to the lighthouse grounds costs $12 per adult. They offer guided tours at 11am and 2pm or you can choose to take a self-guided tour using an app on your phone.
After you climb the 105 steps to the top o the lighthouse, be sure to visit the museum and also walk the surrounding grounds of the lighthouse; there are scenic hiking trails and a playground for the kiddos.
Cape Florida Lighthouse – Florida
One of our favorite lighthouses on the east coast is the Cape Florida Lighthouse which is just off of Miami on Key Biscayne. The lighthouse is inside Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and costs $8 per vehicle to enter.
An interesting fact about the area known as Cape Florida is that in 2004 it was designated a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site; the island had been a secret place for runaway slaves and Black Seminoles to meet with sea captains that would take them to the British Bahamas.
The grounds of the lighthouse are open daily and tours of the lighthouse are available Thursday through Monday from 10am to 1pm. During tour times visitors can also enter the Keeper’s Quarters and Kitchen.
Pro Tip: Stop by nearby Virginia Key for mountain biking and kayaking with manatees!
Key West Lighthouse – Florida
One of the top things to do in Key West is to visit its lighthouse. It was built in 1848, two years after the original lighthouse had been destroyed by a hurricane.
An interesting fact about the Key West Lighthouse is that when it became operational in 1848, it’s Keeper was a woman; Barbara Mabrity was the widow of the previous Keeper. For a woman to hold that important position was not very common and she held that position for over 30 years.
Visitors to the Key West Lighthouse can climb the 88 steps to the top and get views of Key West and the ocean. You might even see a cruise ship! Admission is $12 for adults and includes the exhibits inside the Keeper’s Quarters.
Final Thoughts On The Best Lighthouses On The East Coast
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list of the best lighthouses on the east coast. We’ve certainly enjoyed putting it together! It’s interesting to learn of their history; they played such an important role and saved countless lives. Although many lighthouses have been decommissioned, we hope that communities continue to see their historic value and continue to preserve them.
Have you been to any of these lighthouses on the east coast? Which is your favorite? Is there a favorite of yours that we missed? We’d love to read your comments below! 🙂