With just a few weeks left of summer, you may be looking for day trips to go on with your family. There are 11 majestic NJ lighthouses open to the public that are located along the Jersey shore and the Intracoastal Waterway in some of the most beautiful areas of the state. And they are just a short trip away.
The Cape May Lighthouse, located on the southernmost tip of New Jersey, was built in 1859 and is still in use today. The reward for climbing the 199 steps to the top are spectacular views of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. Family friendly activities such as The Keeper’s on Duty and Lighthouse Storytime are free for participants. This beautiful lighthouse is located at 215 Lighthouse Ave in Cape May Point State Park. Nearby is the recently opened WWII Lookout Tower and Wall of Honor recognizing area veterans.
The Barnegat Lighthouse, located in Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, was originally lit in 1859. In 1927 the original lens was removed and a lightship anchored off the coast guided vessels traveling along the coastline. In 2009, a new Coast Guard approved lens was installed and the lighthouse began shining again. After climbing 217 stairs, panoramic views of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Inlet and Island Beach State Park can be enjoyed. A walking trail, fishing, nature observation and picnicking are all available.
The Twin Lights of Navesink tower 200 feet above Sandy Hook Bay on Lighthouse Road in the Highlands. The original Navesink Lighthouses were powered by kerosene and were built in 1828. After the buildings fell into disrepair they were rebuilt in 1862 for a total of $74,000. They were decommissioned in 1949 but the building now houses a museum of lighthouse and lifesaving station artifacts. Spectacular views are available from the observation decks in each of the towers. It only takes 64 or 65 steps to climb to each deck.
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. This octagonal tower is located at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Atlantic Highlands. This lighthouse has been in service since 1764. It was restored in 2000, and free tours are offered every half hour during the afternoon. This is a relatively short lighthouse with only 108 steps, but it offers breathtaking views of the harbor and the surrounding grounds. There are also many other fun things to do in Sandy Hook such as fishing, biking, hiking, birding, camping, boating and picnicking.
The Sea Girt Lighthouse is the last live-in lighthouse built on the Atlantic coast. This lighthouse was originally built to bridge a gap between the Navesink and Barnegat Lighthouses. As navigation techniques advanced, like many other lighthouses, it was decommissioned in 1945. The interior of the lighthouse has been meticulously restored and furnished with period pieces. Only 42 steps take you to the top of this lighthouse.
Tucker’s Island Lighthouse is actually a replica of the original lighthouse that was built in 1868. It was originally located on an island known as Tucker’s Island, one of the first resorts in America. By the 20th century, the community had fallen into a steady decline, and a disastrous nor’easter in 1920 took its toll. The hotels and homes were abandoned, and in 1927 the island was washed into the sea. A replica of the lighthouse was built in 1999 as part of Tuckerton Seaport in Tuckerton, NJ. The replica lighthouse looks quite authentic and even houses an original lighthouse lens. There are also many exhibits, activities, workshops, tours and classes to explore in the seaport.
The Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City is New Jersey’s tallest and the third tallest in the United States. It was built in 1857 and recently underwent a multi-million dollar restoration. After climbing 228 steps to the top you will enjoy breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline. You can also explore the lightkeeper’s dwelling, exhibits, the lens museum and expansive grounds.
The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, located in North Wildwood, is a working lighthouse that began operations in 1874. It was built to mark the entrance to the Hereford Inlet. Designed by Paul J. Pelz, designer of the Library of Congress in Washington DC, this lighthouse depicts the Swiss Carpenter Gothic and Stick styles. There are 56 steps to the top for beautiful views of the surrounding area.
The East Point Lighthouse, located in Heislerville, was built in 1849 and marks the mouth of the Maurice River. It is miles from any developed land. It is a two story stone building built in the Cape Cod style. A fire in 1971 destroyed the roof, the lantern room and most of the building’s interior. Over the years, significant restoration work has been completed and the lighthouse is now open to the public.
The Finns Point Rear Range Lighthouse, built in 1876, was originally constructed of wrought iron in Buffalo, NY and then transported by train and wagon to Pennsville, NJ. This open-frame lighthouse cost $1,200 in 1876. To see beautiful views of the nearby Fort Mott State Park, climb the 130 steps to the top.
The Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse, located in Paulsboro, began operations in 1880. A total of 112 steps will take you to the lantern room for gorgeous views of the Delaware River. A construction project for the installation of permanent steps at the base of the lighthouse was recently completed. Unfortunately, this lighthouse is closed until further notice due to Coast Guard maintenance.
If you don’t get a chance to visit the NJ lighthouses this summer, keep the weekend of October 21 – 22 open for the 2017 Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey. The challenge is to visit all 11 NJ lighthouses, visit two life saving stations and visit two museums. If you complete the challenge, you could win a prize worth $1,000.