There’s nothing more refreshing than an outdoor adventure! You can never go wrong with a hike full of natural beauty, but if you appreciate man-made marvels as well, you’ll want to check out these famous lighthouses.
You’ll find dozens of lighthouses along both the west coast and east coast of the United States, and many in between as well. Not only are they gorgeous, but they’re also filled with history.
Of course, the United States isn’t the only place with lighthouses; below you’ll also find a few in other countries. Each lighthouse is different in its way. While some are no longer manned, others are still in use despite being over a century old.
How many of these famous lighthouses do you think you can visit in your lifetime? There’s only one way to find out! Read on, build your lighthouse bucket list, and get started!
What We Cover
- Most Famous & Best Lighthouses in the World
- 1. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
- 2. Split Rock Lighthouse
- 3. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
- 4. Bodie Island Lighthouse
- 5. Big Sable Point Lighthouse
- 6. Portland Head Lighthouse
- 7. Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
- 8. Sandy Hook Lighthouse
- 9. Battery Point Lighthouse
- 10. Diamond Head Lighthouse
- 11. Cape Neddick Lighthouse
- 12. Cape Henry Lighthouse
- 13. Heceta Head Lighthouse
- 14. Louisbourg Lighthouse
- 15. The Palagruza Lighthouse
- 16. Tower of Hercules
- What are the most famous lighthouses in the world?
- Are lighthouses still in use today?
- What is the best time of year to visit a lighthouse?
Most Famous & Best Lighthouses in the World
1. Pigeon Point Lighthouse
Located along the Pacific Ocean coast, Pigeon Point Lighthouse in California is among the most picturesque lighthouses in the region. The national historic landmark stands at 115 feet and is the tallest lighthouse on the Californian coastline.
This west coast light station was named after the Carrier Pigeon ship that arrived as a wreck in the Northern California Half Moon Bay. Before that, the region was known as Punta De Las Ballenas, which translates to the point of whales.
To date, it is a beautiful place to go for whale watching, bird watching, and spotting some seals. Although there is no entry to the lighthouse, you can enjoy the beach or book a night at the Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel.
2. Split Rock Lighthouse
This famous lighthouse is located on the North Shore of Lake Superior in South West Silver Bay, Minnesota. The Split Rock Lighthouse was built after the Mataafa storm of 1905, which caused many shipwrecks on Lake Superior. It’s among the most famous lighthouses in the Midwest because of its history (over a century old) and its dramatic location on the edge of a 130-foot cliff.
There are 46 drive-in campsites to spend the night by the lighthouse. If you’re willing to drive a few minutes away, you’ll also find various glampgrounds in the area, which will take your camping experience up a notch. For those who prefer four walls and all amenities, Cove Point Lodge is a superb overnight option.
See Related: Things to Do in Minnesota
3. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse
Located at Hatteras National Seashore on Hatteras Island, Cape Hatteras Light Station is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States. At nearly 200 feet tall, this North Carolina lighthouse guides ships along the dangerous Atlantic waters that have caused at least 2,000 shipwrecks over the years.
If you visit while the lighthouse is open, you can pay a small fee to climb 257 steps to the top. Marvel at the sprawling views from above, and make sure your phone is charged to snap plenty of photos. You’ll also want to take photos of the exterior of this 1870 lighthouse, as its black and white painted swirls are what it’s most famous for.
If you want to extend your stay near this popular tourist attraction, consider staying at Hatteras Island Inn. It’s just one mile from the beach and the lighthouse.
4. Bodie Island Lighthouse
You’ll find Bodie Island Light Station at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It opened in 1872 and is over 150 feet tall.
One of the most beautiful lighthouses in North Carolina, Bodie Island Light Station is incredibly photogenic, both from the exterior and from the top of the structure. There are 214 steps to reach the top and if you do plan on entering the lighthouse, be sure to visit the website first in case of closures.
5. Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Big Sable Point Lighthouse stands on the shores of Lake Michigan at 112 feet tall. It opened in 1867 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After arriving at Ludington State Park, you’ll hike a 1.8-mile trail before reaching the coastline and lighthouse. The trek is worth it because the lighthouse is open for seasonal tours. Along with climbing to the top of the lighthouse, you can also visit the gift shop, which is located in the original Keeper’s Quarters.
See Related: Things to Do in Detriot, Michigan
6. Portland Head Lighthouse
Maine is the epitome of quintessential New England, boasting six beautiful lighthouses within a half-hour drive from central Portland, Maine. Although more famous lighthouses exist throughout the state, this route makes it possible to partake in a lighthouse tour in one afternoon. One of the most famous lighthouses in the world is Portland Head Lighthouse, located in Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.
Portland Head Lighthouse is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. Before leaving, check out Ram Island Light at the entrance to Portland Harbor. Other honorable mentions within the area include the following:
- Spring Point Ledge Light: Located next to the Portland Harbor Museum, visitors can learn more about Portland’s rich history. Unlike other lighthouses, visitors can walk out on the granite breakwater to admire and photograph the lighthouse up close.
- Two Lights State Park: As the name implies, two lighthouses can be viewed here. Both, however, are located on private property, so although one can’t get very close to them, the park offers excellent views of them.
7. Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Toledo Harbor Lighthouse on Lake Erie is known for its unique architecture and ghost stories. This Ohio lighthouse dates back to 1901 and is said to be haunted by a phantom lighthouse keeper.
Although the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is not open to the public for visits, it opens during special occasions like the annual Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival.
For a casual place to stay in the area, check out Lake Erie Lodge. If you’re willing to travel a bit further, Lake Erie Walleye Fishing Charters makes for a gorgeous and fun (and fishy!) day on the water.
See Related: Most Famous Landmark in California to Visit
8. Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Constructed in 1764, Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest working lighthouse in Rhode Island and in the United States. It is located at the entrance of New York Harbor and still guides ships using that route.
The National Park Service runs the lighthouse, which offers free tours. At 103 feet tall, you can enjoy views of the Atlantic Ocean, the New York skyline, and Sandy Hook Bay.
You could spend a few days exploring the area, from the New Jersey side to New York City. BeachWalk at Sea Bright is a great place to stay while doing so.
9. Battery Point Lighthouse
Also known as the Crescent City Lighthouse, Battery Point Lighthouse was one of the first lighthouses built on the Californian coast. It opened in 1856 and is a mere 45 feet in height. What it lacks in height, it makes up for in coastal beauty–it’s postcard perfect!
This lovely lighthouse is open to the public for tours. Visitors are recommended to confirm the tides as sometimes the water covers the footbridge to the light station.
10. Diamond Head Lighthouse
Diamond Head Lighthouse is a United States Coast Guard facility located in Hawai’i on O’ahu Island. It opened in 1917 and was used as a watchtower during yacht races.
Today, the 57-foot-tall lighthouse is no longer manned and is not open to the general public. However, you can take boat tours to take in the beauty of the historic lighthouse.
The O’ahu area is full of other outdoorsy adventures, such as shark cage diving, glass bottom boat tours, and scenic hikes. If you’re seeking a place to stay close to the picturesque lighthouse, Moana Surfrider Resort is only a six minute drive away.
11. Cape Neddick Lighthouse
Also known as Nubble Lighthouse to locals, this is one of the most famous lighthouses in Maine. This popular tourist attraction along the rugged coastline opened in 1879 and is 41 feet tall.
Although not open to the public, there are several things to make your visit to Cape Neddick memorable. From picnics and weddings to water sports activities such as scuba diving and fishing when the tides are right, tourists love visiting this area for the lighthouse views and beyond.
12. Cape Henry Lighthouse
The Cape Henry Lighthouse is actually a pair of lighthouses in Virginia Beach. These two beautiful lighthouses have guided sailors in and out of the Chesapeake Bay for over a century.
The first lighthouse was built in 1792. The second lighthouse was constructed in 1881 after the original lighthouse seemed unstable.
Both lighthouses still stand and are entry points to four ports, making them an essential channel asset. Although the new lighthouse is closed to the public, the earlier lighthouse is open to the general public.
See Related: Most Beautiful Places in the World
13. Heceta Head Lighthouse
If you want to experience spectacular views, scenic hiking trails, and ocean life, consider heading to Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon.
First illuminated in 1894, its keepers’ inn is one of the few remaining on the Pacific Ocean. You can even book and spend the night there. The beautiful lighthouse on the Oregon Coast is open for tours, although the top floors are closed to the general public.
The hiking trails lead to the viewpoint, the best place for whale spotting during their migration. Sea lions are also in plenty so keep your eyes peeled!
See Related: Things to Do in Split, Croatia
14. Louisbourg Lighthouse
Nova Scotia’s South Shore has lighthouses dotting the coast, including tranquil settings and louder wave-crashing bays. The “Lighthouse Route” along the shore offers views and stops at over 20 lighthouses.
The Lighthouse Route makes for an unforgettable trip. The other lighthouses you can check out include Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse, Sambro Island Lighthouse, and the Maugher Beach Lighthouse.
15. The Palagruza Lighthouse
Croatia’s claim to fame is its beautiful, serene cliffsides and breathtaking Dalmatian Coast. Another thing that makes Croatia stand out as a must-see destination is the architecturally beautiful, historically rich lighthouses along the Adriatic Coast.
The Palagruza Lighthouse is among the most beautiful lighthouses in the scenic landscape. Nestled in the middle of the Adriatic Sea, this lighthouse is also a historic landmark of Pelagosa Island.
Even better is that many of these lighthouses are not only maintained but can be rented out! Vacationers can enjoy a lighthouse for often surprisingly reasonable nightly and weekly rates.
Along with admiring the local lighthouses in Croatia, you can also go on a speedboat cave tour!
16. Tower of Hercules
Tower of Hercules, also known as La Coruna Lighthouse, is the oldest existing lighthouse in the entire world. It dates back to the 2nd century AD and is visited by over 150,000 people annually. The 180 foot tall structure in Spain is the only fully preserved Roman lighthouse still in use. It’s just impressive all around!
Despite being literally ancient, you can still climb parts of the tower today. After exploring the lighthouse and partaking in other La Coruna adventures, rest up at a unique cave hotel. There is much to love about this area of Spain, which is like a surreal step back in time.
What are the most famous lighthouses in the world?
Some of the most famous lighthouses in the world include Block Island Southeast Light in the United States, South Stack Lighthouse in Wales, Mouro Island Lighthouse in Spain, Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse in Argentina, Gibbs Hill Lighthouse in Bermuda, and Chania Lighthouse in Greece.
Are lighthouses still in use today?
While hundreds of lighthouses worldwide are now defunct, plenty are still in use. Portland Head Light, the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine is still in use, and Heceta Head Lighthouse is still active on the Oregon Coast.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey is still in use and is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. Regarding lighthouses outside of the US, Tower of Hercules in Spain may be the most famous lighthouse still in use.
What is the best time of year to visit a lighthouse?
Any time of year is a good time to visit a lighthouse. However, if you want to tour inside a lighthouse, you may want to stick to warmer months since many are only open seasonally. If you prefer a quiet visit with fewer crowds, consider visiting during the off-season.