The Best Lighthouse Getaways
Point No Point Lighthouse
For Birders and Boat-watchers
Don't forget to pack your binoculars. Built in 1879, this staunch little lighthouse—marking the oddly named northeast point of the Kitsap Peninsula, across the water from Whidbey Island—is the oldest on Washington's Puget Sound and has a commanding view of looming ships making their way to and from port. But there's even more to watch for: abundant birdlife and, weather permitting, glimpses of Mt. Baker and Mt. Ranier. The Historic Keeper's Quarters offers a two-bedroom vacation rental, but the newest lodging may be the best: the recently renovated one-bedroom Keeper John Maggs House, which sits directly on a beautiful stretch of beach. Rates start at $180 (two-night minimum); uslhs.org/about/point-no-point-vacation-rental.
Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse
For Luxury Seekers
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
In what may be the greatest lighthouse reimagining in the logbook, this circa-1892 light station at the mouth of a bustling Maine harbor has been lovingly renovated into a luxury inn. Get swept away from shore via private boat, and bed down in one of two suites layered in opulent style with marble showers and Maine-made Cuddledown comforters. Enjoy hearty breakfasts, afternoon high tea, and three-course dinners (or arrange a lobster bake in advance). And gaze out those ocean-view bedroom windows as much as possible. Rates start at $600 for stays from Memorial Day through September 30 (two-night minimum, adults only); innatcuckoldslighthouse.com.
Rose Island Lighthouse
Newport, Rhode Island
Parked on a little rocky island smack dab in the middle of Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay, this is one of the very few lighthouses in America where you can spend the night in the structure itself. And it's a thrill, beginning with a lift aboard a lobster boat from Newport, a tour of the facilities, and a chance to bed down in historically renovated "museum rooms" on the lighthouse's ground floor, a keeper's apartment upstairs, or more quarters in the adjacent Foghorn Building and Barracks. Rates start at $75; roseisland.org.
Point Cabrillo Light Station
For Nature Fanatics
Part of a 300-acre nature preserve with views of the Mendocino coast and the pounding Pacific Ocean, the circa-1909 Point Cabrillo Light Station anchors a quartet of original outbuildings that operates as vacation rentals. Dreamiest of all may be the restored Head Lightkeeper's House, a stately 1909 bungalow-style cottage with original Douglas fir paneling and a "watch porch" with 90-pane windows for just what its name implies. Two houses and two cottages are available year-round. Rates start at $160; pointcabrillo.org.
Whitefish Point Lighthouse
For Shipwreck Aficionados
There's a reason that a stretch of Lake Superior shoreline is known as The Shipwreck Coast: One-third of the lake's 600 or so shipwrecks have occurred here. Whitefish Point is home to the oldest active lighthouse on this coast, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, and a meticulously restored U.S. Coast Guard Crews Quarters with five guest rooms. Open mid-April through early November. Rates start at $125; shipwreckmuseum.com/crews-quarters-overnight-program.
Frying Pan Tower
Frying Pan Shoals, North Carolina
It's worth booking a stay at this former Coast Guard Light Station 34 miles offshore for the helicopter approach alone. But be warned: The digs here are as spartan as they are remote, which means you may be Instagramming the view—360 degrees of Atlantic blue with not a smidge of land in sight—more than the decor. (Renovations are ongoing.) Take the lift down to the base to swim and dive, or just hang out on high and revel in the purity of your escape. A two-night helicopter package (including meal supplies and more) is $1,295 per person; fptower.com.
Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast
One of America's most picturesque beacons, this Pacific Northwest beauty occupies an isolated, high-drama perch overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Oregon's spectacular coastline. Built in 1894, the lighthouse shines so bright it can be spotted 21 miles offshore. The Light Keeper's Home, which was built the same year and has operated as an elegant bed-and-breakfast since 1995, shines with a romance that will almost help you forget that the house is said to be haunted. Have a seat in an Adirondack chair on the broad porch, take a hike to the beach below, and go to bed dreaming of Heceta's renowned seven-course breakfast. It's all part of the magic. Rates start at $174; hecetalighthouse.com.
Cove Point Lighthouse
For History Lovers
The renovated keepers’ quarters that flank Maryland’s oldest continuously operating lighthouse—the bright white, stocky little Cove Point Light—are so beautifully restored, you may decide to apply for permanent residency. Original details including glowing pine floors, brightly painted cast iron heaters, and deep sills and eyebrow windows, have been carefully brought forward with historically sensitive new pleasures like bright quilts, iron beds, and a long kitchen table made from reclaimed wood from a dismantled Maryland lighthouse. Each of two units includes three bedrooms and two and a half baths, although the entire house can be opened up for a larger party. Rates start at $550 for a three-night stay; calvertmarinemuseum.com.
Saybrook Point Inn
For City Slickers
Old Saybrook, Connecticut
This charming, freestanding building perched jauntily at the end of a dock, may be the most instant lighthouse fantasy there is. Slender, shingled, and a short walk from the Saybrook Point Inn’s myriad comforts, the Lighthouse Suite offers the remove of lighthouse living (900 square feet of private space with views in nearly every direction of Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River) with none of the efforts. And sitting between Manhattan and Boston (two hours in either direction), it’s an urbanite’s ideal.. Rates start at $599 May 1-October 31; saybrook.com.
Race Point Light Station
For Beach Fiends
As far as you can get away from the mainland (and still be on the mainland), this outpost at the northern tip of Cape Cod overlooks Cape Cod Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the breathtaking Cape Cod National Seashore. You’ll need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get across the sand to one of two buildings that serviced the 1876 white lighthouse with its black turret (the original light was built in 1816). The red-roofed Keeper’s House has three cozy guestrooms with brightly painted walls and quilted beds, while the brick Whistle House, with two bedrooms (each with a double and stacked bunks) has a nostalgic, cabin motel vibe. Both have outdoor showers. Open from May 1-November 30. Keeper’s House rates start at $115, Whistle House (open through November 14) rates start at $400/night, $2,000/week; racepointlighthouse.org.
Point Arena Lighthouse
Point Arena, California
The gnarled finger of land called Point Arena thrusts so far into the Pacific that locals like to say it’s the closest bit of U.S. mainland to the Hawaiian Islands. You can’t exactly see Mauna Kea from the top of the 115-foot lighthouse, but you may spy a creature normally found in Hawaii: a Laysan albatross that has visited every winter since at least 1994. Al, as birders call her/him, usually hangs out here until March. (Look for a really big bird; Al’s wingspan measures about six and a half feet.)
Migrating gray whales pass tantalizingly close to the point through April, along with harbor seals and plenty of other seabirds. The four keeper's houses at Point Arena Lighthouse, built in the 1960s, have breezy, open living rooms that look out to the sea with wood-burning fireplaces, full kitchens, satellite TV, and small dining areas.There’s also an apartment and a Keeper’s Room—smaller, but the views are just as big. For a cool—and eerie—look at the Pacific from the top of the lighthouse, take a Full Moon Tour. Rates start at $150; 877-725-4448 or pointarenalighthouse.com
Keeper's House Inn
For Respite Seekers
Isle au Haut, Maine
Yearning for a true island getaway? “No television, no fax, no e-mail, no Internet,” promises the Keeper’s House Inn. A 40-minute ride on the mail boat from Stonington takes you across Penobscot Bay to Isle au Haut, on which dwell about 75 full-time residents, a stubby 1907 lighthouse, and the comfy but rigorously off-the-grid inn. There’s limited electricity here, supplemented by gaslights, candles, and kerosene lanterns.
Still, three gourmet meals a day come from the kitchen, and the inn supplies bicycles for exploring the fishing village and the 2,700 acres of Acadia National Park land. Find out if you're cut out for lobstering life and take a cruise on a lobster boat—helping to haul traps is encouraged. The four rooms in the main house and the two cottages are a bit spare but blissfully cozy, in keeping with their ruggedly beautiful surroundings. Rates start at $425; 207-335-2990 or keepershouse.com
East Brother Light Station Bed & Breakfast
East Brother Island, California
The Victorian keeper’s quarters, with its built-in light tower, has perched since 1873 on East Brother Island, between San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The San Francisco skyline, the Marin County hills, and Mount Tamalpais provide spectacular scenery for all five rooms where antique lamps and Oriental rugs over hardwood floors create a comfortable ambience. But dinner ups the ante: four delicious courses filled with seasonal ingredients, many from the inn’s garden, are lovingly prepared according to mix-and-match culinary influences, accompanied by wine, and served at a communal table.
Still, East Brother isn’t for everyone. One-night guests aren’t allowed to shower because of the limited water supply, and the foghorn operates continuously from October until April. Some guests find it soothing; for others, the inn supplies earplugs. Pro tip: Walter’s Quarters is closest to the water, farthest from the foghorn. Rates start at $315; 510-233-2385 or ebls.org
Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn
In this grand yellow-brick castle of a lighthouse, built in 1917 to house three lightkeepers and their families, you feel like royalty. Especially if you stay in the sumptuous King Room, lavishly decorated in royal red and purple and featuring a canopied king bed, a fireplace, and a grand view of Lake Superior. Comb the beach to find Lake Superior agates, known for their rich red, orange, and yellow colors. The square tower that rises from the middle of Sand Hills Lighthouse Inn lost its light in 1954, but it still makes a great vantage point for watching the sunrise and set over the lake and, if you’re lucky, the Northern Lights dance in the sky at night.
The Victorian decor, nightly desserts, and piano serenades add to the romantic atmosphere. And don’t worry about staying up late—serving time for the made-from-scratch breakfast is not until 9:30. Rates start at $165; 906-337-1744 or www.exploringthenorth.com/sandhills/inn.html
The Lighthouse Inn
For Old-School Devotees
West Dennis, Massachusetts
Overshadowed by three tall chimneys atop the Main House rises The Lighthouse Inn's reason for existence: a modest, red-roofed lantern room. At the building’s heart, obscured by its numerous additions, still stands a sturdy two-story structure built in 1855 as the Bass River Light. The light was deemed surplus and went dark in 1914, but in 1938, while planning to develop the property, Everett Stone and his family began accepting overnight guests for extra income. Unintentionally, they had founded an inn, which still has five renovated guest rooms.
Today, the property has grown into a classic Cape Cod resort with three private beaches, heated pool, and smattering of gray-shingled cottages. The inn remains old-school enough that “proper dress is requested after 6 p.m." And—since 1989—it also does double duty as the West Dennis Light, a navigation aid to summer boaters. Rates start at $160; 877-208-2244 or lighthouseinn.com
Belle Tout Lighthouse
East Sussex, England
Once owned by the BBC, this light on the chalky heights of Beachy Head has sweeping views of the English Channel; belletout.co.uk.
The Lighthouse on Cape d'Or
Cape d'Or, Nova Scotia
On the dramatic Bay of Fundy, Cape d'Or's lighthouse keeper's residence is now a four-bedroom inn that keeps company with the square-towered light; capedor.ca.
In Portugal's chic seaside village outside of Lisbon, a remodeled and design-forward 19th-century mansion sits cozily with a neighboring lighthouse; farol.com.pt.
Corsewall Lighthouse Hotel
Stately and regal, a towering circa-1815 lighthouse perched on Scotland's wild west coast has 11 guest rooms and suites with views of verdant meadows or the Irish Sea; lighthousehotel.co.uk.
Cape Columbine Lighthouse
Paternoster, South Africa
This square, masonry tower on South Africa's dramatic western coast features former keeper's homes for rental; paternoster.co.za/paternoster/cape-columbine.