Overnight lodging brings the romance of these coastal sentinels to life.

By Jennifer Chappell Susan Haynes and Steve Millburg
September 02, 2003

Coastal Living originally featured some of these lighthousesin March-April 1998. A story in our May-June 2000 issue described afamily's experiences tending the Rose Island Lighthouse. Enjoy thiscompilation of enlightened lodging.

Sentinel Island Lighthouse, nearJuneau, AK

You rule a 6-acre island. From the Art Deco lighthouse's 50-foottower, visitors survey two bald eagle nests, passing pods of killerwhales, and sea lions bellowing from the next island. Splashes ofwildflowers change with the seasons―columbines, delicatelyscented roses, lady's slippers, chocolate lilies. At night, you liesnug in your sleeping bag listening to the songs of humpbackwhales. This is a true wilderness experience, basically indoorcamping. You provide bedding and food; the Gastineau HistoricalSociety provides heat, water, and cooking gear. Open year-round;prime time is May-September. Rates: $50 per person, not includingtransportation to the island; 907/586-5338.

North Head Lighthouse, Ilwaco, WA

Lighthouse keepers once occupied two Victorian-era houses onthis cliff overlooking the place where the raging Pacific meets theColumbia River. The houses, each with three bedrooms and fullyequipped modern kitchens, are part of Fort Canby State Park. Theydon't offer much in the way of decor. No matter. With these views,you'll spend your time looking out the windows anyway. Openyear-round. Rates start at $229; 800/360-4240 or fortcanby.org.

Heceta Head Lighthouse Bed &Breakfast, Yachats, OR

Keepers Mike and Carol Korgan always insist that visitors take anighttime trip to the lighthouse to see how the lens works. Withflashlights in hand, guests clamber along a narrow trail carvedinto a cliff. They stand with backs against the tower and look upto see the brilliant beams of the light sweeping across thecountryside and the churning Pacific Ocean, 205 feet below. It's anastonishing experience. The inn, converted from the keeper's house,offers a view of the light tower, the landmark Cape Creek Bridge,and the sea. Some visitors find the pounding of the surf sobeguiling that they sleep with the windows open. Open year-round.Rates start at $147; 541/547-3696 or hecetalighthouse.com.

Point Arena Lighthouse, Point Arena,CA

Three hours north of San Francisco on Highway 1, a jaggedpeninsula stabs into the ocean. At its tip, a sleek, whitelighthouse soars 115 feet into the salty air. Crashing waves,astonishing sunsets, rugged vistas―there's so much beauty youwant to soak it in for days. And you can, in three (soon to befour) renovated houses built in the 1950's as keepers' quarters.Each features three bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, awood-burning fireplace, satellite TV, and an outdoor barbecuegrill. Open year-round. Rates: October-April, $175; May-September,$190; 877/725-4448 or pointarenalighthouse.com.

East Brother Light Station, PointRichmond, CA

Neither TVs nor phones mar the simple but comfortable rooms, sothere's not much to do but take in the scenery, relax, and getready for a four-course dinner and a bay sunset. Of course, that'sthe appeal. The Victorian-style lighthouse building, finished in1874, stands on an island the size of a football field in thestraits that separate San Francisco Bay and San Pablo Bay. It's a10-minute boat ride from the mainland. With such a stunninglocation, you'll hardly notice the Coast Guard's electric foghorn,but the inn provides earplugs for light sleepers. Open year-round.Rates start at $290 per room, including boat rides to and from theisland, hors d'oeuvres with champagne, a tour of the lighthouse,dinner with wines, and breakfast; 510/233-2385 or ebls.org.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse, Pescadero,CA

This cliffside hostel 50 miles south of San Francisco featuresthe bonus of whale-watching during the spring. The light, completedin 1872, stands 115 feet tall just off Highway 1―a majesticsight for travelers on this spectacularly scenic coastal road. Fourhouses built by the Coast Guard in 1960 provide lodging. As withall hostels, guests provide their own linen (or rent it on site)and clean up after themselves. Open year-round. Rates are $15 forHostelling International members, $18 for non-members. Privaterooms are $15 extra; 650/879-0633 orpigeonpointlighthouse.org/hostel.htm. For information on thelighthouse itself, call 650/879-2120 or visit parks.ca.gov/default.asp?page_id=533.

Race Point Lighthouse, Race Point,MA

It's not easy to get here, at the very tip of Cape Cod just westof Provincetown. Guests are driven the final two miles over beachesand dunes to the cozy keeper's house, built in 1876 and restoredfrom decrepitude by a determined band of volunteers. You bring yourown food, water, linens, and towels. But the bird- andwhale-watching, the palpable sense of history, and thesoul-cleansing solitude make up for any inconvenience. And you getto marvel at both sunrise and sunset over the Atlantic. OpenMay-September. Rates start at $135; 508/487-9930 or racepointlighthouse.net.

The Lighthouse Inn, West Dennis,MA

This posh Cape Cod compound at historic Bass River Lightfeatures resort amenities (private beach, tennis courts, heatedpool) spread over 9 acres. At the heart of the 68-room complex, youcan still see the original 1855-vintage keeper's house and lighttower. The Stone family has run the property as an inn since 1938.The light itself, which has gone dark a couple of times in itshistory, once again shines as a private aid to navigation. OpenMay-October. Rates start at $122, including breakfast; 508/398-2244or lighthouseinn.com.

Rose Island Lighthouse, Newport,RI

You become the keeper at this 133-year-old lighthouse. Paymentincludes performing a list of chores that keep the station working.Families love it; kids find a week's worth of garden-tending andweather-tracking to be great fun. Keepers-for-a-week stay in asecond-floor apartment. The foundation that restored and maintainsthe lighthouse also offers overnight stays in two first-floorbedrooms. The charming wood-frame building clings to an island amile offshore in Narragansett Bay, so it's a true getaway eitherway. Open year-round. September-October rates are $1,500 a week forkeepers, $165 for overnight guests; 401/847-4242 or roseislandlighthouse.org.

The Keeper's House, Isle au Haut,ME

Isolation is this inn's main feature. Just getting thererequires a 40-minute ride on the mail boat from Stonington. Thelighthouse compound, including the former lighthouse keeper'sdwelling and a tiny cottage originally used to store oil for thelamp, doesn't even have electricity. Gaslight, kerosene lanterns,and the rose-colored light itself provide cozy illumination.Woodstoves ward off the chill. "There's no miniature golf here,"says owner Jeff Burke. "People who come are content to read, write,converse, think, explore the woods, walk on the shore, and figureout their lives." Open May 20-October 23. Rates start at $300 perroom, including all meals, beverages, and bicycle use; 207/469-1174or keepershouse.com.

Selkirk Lighthouse, Pulaski, NY

A bit on the rustic side, this lighthouse with views of LakeOntario provides linens, pots, and pans. You bring food and friends(limited to 10 people). The building, built of stone quarriednearby, resembles an old farmhouse with a light tower on top. Bookearly; lighthouse fans, fishermen, and passing travelers keep theoccupancy rate over 90 percent. Open April-early December. Ratesstart at $125 weeknights; 315/298-6688 or www.maine.com/lights.

Big Bay Point Lighthouse, Big Bay,MI

A 60-foot tower and walls that are five red bricks deep makethis inn look like a fortress rising from the woods to guard LakeSuperior. The seven guest rooms, furnished with country charm, haveprivate baths. Everybody shares the fireplace and sauna. There'seven a massage hut for various spa treatments. Open year-round.Rates: May-October, $117; November-April, $104; 906/345-9957 or bigbaylighthouse.com.

Two Harbors Lighthouse, Two Harbors,MN

On mighty Lake Superior, 30 scenic miles northeast of Duluth,the sturdy 1892 brick tower at Lighthouse Point now does doubleduty. Its beacon (automated since 1987) still guides ships bearingiron ore. Three guest rooms and a cottage host travelers along thelake's stunning North Shore. Guests are encouraged to assume a fewduties, such as evening lockups and checking light rotation.Rewards include a rich Scandinavian breakfast: fruit soup servedwarm with whipped cream. Open year-round. Rates: $99-$125;888/832-5606 or lighthousebb.org.