Summer might be ending soon, but there is still time to head down the shore and enjoy the beach + summer sun. Since the beach is a go-to summer day activity for most of us in NJ, make sure to visit a local lighthouse on your way. Whether admiring from afar or climbing to the very top, a visit to a lighthouse is a fun and educational activity for the whole family to enjoy. Plus there are many beautiful and scenic lighthouses along the New Jersey coast to visit- spanning down to Cape May. Keep reading for a history of lighthouses and where to visit them in New Jersey.
Lighthouses date all the way back to 285 B.C. but it wasn’t until 1716 that the first lighthouse was built in the United States, off the coast of Boston. Back in the day, lighthouses played an important role in guiding sailors home and helping them navigate between ports. And interestingly enough, New Jersey is home to many of the oldest and most historical lighthouses in the country. Located along the 127-mile coastline from Sandy Hook to the southern tip of Cape May, there are 10 original lighthouses that are open to the public. Some are even still working today.
Read More: Where to Whale Watch at the Jersey Shore
Lighthouses To Visit in NJ
Absecon Lighthouse | 31 South Rhode Island Avenue, Atlantic City
Located at the north end of Atlantic City, the Abecon Lighthouse was built in 1857. It is the tallest lighthouse in New Jersey and provides a phenomenal view from the top. While it was decommissioned in 1933, it remains a popular attraction for tourists. Visitors can explore the lighthouse keeper’s quarters and its museum which contains artifacts that paint a picture of the maritime heritage of New Jersey. There are 228 steps to the top and it is 171 feet tall.
Barnegat Lighthouse | 208 Broadway, Barnegat Light
Originally built in 1835 to help with transatlantic navigation, this lighthouse was later used during the First World War as a lookout tower. The tower stands 165 feet tall and those who climb it will see beautiful views of Island Beach State Park, Barnegat Inlet from all angles, and the 18-mile stretch of Long Beach Island. Its incredible views and impressive history make it a popular destination.
Cape May Lighthouse | 215 Lighthouse Avenue, Cape May
Built in 1959, Cape May Lighthouse was under the leadership of 1st Lt. George Meade for many decades, helping to guide sailors home for several decades. Today, it continues to be in operation, flashing its beam which can be seen from 24 miles out to sea, every 15 seconds. Tourists can visit the lighthouse and climb its original stairs while checking out the murals inside which tell the stories and show how it functioned throughout its history. Be sure to stop in the lighthouse’s museum shop, which is located in its original oil storage building.
East Point Lighthouse | 10 Lighthouse Road, Heislerville
Located on the shore of Delaware Bay, this picturesque lighthouse was originally built in 1849 and is also known as the Maurice River Lighthouse. It has been in use since 1911 and has since been providing fishermen and boaters a guiding light to shore. Group tours are available to admire the impressive views, beautiful surrounding land, and exterior of the lighthouse.
Finns Point Rear Range Light | Fort Mott + Lighthouse Roads, Pennsville
Originally built in Buffalo, New York, in 1876, this lighthouse is 115 feet tall and has 130 steps leading to the top for those who choose to climb it. While it is no longer in use, due to a deactivated lightbulb, it welcomes visitors to enjoy the amazing views it provides. It’s also conveniently located near Fort Mott State Park, a 104-acre waterfront park that contains historical features from the Spanish-American War.
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse | 111 North Central Avenue, North Wildwood
This magnificent lighthouse resembles a Victorian-style vacation home or resort with its architecture surrounded by several gardens. In addition to its uniqueness, Hereford Inlet lighthouse has earned it a spot on the State and National Registers of Historic Places. Tourists can visit the iconic lighthouse, explore the beautiful living quarters of the keeper and his family, admire the gorgeous flower gardens, and visit the small museum on the premises.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse | 84 Mercer Road, Highlands
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse dates back to the 18th century and is known as the oldest functioning lighthouse in the United States. “It has been in use since 1764 and has only had its lights dimmed during the First and Second World Wars, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War.” This 250-year-old lighthouse is extremely well preserved and has been one of the main attractions to Sandy Hook and our state in general. Aside from touring the inside, visitors can enjoy an afternoon in the park area nearby.
Sea Girt Lighthouse | 9 Ocean Avenue North, Sea Girt
View this post on Instagram
The Sea Girt Lighthouse was initially built in the Victorian era in 1986 as an L-shaped formation. It served to bridge the 40-mile gap between the Twin Lights of Navesink and Barnegat Lighthouse. For many years it helped sailors navigate and find their way off the coast. It hasn’t been in use since 1945 and is now a tourist destination. Visitors can climb to the top a short distance (only 42 stairs), and get tours of the keeper’s home to see the interior decor and historical scene.
Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse | 70 2nd Street, Paulsboro
This lighthouse has remained in use since it was first lit on New Year’s Eve in 1880. It has since been guiding many ships safely up north along the Delaware River. It’s made from pure steel and stands at 85 feet tall. The lighthouse offers events for climbing to the top and a video tour of the facility.
Tucker’s Island Lighthouse | 112 East Main Street, Tuckerton
In 1927, this lighthouse was destroyed by a storm at sea 1927 which caused the entire island to be taken by water for 20 years. The current lighthouse is a replica of the original lighthouse and can be found in Tuckerton Seaport Village, across the water from the original location. Visitors will receive a tour of the grounds and exhibits that tell the history of the lighthouse. There is also a museum to explore.
See More: Boutique Hotels at the Jersey Shore
Twin Lights of Navesink | 2 Light House Road, Highlands
View this post on Instagram
Famous for its unique twin tower design, the Twin Lights of Navesink plays a major role in the history of lighthouses in the United States. Not only did the first Fresnel lens in the US originate here but also the first practical use of the wireless telegraph. In addition, Twin Lights of Navesink became the first electrically lit sea coat lighthouse in the United States in 1898. Although it’s no longer used as a lighthouse, it’s currently home to a Seeing Stars museum, which shows the progress of the American flag, plus a museum with cool artifacts. Guests can climb to the top of the tower to admire the incredible views.