12 Lighthouses on the East Coast for an Epic Road Trip

Ever find yourself dreaming about a lighthouse road trip along the East Coast? Well, if you’re up for a bit of adventure, this collaborative article includes some of the most beautiful lighthouses on the East Coast to add to your bucket list!

These aren’t just any historic lighthouses—they were the trusty guides for sailors back in the day and now they’re waving at us inviting us to uncover their history and stunning views.

Vistas along the New England coastline from the Beavertail Lighthouse in Rhode Island or the intriguing history behind the shipwrecks in the Outer Banks area near the Bodie Island Lighthouse are just a couple of reasons why this list makes for an epic road trip.

1. St Augustine Lighthouse in Florida

st augustine lighthouse in florida
St Augustine Lighthouse, Next Stop Adventures

Placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the story of the 165-ft tall St. Augustine Lighthouse is just as intriguing as America’s Oldest City itself.

Back in 1589, a map detailing Sir Francis Drake’s 1586 raid on St Augustine was released and it holds the earliest recorded archival evidence of a wooden watchtower situated at the tip of Anastasia Island.

Over time, the watchtower north of the island evolved into what is now known as the St Augustine Lighthouse, while its southern counterpart gave rise to what is recognized today as the Fort Matanzas National Monument.

The first tower of the St Augustine Lighthouse was constructed with coquina in 1737 and the current brick structure, with its distinctive black and white spiral design, was completed in 1874 and rises 165 feet above sea level.

As one of St Augustine’s most recognized landmarks, climbing its 219 steps to the top is a rewarding experience that offers unique views of the city of Saint Augustine.

One of the things I love the most about visiting the St Augustine Lighthouse & Maritime Museum is the various exhibits that cover topics from shipwrecks to maritime archaeology to the history of the lighthouse keepers and their families.

In the museum, you’ll be able to see many authentic artifacts and The Keeper’s House offers a glimpse of the daily lives of those who kept the light burning.

If you’re like us and are always seeking thrilling experiences, you should know this lighthouse offers the Dark of the Moon Ghost Tour.

As one of the most haunted places in St Augustine, it’s no surprise that you’ll get to go inside the lighthouse tower at night, with only a flashlight illuminating your way!

👻 Spooky Fun Fact: The St Augustine Lighthouse has been featured on Ghost Hunters and is often ranked as one of the most haunted destinations in the U.S. The lighthouse and its grounds are reputed to be haunted, with numerous reports of ghostly sightings and unexplained sounds.

  • Admission fees: $14.95 for adults, $12.95 for seniors and children 12 years and older
  • Children must be at least 44 inches tall to climb the lighthouse
  • Your ticket includes access to the lighthouse, museum exhibits, and the picturesque grounds
  • Tickets for the ghost tours vary; more information is available on the St Augustine Dark of the Moon Tours website

2. St Simons Island Lighthouse in Georgia

Contributed by Sara from Discovering Coastal Georgia

st simons island lighthouse in georgia
St Simons Island Lighthouse, Discovering Coastal Georgia

The St Simons Island Lighthouse, located on the southern tip of St Simons Island, Georgia, has guided ships since 1872.

You can climb the 129 steps to the top for breathtaking views of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.

Don’t miss exploring the museum at the base of the lighthouse to learn about the island’s maritime history, see unique artifacts, and learn the stories of the lighthouse keepers.

To make the most of your visit, check out one of the many other things to do on St Simons Island that will be a great addition to your lighthouse road trip.

From the gorgeous oceanfront golf courses and the beautiful beaches to Fort Frederica National Monument and loads of yummy restaurants and fun bars, there’s no shortage of activities.

  • Free public parking is available at the lighthouse and in the surrounding village
  • Entrance to the lighthouse and museum costs $12 for adults, $6 for ages 6-12, and $2 with a military ID
  • The ticket also gets you into the nearby World War II Home Front Museum, so it’s well worth the price of admission!

3. Great Point Lighthouse in Nantucket, Massachusetts

Contributed by Anjelique from Quick Stays & Getaways

great point lighthouse in nantucket
Great Point Lighthouse, Quick Stays & Getaways

Although Nantucket is home to three lighthouses on the East Coast, one stands above the rest—literally. At 71 feet tall, Great Point Lighthouse is Nantucket’s tallest and oldest lighthouse.

The lighthouse was first constructed in 1769, though its current facade was built in 1986 following fire and storm destruction.

Nantucket was once the Whaling Capital of the World; Although mariners rely less on the lighthouse now, it remains a landmark of Nantucket’s storied past.

Great Point Lighthouse sits within its namesake Great Point, the northernmost tip of Nantucket. A visit to Great Point is one of the best things to do in Nantucket.

Getting there requires an off-road adventure through the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Reserve, and will be chock full of birds, seals, and other protected wildlife.

An over-sand vehicle permit is required to access the entry point. Either rent a Jeep that comes with a permit or purchase one for your 4×4 vehicle day at the Wauwinet Gatehouse.

  • Be sure to let the air out of your tires before hitting the sand to avoid getting stuck.
  • Refill your tires at the free pump outside the reserve on your way out.
  • Plan at least three hours to get up to Nantucket’s rugged coast and explore the lighthouse and its surrounding area.

4. Bodie Island Lighthouse in Outer Banks, North Carolina

Contributed by Meghan the Traveling Teacher

bodie island lighthouse in outer banks
Bodie Island Lighthouse, Meghan the Traveling Teacher

Outer Banks is known for its lighthouses, and many are found throughout these barrier islands, but one of the prettiest is Bodie Island Lighthouse along Cape Hatteras National Seashore. 

⚓️ There were more than 2000 shipwrecks which led to the construction of many different lighthouses in the late 1800s. 

Bodie Island Lighthouse is tucked away between tall pine trees and fresh marshland, which is unique from many other lighthouses you may visit.

It has a distinctive black-and-white horizontal stripe pattern that makes it stand out against the natural landscape.

Climbing Bodie Island Lighthouse offers amazing views of both the islands and the ocean. Tickets go quickly in the summer months, so it’s best to be prepared and book in advance.

  • Lighthouse climbing tickets go on sale at 7 am for the day’s climb available exclusively at recreation.gov. Fees are $10 for adults and $5 for senior citizens and children under 11
  • Full moon climbs are available (weather permitting), which offer a unique way to see the night sky from the top of the lighthouse.

The History of Bodie Island Lighthouse

Contributed by Christie from North Carolina Traveler

bodie island lighthouse in outer banks is one of the most beautiful lighthouses on the east coast
Bodie Island Lighthouse, North Carolina Traveler

On this lighthouse road trip, the Bodie Island Lighthouse stands out boasting an intriguing history with two rebuilds.

The original rendition began in 1847 but was unstable. The second tower was more sturdy and stood until Confederate troops blew it up in 1861. The current structure was completed in 1872.

Due to the many shipwrecks in this area, the waters around the Outer Banks are known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic“, allegedly giving Bodie Island its name from the bodies that washed ashore.

No matter the season, this is one of the lighthouses on the East Coast that offers a charming retreat. If you arrive early before the crowds, deer sightings, including a rumored albino, enhance the wildlife experience.

Ascend 214 steps and take in breathtaking views from five observation decks.

On-site, a 0.4-mile boardwalk leads to the viewing platform, ideal for bird watching and strolls and open year-round.

  • Admission to the grounds is free year-round
  • Climbing is available from April to October
  • Complimentary on-site parking is available for vehicles of all sizes
map of lighthouses on the east coast
Access our Google Map of the Lighthouses on the East Coast

5. Tybee Island Lighthouse in Georgia

Contributed by Krista from Our Wild Wanderers

tybee island lighthouse in georgia - lighthouses on the east coast
Tybee Island Lighthouse, Our Wild Wanderers

The Tybee Island Light Station, located 20 minutes outside of Savannah on Tybee Island, Georgia has a rich history dating back to its construction in 1736, ordered by General James Oglethorpe.

Holding the title of Georgia’s oldest and tallest lighthouse, this lighthouse has been rebuilt a few times due to storms, the encroaching sea, and even the Civil War.

However, it retains its original charm, drawing visitors with beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean and surrounding landscape.

Take the 178 steps to the catwalk at the top and wander around the grounds to the lightkeeper’s cottages.

Next, head across the street to the former gun battery, which is now the Tybee Island Museum. Here, you can learn about the rich history of Tybee Island.

  • Parking is limited to 2 hours
  • Pricing includes the light station and Tybee Island Museum
  • Adults $12, Children (age 6-17) $10, Children (age 5 and under) FREE. Military & Senior Citizens (age 62+) $10

🫶 Tybee Island Lighthouse needs help with urgent repairs of the windows around the irreplaceable Fresnel lens, the roof, and the masonry. Please visit tybeeisland.org to find out how you can help!

6. Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse in Jupiter, Florida

Contributed by Ashley Jansen of Jetset Jansen

jupiter inlet lighthouse in florida
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse, Jetset Jansen

A notable lighthouse in South Florida is the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse located in Jupiter, Florida, just north of West Palm Beach.

Recognizable by its red color, it stands 108 feet tall next to the inlet and it’s one of the most beautiful lighthouses on the East Coast.

The Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse was built in 1860 and is on 120 acres of land. Shortly after being lit, the light was disabled during the American Civil War and remained off until 1866. It’s been on ever since!

You can climb the 105 steps to the top of the lighthouse, and tour the grounds that include a museum, the Tindall Pioneer House (the earliest house in Jupiter), the Keeper’s Workshop and giant banyan trees at the base of the lighthouse.

Hiking trails take you through a tropical hammock and mangrove lagoon.

A great place to view the lighthouse from afar is from the restaurants across the inlet or from Dubois Park, which connects to one of the beaches in Jupiter

  • Admission fee to the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse costs $12 for adults and $6 for children
  • There’s a parking lot right next to the ticket office
  • Your ticket allows you to climb the lighthouse, where you’ll get a fantastic view of the inlet and the ocean

Continue Reading for More Lighthouses on the East Coast to Add to Your Bucket List

7. Ocracoke Lighthouse in Outer Banks, North Carolina

Contributed by Karen of Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Ocracoke Lighthouse in Outer Banks
Ocracoke Lighthouse, Outdoor Adventure Sampler

The Ocracoke Lighthouse is one of the oldest operating lighthouses in the United States and is the oldest one operating in North Carolina.

It is located on Ocracoke Island, part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. It was built over two hundred years ago to protect ships passing through the narrow channels and shoals of the barrier islands of North Carolina.

Today, this is one of the most picturesque lighthouses on the East Coast and a magnificent place to visit.

Hiking trails weave under live oak canopies and over the dunes. Sea kayaking in the estuaries and biking the quiet roads is also popular. There are spectacular National Seashore beaches to enjoy for swimming, beachcombing, or surfing.

The island of Ocracoke maintains its simple picturesque and natural beauty. The Ocracoke Lighthouse is an important part of the history of this charming Outer Banks island and it’s definitely the most unique tower you’ll see on this lighthouse road trip.

8. Gay Head Lighthouse in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts

Contributed by Maria from Martha’s Vineyard Travel Tips

gay head lighthouse in martha's vineyard
Gay Head Lighthouse, My Travel Tips

In 1799, Gay Head Lighthouse was the first lighthouse built on Martha’s Vineyard. In 2010, 40ft of fencing around the lighthouse fell down the cliffs into the ocean due to erosion.

Plans were made to relocate the lighthouse to save it from a similar fate and in 2015, it was lifted and moved to safety, 134 feet away from the cliff edge.

A visit to Gay Head Lighthouse is about more than the lighthouse itself; it’s also about experiencing the breathtaking Aquinnah Cliffs.

These multicolored clay cliffs are one of the most popular attractions on the island and the sunset views are spectacular.

I highly recommend taking the short drive to the neighboring fishing village of Menemsha. Movie buffs will recognize this as one of the filming locations for the movie JAWS.

Robert Shaw’s character, Quint, lived in a shack overlooking the harbor and he set off from here in his boat, the Orca, to capture the killer shark.

  • Parking at Gay Head Lighthouse is limited, so it’s advisable to come early, especially in July or August when the lighthouse is open daily.
  • Entry is $6 for adults and kids under 13 go free.

9. Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Ponce Inlet, Florida

Contributed by Lara from On A Permanent Vacation

ponce de leon lighthouse in ponce inlet florida
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, On A Permanent Vacation

Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse, is located in the city of Ponce Inlet, Florida. This lighthouse was established in 1887 and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

💡 Did you know? There are only 11 other lighthouses across the country that are designated as National Historic Landmarks.

You’ll love a visit to this historic lighthouse for many reasons. First off, you can climb the 203 steps to the top of the lighthouse and see panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian River. You can also do self-guided or group tours.

If you look toward the south on the other side of the jetty you’ll see New Smyrna Beach—known as the “Shark Bite Capital of the World” and known for amazing surfing and small-town beach vibes. Fun fact, you can drive on both New Smyrna Beach and Ponce Inlet Beach.

The most popular things to do around Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse are taking a stroll or bike ride on the beach, bar hopping, rent a boat or doing a fishing charter, or if it’s race season, taking a short trip up to Daytona International Speedway.

🚀 Locals Pro Tip: Kennedy Space Center is located just south of Ponce Inlet in Brevard County and if you plan your tour just right, you may be able to watch a rocket launch from the top of the lighthouse.

  • General Admission Rates: Adults (age 12+): $6.95, children (age 3-11): $1.95, infants (age 0-2): Free
  • You can check out other discounts and opportunities to get in for free! See the full admission rates
  • Free parking is available
  • Lighthouse Point Park (not affiliated with the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse and Museum) is located at the end of South Atlantic Ave and makes for a great stop during your visit

10. Cape Hatteras Light Station in North Carolina

Contributed by Kathryn from Staying Afloat Blog

cape hatteras lighthouse in north carolina
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Staying Afloat Blog

Located on Cape Hatteras National Seashore in Buxton, North Carolina, Cape Hatteras Light Station is the tallest brick lighthouse in the United States.

This National Historic Landmark stands 193 feet (59 meters) tall and is iconic for its spiraling black and white design.

Its beautiful location makes a day at the beach an easy addition to your day trip to Cape Hatteras, NC.

There are several restaurants and accommodations within a mile drive, hiking at Buxton Woods Coastal Reserve and camping at nearby Frisco Woods.

When open, visitors can climb all 269 steps up to the top of the lighthouse for an amazing view of the surrounding National Park and Atlantic Ocean.

The old lightkeeper’s house now serves as a museum, highlighting the lighthouse’s major move in 1999, as it originally stood 2,900 feet northeast of its current location.

There is also a National Park office on-site where you can purchase souvenirs.

  • Free parking and admission allow you to walk the surrounding grounds any time of the year
  • Due to renovations, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse will not be open for climbing until 2026.
  • Check the National Park Service website for hours, rates and updates

11. Beavertail Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island

Contributed by Sierra from Your Guide to Wandering

beavertail lighthouse in rhode island
Beavertail Lighthouse, Your Guide to Wandering

The historic Beavertail Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island, stands as a beacon of maritime history, dating back to 1749, making it one of the oldest lighthouses in the United States.

Perched on the southern tip of Conanicut Island, it has guided ships along Narragansett Bay for centuries.

A visit to Beavertail Lighthouse, located in the Beavertail State Park, is a must for history buffs and nature lovers alike. Explore the lighthouse museum to learn about its fascinating past and the role it played in maritime navigation.

Climb 49 steps and a 7 ft ladder to reach the observation deck of the Beavertail Lighthouse for breathtaking views of the bay and New England coastline.

While at Beavertail, take advantage of the scenic hiking trails that wind through Beavertail State Park, offering stunning ocean vistas and opportunities for birdwatching.

Nearby, you can also visit Fort Getty Park for picnicking and beach access.

While in Newport, Rhode Island, dive into Newport’s rich New England history with a visit to the opulent Gilded Age Breakers mansion, or stroll along the Cliff Walk to admire the stunning coastal views.

Head downtown to explore boutique shops along Thames Street, or embark on a sailing adventure on one of Rhode Island’s best beaches to experience the nautical heritage of Newport firsthand.

  • Parking at Beavertail State Park is available for a small fee
  • A $5 donation is suggested to climb the lighthouse, which supports its preservation and maintenance.

12. Fire Island Lighthouse in Long Island, New York

Contributed by Samantha from Find Love and Travel

fire island lighthouse in new york
Fire Island Lighthouse, Find Love and Travel

The Fire Island Lighthouse is easily one of the best lighthouses to visit on the East Coast. This lighthouse is on Long Island, in New York near the Robert Moses State Park.

A short walk to this lovely lighthouse—part of the National Park Service, offers the opportunity to see deer and Monarch butterfly migration during the fall.

This is the second construction of the Fire Island Lighthouse but you will still be able to see some ruins from the original lighthouse. You will start your visit by walking down a boardwalk where the landscape changes from tree lines to tall grasses.

As if this landscape wasn’t beautiful enough, climbing the lighthouse’s 182 steps to the top on a clear day, will reward you with a stunning view of Manhattan!

Additionally, you can stop by the Keepers Quarter Museum and a really cute gift shop.

After climbing, you can relax on the sandy beach of the Fire Island National Seashore or explore Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness—the only federally designated wilderness area in New York.

  • The fee to climb the lighthouse is $10 for adults
  • Parking fees range from $8 – $10 depending on the season, but if you visit later in the day, there may be free parking.

Final Thoughts

And just like that, our lighthouse road trip comes to an end. Each of these lighthouses on the East Coast was individually selected for its unique charm, beauty and interesting history.

We all know that ships nowadays have all sorts of gadgets to navigate the waters, but lighthouses will always have an appealing and intriguing character.

Please remember, to always practice responsible tourism, and do our part to keep these landmarks shining bright!

🚘 Ready to pack for this lighthouse road trip? Which one would you visit first? Let us know in the comments!


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Yanitza Ninett
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Yanitza is an avid adventurer with 15+ years of hiking experience and outdoor travel. As a PADI-certified scuba diver, she's also passionate about ocean conservation. When she's not exploring the great outdoors, Yanitza obsesses over The Vampire Diaries and dreams of traveling to Mallorca, Spain.

8 thoughts on “12 Lighthouses on the East Coast for an Epic Road Trip”

  1. WOW! I’ve always wanted to go on a lighthouse tour, and this article has convinced me I definitely need to make it happen. I was especially impressed with the lighthouses from the Outerbanks. What a stunning area!

    Reply
  2. I’ve always enjoyed visiting lighthouses as they are so interesting because of the spots you find them – there is so much history surrounding them – the stories they could tell!

    Reply

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