August 7th is National Lighthouse Day and if you’ve never thought about staying in one, this is your chance. In 1789, the United States passed an Act in support of all lighthouses, beacons, and public piers. Now 230 years later, several historic beacons offer affordable, family-friendly lodging along the East and West coasts of North America.
When compared to hotels, lighthouses are scenic, big enough for a family, and are often located near a lot of interesting attractions. Read on for the background on some special beacons where families can spend a night or two to enjoy the surroundings and learn about local history. Additionally, the U.S. Lighthouse Society has an online directory of other lighthouses that welcome overnight guests.
No matter your choice, these trustworthy sentinels of the night will leave a light on. Most are open year-round, unless noted.
Northeast Lighthouses that Welcome Overnight Guests
The Lighthouse Inn
1 Lighthouse Inn Road
West Dennis, Massachusetts 02670
Situated along the shore of Nantucket Sound, the Inn provides complete seclusion and relaxation in a seven-acre complex central to all points of interest on beautiful Cape Cod. They offer a wide selection of accommodations in cottages with fireplaces, Cape-style houses with guest rooms, individual suites, and rooms in the Main House underneath the still-functioning light from ca.1850.
Activities available include golf, tennis, fishing, summer theater, shopping and swimming. Kids can enroll in the “InnKids” summer program, where they enjoy kite flying, nature walks, swimming, magic shows, miniature golf and much more. The inn is open from May to October (early and late season rates fall), but note that the “InnKids” program only runs from the end of June through August.
Rose Island Light House
365 Thames Street
Newport, Rhode Island 02840
Nearly lost to neglect and vandalism, this classic example of American maritime architecture once again welcomes visitors and keepers who cross the water to experience a uniquely independent way of life. Guests young and old relive a bygone way of life in old-fashioned keeper’s quarters restored to their original turn-of-the-century ambiance. Though it lacks the modern conveniences of electrical appliances and running water, it is rich in romance and history.
During the day, exploring the station from the windmill to the cellar cistern, you’ll learn about the working lives and amusements of lighthouse families from their own possessions and photographs. Overnight guests, who stay in the museum section, or ‘Keepers for a Week,’ actually participate in the adventure of lighthouse keeping, sleeping in the same rooms occupied by keeper families for over a hundred years. Up to four guests (not recommended for children under 5 years) will play a necessary, hands-on role in daily monitoring, and help with the simple chores which keep the station functioning. If you’re going to need the bunkroom, bring sleeping bags for the kids! There’s a long waiting list and a complex sign-up procedure.
The Lighthouse on Cape d’Or
Nova Scotia, Canada B0M 1A0
Located right on the edge of the Bay of Fundy in Nova Scotia, the inn at the Lighthouse on Cape d’Or is actually the former Lightkeeper’s home. With fantastic views of the bay and plenty of outdoor activities, the Lighthouse on Cape d’Or offers visitors a cozy hotel alternative. The lighthouse is still in operation today so parents may want to bring earplugs for the kids in case the foghorn goes off during the night.
The inn has four guest rooms and two private baths. Each room has unique views of the bay and nearby cliff. Two are connected by a shared washroom, a wonderful option for large families. Mom and Dad can have their own room while the kids play and sleep right next door. The Lighthouse on Cape d’Or even offers a whole house rental, perfect for family reunions. The inn also has its own restaurant where families can watch the tides as they enjoy lunch and dinner. Families with picky eaters may want to bring food with them because other restaurants are a good distance away, but the staff is available to help make transportation arrangements.
Mid-Atlantic Lighthouses that Sleep Families
Salmon River Lighthouse Marina
6 Lake Extension Rd.
Pulaski, New York 13142
At the mouth of the Salmon River and the shore of Lake Ontario, this is one of the best waterfront locations you can find on the entire Eastern Shore. Only a few hundred yards from the open lake through their new Federal Safe Harbor lies the area Sports Afield magazine calls one of the top two places in North America to fish. You’ll find a charter fleet, guest cabins, a tackle shop, boat rentals, marine repairs, marine gas and diesel fuels, transient slips for your own boat, and the historic Selkirk Lighthouse (known to some as the Salmon River Lighthouse.)
The actual lighthouse, open from April to mid-December annually, contains four bedrooms sleeping 6-8 people, complete with heat, bath with shower, towels, full kitchen with refrigerator and even cable TV. Other lodging on the premises (units available through vacation rental companies) includes two seasonal guest cabins which are fully furnished, heated, have three bedrooms and are completely handicapped-accessible.
The Saugerties Lighthouse
168 Lighthouse Drive
Saugerties, New York
Within sight of the Catskill Mountains and the Rhinecliff-Kingston Bridge, this lighthouse B&B is just a 10-minute walk from the little village of Saugerties. The Saugerties Lighthouse, built in 1869 on the site of an 1838 lighthouse guarding the mouth of Esopus Creek (see its foundations on a small island nearby), fell into disrepair after its light was automated in the 1950s.
Since its reconstruction in 1990, it has operated as a museum on weekends and holidays in summer, served by a small motor launch for those who want to approach by sea. The two-bedroom B&B is open year-round; each simple bedroom has a double bed, and there is room for two children’s air mattresses as well. Linens are provided, but guests must tidy up their bedrooms when the museum and lighthouse tours begin. Families may use the small kitchen, common bath and phone; there is no TV or air conditioning. This quiet seaside locale boasts a nature trail, a stirring climb to the top of the light, and fields for pets to roam (pets are permitted if both rooms are rented by the pet owner).
A Very Special West Coast Lighthouse Hostel
Pigeon Point Lighthouse Hostel
210 Pigeon Point Rd.
Pescadero, California 94060
Perched on a cliff 50 miles south of San Francisco, the hostel combines the serenity of an oceanside retreat with the cooperative spirit of hostelling. The four, three-bedroom houses next to the ca.1872 landmarked lighthouse have overnight lodging for up to 50 hostellers of all ages, starting at only $31/bed. Each house has three male or female bunkrooms; four separate private rooms may be reserved for families and couples at $60-$100.
While at Hostelling International’s Pigeon Point Lighthouse, families can visit the only U.S. mainland breeding colony of elephant seals, or nearby parks filled with majestic redwoods. Hike, picnic, explore tidepools and windswept beaches, watch for migrating whales (December-May) or visit nearby Pescadero Marsh. Book early, especially for weekends as this area near Half Moon Bay is a magnet for outdoors loving families.
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