The Best Jersey Shore Lighthouses
By Shaina Wizov
Are you planning to spend some time down at the Jersey Shore this summer? Make sure you carve out some time for a little sightseeing!
One of the biggest tourist draws down the shore is the abundance of lighthouses and their surrounding attractions. While there are several lighthouses all over the Jersey Shore, we’ve chosen to highlight those from Sandy Hook to Cape May.
Get out your itineraries; you’re going to want to pencil these in!
(Please note that the following lighthouses are listed from north to south.)
Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Completed on June 11, 1764, this is the oldest working lighthouse in the US. This lighthouse was originally called New York Lighthouse because it was intended to help mariners coming from the southern end of the New York
Harbor, and was funded through a New York Assembly lottery and a tax on the ships entering the Port of New York. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse was restored in the spring of 2000 and is an integral part of a free park tour given by National Service Park Rangers.
Fun Fact: The Sandy Hook Lighthouse was featured as the backdrop in an episode of the soap opera, Guiding Light, in 2009.
Twin Lights of Navesink Lighthouse (Highlands)
The Twin Lights were built in 1828 for national defense and to ensure shipping safety, but there is much more to this monumental structure. The lenses used in the Twin Lights prompted the beginning of a scientific revolution — the Fresnel lens changed the way light could be used in everything from lighthouse towers to checkout scanners and fiber-optic cables. The Twin Lights was home to many historic American innovations such as Guglielmo Marconi’s wireless telegraph and important radar experiments that greatly helped the Allies win World War II and allowed jetliners to safely fly the crowded skies.
Fun Fact: The Twin Towers was the location of the first official reading of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Sea Girt Lighthouse
The Sea Girt Lighthouse was built in 1896 to help illuminate a blind spot between the Twin Lights and the Barnegat Lighthouse. This lighthouse was equipped with the very first radio beacon navigation system, which helped mariners navigate through waters during poor weather conditions. The long and plentiful history of the Sea Girt Lighthouse is preserved in publications, special programs and guided tours.
Fun Fact: Amateur ham radio operators broadcast from the lighthouse during International Lighthouse Weekend in September.
Barnegat Lighthouse (also known as “Old Barney”)
This historic lighthouse is located on the northern tip of Long Island in Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. It was completed in 1859 and is actually two towers in one — the outside tower covers another one located inside. Once a Coast Guard lookout tower, it was deactivated in 1944 and given to the state of New Jersey; however, in 2008 a local nonprofit organization raised funds to reactivate the lighthouse leading to the installation of a new light system and replacement of the windows. The lighthouse activated its brand new beacon on the night of its 150th anniversary.
Fun Fact: After you visit the lighthouse, you can head over to the Barnegat Light Museum and see the light’s original first-order Fresnel lens.
Located in Atlantic City, this lighthouse overlooks the Absecon Inlet and is the tallest lighthouse in the state. It was first lit in 1857 but was deactivated in 1933. Although the lighthouse is not an active navigational aide for mariners, it is home to a museum and gift shop, as well as the site of various special events, tours and children’s programs. People often question the location of the structure being a few blocks from the ocean and wonder if it had moved during the course of its life. Jean Muchanic, executive director, explains that it did not move, but “in the late 1800s, the tide came up to where Pacific Avenue is today, threatening the foundation of the lighthouse. So the city built jetties and created two new blocks of land toward the ocean and one new block of land toward the inlet.”
Fun Fact: There are 228 steps to climb to reach the top of the lighthouse.
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse (North Wildwood)
The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse was built in 1874 and was very helpful to the environmental conditions that created concern during this time period. It helped mark the entrance to the inlet and was important for coal trade and navigation of steamers in the Delaware River and Bay. This lighthouse has been through hurricanes, dangerous storms and was even moved west to avoid future destruction. Despite temporary closings due to damage and being boarded up at one time, today it is a full-functioning lighthouse with a museum and gift shop.
Fun Fact: Ferdinand Heinzman, the lighthouse keeper in 1938, saved the structure during a potentially harmful fire when he climbed up to the second story and fought it off through a window.
Cape May Lighthouse
Located at the southernmost tip of New Jersey, the Cape May Lighthouse was built in 1859, automated in 1946 and continues to run to this very day. It is the third lighthouse to occupy Cape May Point, the first two built in 1823 and 1847, respectively. The locations of these, however, are lost to the sea due to land erosion. The lighthouse is supported by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities, which keeps it alive with historical exhibits, events such as Family Fun Day during the summer and participation in the statewide New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge.
Fun Fact: Climb the 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse and you can see north to Cape May City and Wildwood, south to Cape May Point, and west to Cape Henlopen in Delaware (if the skies are clear!)
For hours of operation and admission fees, please call or visit these lighthouses online.
Photo courtesy of LighthouseFriends.com