Lighthouses in New Jersey
Of New Jersey's 18 lighthouses, 11 are open to the public (currently closed due to the pandemic) and located in some of the most picturesque areas in the state. Rich in history and stature, the state's lighthouses that hug the Atlantic Ocean coastline and the Delaware River have been a vital component of New Jersey's maritime history that draw thousands of visitors each year.
Visitors are encouraged to visit the lighthouse web sites or call ahead to confirm hours and admission fees if any.
Like saltwater taffy and the world famous Atlantic City Boardwalk and piers, the Absecon Lighthouse is one of Greater Atlantic City's most popular attractions. This statuesque 171-foot tower with its distinctive yellow and black color scheme has been the "sister" of Barnegat Lighthouse for more than 150 years. After it was built in 1857 to mark the dangerous shoals of Absecon and Brigantine, it immediately attracted thousands of visitors to climb its 228 steps. The majestic tower still retains its original first-order Fresnel (Fray-nel) lens, the only New Jersey light to do so.
Cape May Lighthouse
A visit to historic Victorian Cape May becomes even more memorable with a stop at Cape May Point State Park and the Cape May Lighthouse. Towering 157.5 feet above the southernmost tip of the state, its distinctive beam flashes once every 15 seconds and is visible 24 miles out to sea. Built in 1859 under the supervision of 1st Lt. George Meade, the original lens was so large the keeper actually stood inside it when refueling. Nearby at the Cape May Court House Museum, the Fresnel lens specified by Meade is on display. Most of the state park, about 190 acres, is a natural area where visitors can observe migrating birds and butterflies. There are also three miles of hiking trails, surf fishing and picnic areas. Another historical site at the park is the World War II Fire Control Tower Fire Control Tower 23. It's New Jersey's last remaining World War II tower, which was part of the immense Delaware Bay harbor defense system known as Fort Miles.
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
If not for the light standing tall above its Victorian architecture, you might mistake the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse for a prime vacation home. Built in 1874, this lighthouse was one of the more well-appointed along the Jersey coast, featuring five fireplaces and beautiful living quarters for the keeper and his family. Outside, you can see the lovely garden of flowers and herbs that invites passersby. Hereford Inlet Lighthouse now offers a small museum and is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places.
East Point Lighthouse
Standing alone in a picturesque setting on the shore of the Delaware Bay marking the mouth of the Maurice River and miles from any developed lands. East Point Lighthouse has guided commercial fishermen and pleasure boaters since 1849. Its distinctive "Cape Cod" features were the inspiration for many of the early lighthouses built on the Pacific Coast. The two-story red brick structure is painted white and topped by a bright red roof and lantern. Group tours may be arranged.
Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse
First lit on New Year's Eve in 1880, this light pairs with the Tinicum Front Range Light to serve as a key guide for ships heading north along the Delaware River toward the ports of Philadelphia and Camden. Its fixed red light and 1,000-watt lamps exhibit 500,000 candlepower from atop an 85-foot-high tower.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. It is located at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation. Amazingly well-preserved, this unique octagonal tower dates back to the 18th century and has been in service since 1764. Except for being darkened during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II, the beacon has been operating ever since. The National Park Service owns the tower. The lighthouse is on the grounds of Fort Hancock and is just one of the unbeatable tourist attractions at Sandy Hook. The peninsula also boasts a spectacular holly forest, excellent surf fishing, hiking, beaches, trails, salt marshes and more than 300 species of birds.
Sea Girt Lighthouse
The Sea Girt Lighthouse, nestled within an L-shaped Victorian building,first shone in 1896. Like most lighthouses of the day, its fourth-order Fresnel lens revolved on ball bearings driven by complex clockworks. With just one winding, the light turned for 7-1/2 hours, turning red for two seconds out of six. Originally built to bridge the 40-mile gap between Barnegat Light and the Twin Lights of Navesink, this square red brick tower attached to a keeper's dwelling was decommissioned in 1945. The interior of the lighthouse has been meticulously restored by a local citizens' committee and furnished in keeping with its historical period.
With a pair of comfortable shoes and just a little bit of nerve, a trip up the 217-step winding staircase of "Old Barney" is well worth the 10-15-minute climb. The view from the top is spectacular, with breathtaking Island Beach State Park to the north, the 18 miles of Long Beach Island to the south and a bird's-eye view of Barnegat Inlet from every angle! This handsome 165-foot red and white tower, which was used as a lookout tower during WW I, was restored to its original splendor in 1988 and remains a symbol of the state's proud maritime heritage. The original 40-foot lighthouse was built in 1835 to mark a hazardous shoal as well as the fortieth parallel, a point crucial to transatlantic navigation. Its beehive-shaped Fresnel lens can be viewed at the nearby Barnegat Lighthouse Museum. Six feet in diameter, the 12-foot-high lens is formed from 1,024 separate prisms mounted in bronze fittings.
Twin Lights of Navesink
With its unique twin tower design, the lighthouse towers 250 feet above Sandy Hook Bay, on one of the highest points along the coast. Twin Lights is where the United States' first Fresnel lens was located. Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated the first practical use of the wireless telegraph from Navesink in 1899; the first lamps to be fueled by kerosene were used here in 1883. In 1898, it was one of the first electrically lit seacoast lighthouses in the country. The present day brownstone double lighthouses were built in 1862 on the site of the original 1828 Navesink Lighthouses. Decommissioned in 1949, the handsome building today houses a museum of lighthouse and lifesaving station artifacts, offering films and slide shows. Spectacular views are available from atop the medieval-style towers.
Finns Point Rear Range Light
Originally constructed in Buffalo, New York and then moved here by train and mule-wagon, this unusual wrought-iron, open-frame, lighthouse was built at a cost of $1,200 in 1876. Standing 115 feet tall, it featured a 24-inch range lens with double wick burner and kerosene vapor lamp emitting 150,000 candlepower. Close by is Fort Mott State Park, a 104-acre waterfront park with buildings and gun emplacements from the Spanish-American War.
Tucker's Island Light
Tucker's Island Light is a re-creation of an Atlantic Ocean lighthouse that fell into the sea in 1927 after years of pounding surf and beach erosion. Originally erected in 1848, the re-created lighthouse now stands in the Tuckerton Seaport Village, serving as a maritime interpretive center. It houses exhibits telling the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, Barnegat Bay pirates and the bay itself. Tuckerton Seaport is a newly re-created working maritime village, celebrating the legacy of the Jersey Shore and is located on a 40-acre site adjacent to Tuckerton Creek.