Lighthouses stand as a symbol of strength, hope and beauty; throughout American history, that’s been true. Each serves as a beacon, delivering ships and sailors safely to port. With so many dotting the East Coast, lighthouses make perfect destinations for travelers interested in exploring these landmarks and learning about their enchanted pasts. This Labor Day, celebrate the end of summer by road tripping to some of the most beautiful lighthouses our shorelines have to offer.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, ME
Celebrate this holiday weekend watching the sun rise over the most eastern point of the continental United States: West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. Situated on the coast of stunning Quoddy Head State Park in Lubec, this famous lighthouse’s first structure was authorized under the orders of President Thomas Jefferson in 1808.
The tower is 49 feet tall, with a circular iron staircase to the top. It features a unique red and white striped pattern – the only “candy-striped” tower in the United States. The lighthouse has survived fierce storms throughout its century-and-a-half lifetime with minimal lasting damage. While the electric lantern light still flashes 24 hours a day, the former lightkeeper residence has been turned into an educational visitor’s center.
Portland Head Lighthouse, ME
This Labor Day, fall in love with the spectacular views and scenic overlooks dotting the shoreline of Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. During the Revolutionary War, the town of Cape Elizabeth was charged with the task of warning citizens of approaching British attacks. In 1787, the Massachusetts state legislature began funding construction of a lighthouse on the bluffs – now known as the Portland Head Lighthouse.
Through hundreds of years, the Portland Head Lighthouse has guided ships safely. Today, the lighthouse is the most photographed lighthouse in America, home to a museum that documents its rich history. Adjacent to the lighthouse is Fort Williams Park, which boasts 90 acres of hiking trails and recreation areas. With historic structures and endless ocean views, Portland Head Lighthouse is a monument that the whole family can enjoy.
Nubble Lighthouse, ME
For your Labor Day road-trip, keep heading down the Maine coast to Nubble Lighthouse in York. Completed in 1879, Nubble Lighthouse originally was operated by the Lighthouse Service to help sailors steer safely past Maine’s notoriously rocky coast. In 1879, U.S. Coast Guard members and their families made Nubble Lighthouse their home, improving its technology and automating its functions. To preserve the structure and its history, Nubble Lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and handed over to the Town of York’s Parks & Recreation department for maintenance and care. You can visit this fully operational lighthouse through neighboring Sohier Park, which offers guests breathtaking ocean views and exciting activities.
Ledge Lighthouse, CT
If you’re spending Labor Day near the coastline of Connecticut, head over to Ledge Lighthouse for an educational visit – and potential paranormal experience. In November 1901, New London Ledge Lighthouse was built at the mouth of the Thames River in Groton, CT. Unlike traditional lighthouses built along the seashores, Ledge Lighthouse was placed on its own manmade island right in the water.
An exhibit of New London’s maritime history, this three-story brick construction is also well-known as the home of legendary Ledge Lighthouse keeper Ernie, a heartbroken ghost who has supposedly haunted the lighthouse since the 1920s. Even though Ledge Lighthouse is still functional and manned by keepers, hints of Ernie’s presence can be heard or felt through strange whispers, unexplained foghorn calls and mysteriously untied boats.
If you’re up for a scare, or simply drawn to Ledge Lighthouse’s stoicism, tours and group charters are available through the Ledge Light Foundation.
Montauk Lighthouse, NY
There is no better way to celebrate this American holiday than by exploring New York’s Montauk Lighthouse. Commissioned by President George Washington himself in 1792, Montauk is the oldest lighthouse in the state of New York. Nestled on Long Island shore, Montauk Lighthouse still serves as an aid and guide for traveling ships to this day.
With plenty of fun for the whole family, visitors can explore the grounds of Turtle Hill and learn about the lighthouse’s maritime significance in the museum (located in the old keeper’s house). Montauk Lighthouse also is home to Gilmartin Galleries, which features an exhibit on the whaling industry with artifacts from the 19th century. There is plenty to do and see, so journey to Montauk Lighthouse this Labor Day Weekend.