Whether you're planning a quick weekend getaway or a week-long fall hiatus, switch up your vacation this year by heading to a lighthouse destination. These landmarks provide the perfect combination of breathtaking coastal views and rich history for you and your family to enjoy together. Better yet, you could be headed to a green landmark too!
Typically, lighthouses are maintained by preservation groups and updated and restored based on safety, accessibility and energy efficiency since most spots attract tourists. Energy-efficient updates are commonly made on shutters, ventilation systems and windows, says the United States Lighthouse Society's preservation handbook.
Check out the four lighthouses below and read up on their eco-friendly qualities. While you're planning your family's next vacation spot, you might even discover other green activities around the area!
San Francisco, California
As the first lighthouse built on the West Coast, Alcatraz Lighthouse is a spot you'll definitely want to stop and explore. The tower sits on Alcatraz Island – a former prison – in the San Francisco Bay and can be easily accessed by boat. You and your family can take a historical tour through the prison, wander through exhibits and learn about famous inmates, including Al Capone and Robert Stroud.
Alcatraz Island is one of the National Park Service's ongoing restoration projects. Although the prison closed its doors in 1963, its lighthouse and grounds are still popular tourist locations. The organization is making eco-friendly changes such as installing a solar roof on the prison, refurbishing the Alcatraz Gardens and making other green updates where necessary.
Big Sable Point Lighthouse
Standing more than 100 feet tall, the Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the tallest lighthouses in the state. It's perched on Lake Michigan within Ludington State Park, where visitors can hike on the beach to visit and climb the landmark. The Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association preserves and restores this lighthouse – along with three others – so it's in top condition for others to enjoy. Are you looking for other fun green activities to do with the family? Visitors can also canoe, listen to live music at the amphitheater and spot wildlife throughout the state park.
Bodie Island Lighthouse
Nags Head, North Carolina
The Bodie Island Lighthouse has been a popular landmark since 1872 and underwent restoration in 2013. The lighthouse has about 200 steps, but there are unforgettable panoramic views of the Outer Banks waiting for you at the top. Aside from climbing the lighthouse, there are other ways to explore the surroundings around the island. Nature trails are located around the lighthouse grounds for walkers, hikers and other visitors planning to take in the area's natural beauty. Also, there are wooden observation stands nearby the landmark for guests to view the marshland and bird watch, since the area is home to more than 400 bird species.
Port Isabel Lighthouse
Port Isabel, Texas
The Port Isabel Lighthouse is the only lighthouse along Texas' coast that's open to the public. The lighthouse was restored in 1952 and has been named a Texas State Historic Park. The 75-step trip up the lighthouse leads to views of South Padre Island. Visitors can climb the lighthouse any day of the week and any day of the year from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Also, guests who want to learn more about Port Isabel's history can walk around the grounds to view the island's many historical markers. The island has much more to offer its visitors, including a sealife and nature center, locally owned shops and a pirate ship cruise.