New Jersey’s coastline is sprinkled with numerous historic lighthouses. They were originally erected in New Jersey to help mariners navigate the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean. They improved nighttime visibility and served as important landmarks. Today, lighthouses in New Jersey are interesting attractions that offer a rich historical past and beautiful views to their visitors. Many New Jersey lighthouses are open to the public and can be climbed to the top! They are very popular tourist attractions at the Jersey Shore.
The Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey is the tallest lighthouse in the state and the third-oldest lighthouse in the entire country. It has been guiding seafarers for over 155 years.The first-order Fresnel lens atop the lighthouse is the original and has been there since the 1850s. The lighthouse recently underwent a multi-million dollar restoration project that spruced the area up with an educational museum, a gift shop and a replica of the Lightkeeper’s dwelling. Visitors can also see a Fresnel Lens exhibit at the original Oil House. Parking and admission to the educational Absecon Lighthouse attractions are always free! Those who are up to the challenge can even climb the 228 steps up to the top for spectacular views of Atlantic City. This must-visit NJ lighthouse is open daily during July and August. It is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from September through June.
While the Absecon Lighthouse surrounding area is beautiful in its own right, it looks nothing like how it looked back in the 1850s. Atlantic City is now filled with luxury casinos and resorts, so getting an old-time feel is a bit difficult. In contrast, the East Point Lighthouse is located on a secluded shore of the Delaware Bay in Heislerville, New Jersey. It is the second oldest lighthouse in New Jersey and marks the east bank of the Maurice River. This beautiful and historic lighthouse is located miles away from any kind of development, making it an untouched relic of the past. The light was extinguished during World War II, but it was re-lit in 1980 and restored by the Coast Guard since then. The miles of undeveloped and natural landscape surrounding the East Point Lighthouse make it a wonderful spot that is well worth a trip.
There is one other Delaware Bay Lighthouse in New Jersey: Cape May Light. The lighthouse in Cape May is arguably one of New Jersey’s most famous. It is located in Cape May Point State Park, and over 100,000 people visit this popular Jersey Shore attraction every year. There have been a total of three lighthouses built in Cape May- one in 1823, a second in 1847, and the lighthouse that is currently standing was built in 1859. The locations of the older two lighthouses are now underwater. The Cape May Lighthouse is open for climbing, and those who make the upward trek are rewarded with views of Cape May Point to the south, Wildwood to the north, and a bit of Delaware to the west. The lighthouse area also features a visitor orientation center full of interesting information, a museum and the original Oil House. The museum shop offers plenty of souvenirs and trinkets to bring home. One of the most breathtaking ways to experience the Cape May Lighthouse is by participating in a Full Moon Climb during the summer.
A short trip north of Cape May will lead you to the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood, NJ. It was built after far too many ships were getting wrecked in the Hereford Inlet where it meets the Atlantic Ocean. This lighthouse is built in a “Swiss Carpenter Gothic” style, and it is the only one like it on the east coast.The attraction serves as a restored lighthouse and a museum, and it is a great attraction for those who love maritime history. There is a gift shop on premises and a park nearby. Visitors are welcome to climb to the beacon or watch a DVD tour of the structure. The Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is a unique attraction that offers both guided and self-guided tours, so be sure to check it out on your next trip to the Wildwoods.
Another unique-form lighthouse in New Jersey is the Navesink Twin Lights. Located in the elevated Highlands region, the impressive Twin Lights tower above the beautiful Sandy Hook bay in an area that is chock-full of important historical and scientific developments. The Navesink Twin Lights boasts two identical illuminated towers that were the first to employ the Fresnel lens in the United States. It went on to become the first electrically-lit light towers in the United States. In between the two towers are the original keeper’s quarters and storage galleries. Navesink is also where Guglielmo Marconi first demonstrated the use of the wireless telegraph. The site has now been transformed into a museum that highlights lighthouse culture, Life Saving Services and historic artifacts.
At another part of the Highlands sits the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest working lighthouse in the United States. It is located in the northern part of the Gateway National Recreation Area in Sandy Hook, NJ. This historic landmark was built in 1764 to mitigate financial losses caused by shipwrecks near Sandy Hook. It was originally partially-funded by a tax on all ships entering the Port of New York. Occupied by British soldiers and used as a navigation aid, the lighthouse served as an important structure in the Revolutionary War. The renovated lighthouse and keeper’s quarters now feature exhibits with information and history about the lighthouses of New Jersey.
Anyone interested in maritime history should take a trip to the historic village of Tuckerton, New Jersey. Tucker’s Island Light is a recreation of a fallen lighthouse located at the Tuckerton Seaport. The original lighthouse was built in 1848 and illuminated the area of Tuckerton Creek. Today, the replica lighthouse and the entire working maritime village prides itself as an ode to maritime history and culture in New Jersey. Preserved historic buildings, interactive exhibits, museums, live aquatic displays and events celebrate the stories of both past and present Jersey Shore seamen. Experience the sights, tastes and sounds of the attraction-rich seaport and visit the Tucker’s Island Light to pay homage to New Jersey’s seafaring culture.
One of the most romantic spots in New Jersey is home to the Barnegat Lighthouse, affectionately known as “Old Barney” to many in the area. The Barnegat Lighthouse is situated on the northern tip of Long Beach Island. It was built in 1834 to guide boats making their way towards major ports in New Jersey and New York. Its unique positioning makes it the perfect spot for panoramic views of Long Beach Island and the beautiful New Jersey coastline. The Barnegat Lighthouse is a great place for an ocean-side picnic or relaxing day. The picturesque setting captures the essence and beautiful simplicity of the Jersey Shore that is long gone from more popular shore points. Visitors can also head to the Barnegat Light Interpretive Center, located right outside the lighthouse, to learn about its history, technology and preservation. A few blocks away, the Barnegat Light Museum chronicles the history of the seaside town. The museum is home to Barnegat Lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens.
The Barnegat Lighthouse and Navesink Twin Lights were extremely helpful to 19th century sailors heading north, but many felt the need for an additional beacon. In 1896, the Sea Girt Lighthouse shone its light for the first time to illuminate a blind spot halfway between Barnegat Light and the Highlands. The lighthouse made sea travel much safer, which directly contributed to positive economic activity in the entire region. In 1921, the Sea Girt Lighthouse became the first lighthouse equipped with a radio beacon navigation system. The new technology allowed sailors heading to New York to continue sailing and safely navigate through inclement weather. Today, visitors can relive the experiences of the historic men and women of the Sea Girt Lighthouse by taking a guided tour throughout the entire site. Walk through the keeper’s quarters, learn about the importance of the people who dedicated their lives to maintaining the lighthouse and see centuries-old artifacts on a free tour provided by the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee.
New Jersey has long been known for its rich sea history. With over 130 miles of coastline, the state’s lighthouses played pivotal roles in the safety and economic prosperity of the greater New York region. Although most of the 140 light stations are no longer operational and closed to the public, many private organizations have worked hard to restore and maintain a few of them. Next time you find yourself in a coastal city or town, head to a famous lighthouse to appreciate a bit of New Jersey history or simply take in a beautiful view!
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