Lighthouses intrigue me, as they often stand tall on the point of land, shining light through the dark and fog to guide anyone in need. Imagine the countless times the light has been a welcome beacon and relief to those out at sea.
The lighthouse keeper in The Light Between Oceans writes this to his girl back home about the light he tends:
“The stars had been around since before there were people. They just kept shining, no matter what was going on. I think of the light here like that, like a splinter of a star that’s fallen to earth: it just shines, no matter what is happening. Summer, winter, storm, fine weather. People can rely on it.”
Today, lights are automated and no longer require the keeper to trudge up a winding stairway to tend to the light. There’s still something appealing about lighthouses. Here are some of my favorites from those I’ve been able to visit. And I’m always on the lookout for a new one to explore.
This iconic red-and-white lighthouse is a symbol of Cape Cod. It sits on the coast in Eastham, Massachusetts. At first, it perched atop cliffs 60 feet high. As the land eroded, the lighthouse faced the danger of toppling into the water. So it was relocated across the road in 1996. Plans are in place to move it again in the next 30 years as the land slides bit by bit into the ocean. In case you wonder whether lighthouses such as the Nauset are more decorative than practical, it’s a fact that this one has seen its share of rescues of the turbulent Atlantic Ocean.The nearby oil house contains a tiny history museum, and you can tour the lighthouse on Sundays from Mid-May to October. We had to content ourselves with walking around the outside. Check the Nauset Lighthouse website for more information. Nobska Lighthouse
Nobska Lighthouse in Falmouth holds the distinction of being the only lighthouse in Western Cape Cod.At the western tip of Cape Cod, Nobska Lighthouse stands to guide those who sail into Buzzard’s Bay from the Atlantic Ocean. From this hillside you can look out to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Sound. You may glimpse ferries steaming out to these islands as you stroll the sloping lawn. The Coast Guard used the buildings for housing until recently. Now there are plans to open a museum in the houses by 2020. The tower is closed for tours, but the grounds alone — and the view — are worthy of a visit. For updated information on the re-opening, check the Friends of Nobska Light website. The Three Sisters
What’s surprising about these 3 elderly lighthouses is that they are buried in the forest. They are, in effect, retired from their duties. These are relics of the times when a different number of lights designated different places along the coast of the Cape. One shone in Truro, 2 in Chatham, and 3 here in Eastham. The sisters may no longer light up, but they have lost none of their charm.
Point Pinos Lighthouse The Point Pinos Lighthouse in Monterey, California, is the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the entire West Coast. We stayed nearby, went out for a walk along the water, and happened onto this lighthouse. What a delightful find! Unlike our visits to lighthouses on Cape Cod, this time we arrived when the lighthouse was open to tour. Up the winding stairs we climbed.
The lighthouse was an observation point during WWII. Some of it is fixed up to show what it looked like during those years when someone would sit and scan the sea for signs of enemy attack. Our docent, Ruth, told us so much about this lighthouse. She is one enthusiastic guide. She insisted we descend to the basement to see the foghorn and a retired light.
The Point Pinos Lighthouse is open every day except Tuesday and Wednesday, from 1 to 4. For more information, visit their website.
Old Point Loma Lighthouse
This lighthouse is in San Diego, where I grew up and still live. So I’ve been enjoying visits here as long as I can remember. When I went to Point Pinos, it seemed familiar. In talking to our guide, we learned that these 2 lighthouses were built using the same plans. This makes sense — how many architectural drawings of a lighthouse would be needed? So, like the Three Sisters on the East Coast, we have at least 2 sisters in the West. Point Loma has a winding staircase up to the light, of course.The interior rooms are fixed up as they were in the 1800s when the lighthouse keeper and his family lived on this windswept point of land. They were isolated, but they had all the comforts of a fine home. A retired Fresnel light is on display in a garden building.