These are the ten tallest lighthouses in the United States that were built to be lighthouses. Other buildings and structures like the Statue of Liberty (302 feet), the Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial (352 feet) and the steeple of St. Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston (200 feet) have been used as lighthouses and are tall enough to be on this list but were not built as lighthouses.
All of the tallest lighthouses in the United States are magnificent structures to see and visit and most are open to the public and allow visitors to climb to the top where fantastic views can be seen. Any visitor who does climb to the top along the tall spiral staircases will certainly feel it in the legs and lungs as one must climb over 200 steps to get to the top of these giants but the stunning views that await are well worth it.
1) Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina - 208 feet
Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is located on Hatteras Island in the Outer Banks group of islands on the North Carolina coast. Cape Hatteras Light stands 208 feet tall from the foundation footer to the top of the roof spire which makes it the tallest lighthouse in the United States. Made of brick the current tower was built in 1870 by the US Army Corps of Engineers and due to the erosion of the beach moved to its present location in 2000. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is run by the National Park Service and is open to the public and visitors can climb the 268 steps to the top for fantastic views.
2) Cape Charles Lighthouse in Virginia - 191 feet
Cape Charles Lighthouse is located on Smith Island at the northern entrance of Chesapeake Bay in Virginia. This skeleton tower lighthouse was built in 1895 and stands 191 feet tall and is made of cast iron. It is owned by the Coast Guard and the tower is not open to the public. Visiting the outside of Cape Charles Lighthouse can be hazardous as visitors must watch the tides and moving sandbars and the ground in the area is marshy.
3) Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse in Florida - 175 feet
Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse is located in northern Florida at the Ponce de Leon Inlet about 10 miles south of Daytona Beach. At 175 feet in height Ponce de Leon Light is the 3rd tallest lighthouse in the United States. It is made of brick and was completed and lit in 1887. Stephen Crane and the shipwrecked crew he shared a boat with used the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse to guide them to shore in 1897 after the boat they were on sank off the Florida coast. Crane wrote his famous short story The Open Boat about the experience. Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse today is open to the public and there is also a museum nearby.
4) Barnegat Lighthouse in New Jersey - 172 feet
Affectionately known as Old Barney the Barnegat Lighthouse is located at the northern end of Long Beach Island along the New Jersey Coast. At 172 feet in height Old Barney is the 4th tallest lighthouse in the USA. Built in 1857 under the direction of then Lt. George Meade who would go on to defeat Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg as head of the Union Army Barnegat Lighthouse is made of brick and iron. Barnegat Light is open to the public today and for a modest $1 fee visitors can climb the 217 steps to the top for marvelous views of the surrounding area including the casinos in Atlantic City to the south.
5) Oak Island Lighthouse in North Carolina - 169 feet
Located on Oak Island at 300 Caswell Beach Road in North Carolina the Oak Island Lighthouse is 169 feet tall and made of concrete. It is one of the newest lighthouses in the United States having been built in 1958. Oak Island Lighthouse marks the mouth of the Cape Fear River and helps keep ships clear of the Frying Pan Shoals where many a shipwreck has occurred in the past. The Coast Guard recently declared Oak Island Lighthouse as surplus and ownership was turned over to the town of Caswell Beach and the lighthouse is open to the public but if visitors want to go to the top they must arrange for it in advance. Call (910) 278-5471 for more info.
5) Absecon Lighthouse in Atlantic City, New Jersey - 169 feet
Absecon Lighthouse is located at the north end of Atlantic City a few blocks away from the Showboat and uncompleted Revel Casinos which are the two northern most of the casinos in Atlantic City. At 169 feet Absecon Light is tied with Oak Island Lighthouse for the 5th tallest lighthouse in the US and is the 2nd tallest lighthouse in New Jersey behind Barnegat. Like the Barnegat Lighthouse this lighthouse was also designed by George Meade and is constructed of brick and iron. A replica lighthouse keeper's home serves as a museum at the base and the Absecon Lighthouse is open to the public and for a fee visitors can climb the 228 steps to the top for great views of Atlantic City, the casinos and the Atlantic Ocean.
7) Fire Island Lighthouse in New York - 168 feet
Fire Island Lighthouse is located on the western end of Fire Island along the southern coast of Long Island, New York right next to Robert Moses State Park. Fire Island Lighthouse was built in 1858 of brick encased in cement and at 168 feet in height is the 7th tallest lighthouse in the United States. Today the lighthouse is operated by the Fire Island Preservation Society and is open to the public.
8) St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida - 165 feet
St. Augustine Lighthouse is located at 81 Lighthouse Avenue on the north end of Anastasia Island in St. Augustine, Florida. Built in 1874 of brick the St. Augustine Lighthouse is 163 feet high making it the 8th tallest lighthouse in the USA. The lighthouse is supposedly haunted and episodes of the TV show Ghost Hunters have been filmed here and supposedly captured paranormal activity occurring in the lighthouse and area and workers at the lighthouse have reported hearing strange sounds and often see shadowy figures. Today St. Augustine Lighthouse is run by the non-profit St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum Inc and is open to the public and visitors can climb the 219 steps to the top for great views.
9) Cape Henry Lighthouse in Virginia - 163 feet
Cape Henry Lighthouse is located on the military base Fort Story at 583 Atlantic Avenue in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Standing 163 feet tall it is the 9th tallest lighthouse in the US. It was built in 1881 and replaced an older 90 foot high 1792 lighthouse with the same name that still stands nearby. Today the old Cape Henry Lighthouse is owned by the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities and is open to the public and visitors can climb to the top for fantastic views of Virginia Beach and the Atlantic Ocean plus visitors can also see the new Cape Henry Lighthouse nearby. If you love lighthouses it's hard to beat that deal.
9) Cape Lookout Lighthouse in North Carolina - 163 feet
Cape Lookout Lighthouse is located on Harkers Island along the southern outer bank group of islands along the North Carolina coast. It was built in 1859 using brick and has a diamond pattern paint job to distinguish it from other lighthouses in the area for daytime use. At 163 feet the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is tied with Cape Henry Lighthouse as the 9th tallest lighthouse in the United States. Today the Cape Lookout Lighthouse is run by the National Park Service and is open to the public.
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