Lighthouses of New Jersey

After a really tough winter, it is finally spring and we can start thinking about enjoying the outdoors again.  Something that is fun, educational and easy-to-do on the weekends is visiting New Jersey’s lighthouses.

There are many lighthouses in New Jersey, stretching up and down both the eastern and western coasts.  We have a variety of type of lighthouse from the traditional cylindrical tower to much smaller range lights.  At the top of the state, the Sandy Hook lighthouse is the oldest original lighthouse in America.  Way down at the bottom, we have the Cape May light.  Many can be visited and climbed.

One of the most fascinating things about lighthouses is their history.  Imagine being the person responsible for the upkeep of the lighthouse – every night ships rely on your making sure the light is lit.  It was often a solitary existence for the lighthouse keeper.  Find out more about the history of New Jersey’s lights by visiting the New Jersey Lighthouse Society.  For an overall picture of lighthouses, lighthouse keepers, and the duties they perform, visit the museum at the Navesink Twin Lights.

My favorite lighthouse is the Tinicum Rear Range light.  Even though it is not as impressive as some of the other lighthouses, I enjoy exploring the area of New Jersey where the light is located.  Right down the street is Fort Mott State Park and Supawna Meadows.  There are fortifications from the Spanish-American War era to explore, a ferry to Fort Delaware (Civil War) and Pea Patch Island (currently launching outside the park due to damage from Hurricane Sandy), and beautiful views of the Delaware River.

To plan your trip, be sure to start with the State’s lighthouse page and the New Jersey tourism page for lighthouses.  Click on a lighthouse name to be taken to its own website.  In general, each site gives historical and visitor information.  You may even want to take on the annual New Jersey Lighthouse Challenge – a weekend in October (this year it is the 18th and 19th) when you try to visit all of New Jersey’s maintained lighthouses.

As always, the Library System has a number of titles to help you learn even more about lighthouses.  For New Jersey-specific information, check out:

Lighthouses of New Jersey, Delaware: History, Mystery, Legends & Lore by Bob Trapani
Lighthouses of the Mid-Atlantic Coast: Your Guide to the Lighthouses of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia by Elinor DeWire
Sentinels of the Shore: A Guide to the Lighthouses and Lightships of New Jersey by Bill Gately

To get the best look at the power of the sea and its relation to lighthouses, take a look at Jean Guichard’s North Atlantic Lighthouses.  For more photographs, visit his personal website.

--Andrea at the Hopewell Branch

Photo by Jimmie Ocean


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