First things first — it’s impossible to truly rank the “best lighthouses in New England.” Each are unique and beautiful in their own way. But since we love a challenge, we thought we’d use Jon Marcus’ comprehensive book Lighthouses of New England(Voyageur Press, 2002), which covers everything from the most stunning to the most haunted beacons found anywhere in the world, to come up with five notable lighthouses that stand slightly above the rest. Have a look and see if your favorite made the list!
5 Best Lighthouses in New England
Gay Head Light in Aquinnah, MA
Best Scenic Lighthouse
On the western end of Martha’s Vineyard, visitors are allowed into the red-brick lantern tower, where they can watch the two lights rotate–and take in extraordinary sunsets over the Aquinnah Cliffs and surf below. gayheadlight.org
Stonington Harbor Light in Stonington Point, CT
Best Lighthouse for History Plus a View
In the darkest days of the War of 1812, five British warships lined up off the coast of Stonington, Connecticut, and attacked the town. The bombardment is commemorated at the site’s Old Lighthouse Museum inside. The vista here is a bonus: From the octagonal tower of this granite lighthouse are views of three states: New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. stoningtonhistory.org
Seguin Island Light in Popham, ME
Most Haunted Lighthouse
In the mid-1800s, one keeper’s wife couldn’t stand living at this desolate station. To appease her, he arranged to buy a player piano. When it arrived, however, there was only one piece of music, and she played it over and over for hours at a time. Driven mad, the keeper strangled his wife and took an axe to the piano. Now witnesses say that at night they can hear a phantom piano playing from the lighthouse. seguinisland.org
Petit Manan Light on Petit Manan Island, ME
Most Naturally Iconic Lighthouse
The most extraordinary natural lighthouse setting is the 3,335-acre Maine Coastal Islands which includes Petit Manan Island, famous for its colony of puffins and its nesting birds, including Arctic terns.fws.gov/refuge/maine_coastal_islands
Nubble Light in York Beach, ME
Most Widely Traveled Lighthouse
So archetypal is Cape Neddick (“the Nubble”) Light off York Beach, Maine, that a photo of it was launched, along with other artifacts, aboard the Voyager II spacecraft in 1977. But space scientists weren’t the first to recognize the value of its appeal. One entrepreneurial keeper in the early 20th century ferried as many as 300 visitors a day to the lighthouse for 10 cents apiece. For a nickel more, his wife would give them tours. They were fired for neglecting the light.nubblelight.org
What are your picks for the best lighthouses in New England?
This post was first published in 2011 and has been updated.