10 beautiful lighthouses to see on the New England coast

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From Maine to Connecticut, the often treacherously rocky New England coast is laced with a network of historic lighthouses. Many of these literal beacons are still in use and some are available for interior tours – or even an overnight stay. Here are 10 that you should check out.

Chatham Light – Chatham, Massachusetts

Chatham Light was made famous by the 2016 movie “The Finest Hours,” which portrayed the real-life heroic rescue of the crew of SS Pendleton, after the ship split apart during a massive nor'easter in 1952. Chatham Light was known as Twin Lights because the original station, built in 1808, comprised two wooden towers. Those were both replaced in 1841 by metal and brick towers. The lighthouse still operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is not open for regular tours.

Highland Light – North Truro, Massachusetts

Highland Light is the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod and is still active, sending its blinking light out from the Cape Cod National Seashore across the ocean. The current tower is not the original, however. Erected in 1857, it replaced two earlier towers built in 1797 and 1831. The grounds are open to wander and there are benches for ocean gazing – just the place to catch an amazing sunset.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse – Lubec, Maine

Because Lubec is the easternmost town in the U.S., the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse became the easternmost lighthouse in the United States when it was built in 1808. But that isn’t the only thing that makes West Quoddy Head Lighthouse stand out: bold bands of red and white encircle the tower that replaced the original wood one and began operations in 1858.

The tower is closed to the public, but the lighthouse grounds and the Visitor Center and Museum, located inside the 1858 Light Keepers' house adjacent to the lighthouse, are open and occasional tours inside the tower are offered during the summer months.

Five Mile Point Light – New Haven, Connecticut

Located in Lighthouse Point Park, five miles from the historic New Haven Green, this 1847 lighthouse overlooks Long Island Sound at the entrance to New Haven Harbor. The beach park, which is also home to an antique carousel, is open from April to November. While the grounds are open to the public, the lighthouse itself is only open for private tours.

Edgartown Harbor Light – Edgartown, Massachusetts

Set among dunes in front of the Harbor View Hotel, this small lighthouse was built in 1939 to replace the 1828 original. Overlooking Katama Bay, Lighthouse Beach fans out at its sides. It's open for tours throughout summer. Across the water, the 1893-built Cape Poge Light, which is not generally open to visitors, stands on remote Chappaquiddick Island in the protected natural landscape of Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge. Chappaquiddick is part of Martha’s Vineyard and mostly accessed via the historic ferry.

Portland Head Light – Cape Elizabeth, Maine

Portland Head Light is located in Fort Williams Park, just south of bustling Portland. Built in 1791, the lighthouse was commissioned by President George Washington and dedicated by Revolutionary War ally, the Marquis de Lafayette. It is Maine's oldest lighthouse.

The keeper's house, with its distinguished red roof, contains a museum. The park is open year-round, the museum opens from Memorial Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, but the lighthouse is only open in September on Maine’s Open Lighthouse Day.

Newport Harbor Light – Newport, Rhode Island

Across the causeway from downtown Newport, Goat Island is occupied by the Gurney's Newport Resort. However, both in-house guests, other visitors and townspeople walk over to stroll the small island and pass by Newport Harbor Light, also known as Goat Island Light. The beacon was built in 1842 replacing one that dated to 1824. Entrance into the lighthouse is not permitted, but golden hour cocktails on Gurney’s outdoor deck make up for that.

Saybrook Point Lighthouse – Old Saybrook, Connecticut

While boaters love the guiding light of this dockside lighthouse, they (and anyone else) can also appreciate a stay in the suite that’s tucked inside the working lighthouse. Part of the Saybrook Point Resort & Marina, the lighthouse overlooks Long Island Sound and the Connecticut River estuary. The suite is available May through October.

Boston Light – Boston, Massachusetts

A boat trip across Boston Harbor to Little Brewster Island, the site of the United States’ first lighthouse, is fun in itself. This still active and still-staffed beacon is not the original tower, which was built in 1716 and destroyed in 1776. Boston Light was rebuilt in 1783. Visitors may climb to the top and tours come complete with a history lesson from the lighthouse keeper.

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse – New Castle, New Hampshire

New Hampshire doesn’t have many lighthouses, simply because its coastline is very short. Built in 1771 and located as a beacon to guide ships in and out of the New Hampshire seacoast’s largest port, today’s Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse is part of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor. On the quaint island of New Castle, it's accessed via causeways connecting it to downtown Portsmouth. The lighthouse is only open for pre-booked tours.

10Best is a part of the USA TODAY Network — providing an authentically local point of view on destinations around the world — in addition to travel and lifestyle advice.

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