Credit: Photo by Lenny Catalanotto, Photo Courtesy of Discover Long Island
Lighthouses are more than just beacons of light to warn sailors of shallow waters and rocky shorelines. They are landmarks with storied pasts, towers from which you can take in stunning scenery, and some are even places you can spend the night! New York State happens to have a unique collection of historic lighthouses. You’ll find lighthouses along the ocean, lakes, in the middle of rivers, and in state parks—and many have become tourist destinations. Here are 15 beacons across the state to light up your travels! Just remember to keep six feet apart from others not in your household and bring a mask or face covering to wear when it’s not possible to maintain social distancing, and call ahead or check websites and social media to make sure attractions are open and available while staying as local as possible.
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River intersect right near Tibbetts Point. The best way to experience this 1827 lighthouse is to ride a bike from the center of Cape Vincent and take a tour. Kids will enjoy using the telescope to see the scenery up close and you can also climb to the light tower. This is one of the lighthouses in New York where you can stay overnight—stay in the charming hostel and wake up to the soothing sound of crashing waves on the rocky shore!
Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse and Veterans Park Museum (Chautauqua-Allegheny)
Built in 1857, this lighthouse offers tours against a historical backdrop—the first shots of the War of 1812 were fired near here! The exhibits include a tank and torpedo, along with artifacts from the United States Armed Forces. Bring a picnic lunch to have on park grounds, all while soaking in the gorgeous views of Lake Erie.
Montauk Point Lighthouse Museum (Long Island)
Locals call Montauk “The End,” and the Montauk Lighthouse, the oldest in the state, is truly all the way out on the end where the Block Island Sound meets the Atlantic Ocean. The museum’s admission fee is worth it, as you’ll see artifacts from when Long Island was a hot spot for whaling. Nearby is George’s Lighthouse Cafe, where you can grab lobster rolls or steamed mussels with a view of the lighthouse.
National Lighthouse Museum (New York City)
Yes, even New York City has an exciting lighthouse-related attraction! You can easily take the free Staten Island Ferry from downtown Manhattan to the St. George Ferry Terminal and walk to the National Lighthouse Museum. Find more than 180 lighthouse models and learn about how lighthouses work. While in the borough, shop at Empire Outlets, catch a Staten Island Yankees game, or see the outdoor sculpture “Postcards” along the North Shore Waterfront Esplanade that honors September 11th victims.
Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy (Hudson Valley)
Take a tour to learn more about the 1869 lighthouse’s history and see the views from the tower. Make this an even more unique trip and stay overnight in the bed & breakfast. If you’re looking for an outdoor fix, this is the ideal spot: there’s a picnic area along the Hudson River, and Esopus Creek has a scenic half-mile trail to the lighthouse through the woodlands—see if you can spot any eagles or osprey. We also recommend exploring nearby Opus 40 or Catskill Animal Sanctuary.
Hudson-Athens Lighthouse (Catskills)
Hudson Cruises offers boat tours of this striking lighthouse. It’s unique because it is not on the mainland overlooking an ocean or lake like most, as it sits in the middle of the Hudson River! After the tour, catch a performance at Basilica Hudson or unwind at Hudson Brewing Company.
Champlain Memorial Lighthouse (Adirondacks)
Where else can you find a lighthouse that’s also home to an impressive Rodin sculpture? This fantastic lighthouse on the shores of Lake Champlain, right near the bridge that heads to Vermont, features a bust called “La France," by the famous French sculptor best known for “The Thinker.”
Charlotte-Genesee Lighthouse (Finger Lakes)
A tour of this 1822 structure, a monumental part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, will teach you how this lighthouse monitored ship traffic. Climb the tower to see sweeping views of Lake Ontario, the Genesee River, and Ontario Beach Park. Take the family to nearby Rochester to visit the Strong Museum of Play and the George Eastman Museum.
Buffalo Main Light (Greater Niagara)
New York’s second-biggest city has plenty of attractions, but we bet you weren’t expecting one of them to be a lighthouse! Buffalo Main Light on the city harbor is sure to delight. After your tour, rent a kayak near Canalside, or take your little one to the new-in-2019 Ralph C. Wilson Explore ‘n’ More Children’s Museum.
Fire Island Lighthouse (Long Island)
Credit: Sean Mills
Climb the 192 steps of Fire Island Lighthouse, the sixth tallest lighthouse in the country, to see the Great South Bay on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. On a clear day, you may be able to spot the Manhattan skyline! Within the two-floor museum, get a glimpse into the daily life of a lightkeeper, see lifesaving equipment, and learn more about Fire Island’s place in LGBTQ history.
Verona Beach Lighthouse (Central NY)
Verona Beach was one of three Oneida Lake lighthouses that helped navigators during the 1918 Barge Canal opening. It’s still functioning, so while you can’t climb the tower, you can picnic at the lake. Kids will love swimming at Verona Beach State Park.
Rock Island Lighthouse State Park (Thousand Islands-Seaway)
Head out from Clayton, home of the Antique Boat Museum, to visit this memorable lighthouse. It’s on an island in the St. Lawrence River, one of the cleanest freshwaters in the world! Watching the ships sail along the river as you eat lunch on the picnic tables is a blissful way to spend an afternoon.
Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse (Greater Niagara)
Thirty Mile Point Lighthouse is an hour away from Niagara Falls in Golden Hill State Park. Climb the lighthouse, then explore the 510-acre park on the southern shores of Lake Ontario. You’ll find more than four miles of trails, an archery field, and fishing. There’s even a three-bedroom cottage on the lighthouse’s second floor if you’d like to plan a cozy getaway.
Rondout Lighthouse (Hudson Valley)
Take a boat tour on the Solaris to see sweeping views of the Rondout Creek and the Hudson River before heading to this brick lighthouse, constructed in 1915. Explore the Hudson River Maritime Museum and don’t forget to check out nearby Kingston. Once New York’s capital city, Kingston has the lively Downtown Rondout Waterfront district, the pretty Forsyth Park, and wonderful biking trails.
Old Fort Niagara Lighthouse (Greater Niagara)
History buffs wouldn’t want to miss out on this trip! The British seized this fort from the French in 1813, and the lighthouse was built in 1872 to guide sailors traveling from Lake Ontario into the Niagara River. Kids will have fun watching reenactments at the fort, and you can see Canada from the lighthouse.