Guiding Lights:  Exploring New Jersey’s Lighthouses

Standing as sentinels along the rugged coastline, New Jersey’s lighthouses boast a rich history of guiding ships and illuminating the maritime heritage of the state. With 23 lighthouses dotting its shores, each beacon tells a unique story of resilience, innovation, and navigation. From the iconic Sandy Hook Lighthouse, the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States, to the picturesque Hereford Inlet Lighthouse adorned with vibrant gardens, these structures are more than just maritime landmarks—they are living testaments to New Jersey’s maritime legacy. While the exact numbers vary depending on who you ask, the United States Coast Guard has identified 23 lighthouses in New Jersey.

Join me on a journey as we explore some of the most captivating lighthouses that adorn the New Jersey coastline, each inviting visitors to discover the tales of the sea and the brave keepers who tended these guiding lights.


Photo by NPS Photo

1. Sandy Hook Lighthouse

(84 Mercer Rd., Highlands) – The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. It is located at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands. Amazingly well-preserved, this unique octagonal tower dates back to the 18th century and has been in service since 1764. Except for being darkened during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the beacon has been operating ever since.


Photo by

2. Twin Lights Historic Site

(2 Lighthouse Rd., Highlands) – When Henry Hudson first saw the high hills here in 1609, he described them as being a very good land to fall with and a pleasant land to see. Indeed, there are many firsts associated with the Twin Lights, which tower 250 feet above Sandy Hook Bay, on one of the highest points along the coast. This is where the United States first Fresnel lens was located; Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated the first practical use of the wireless telegraph from Navesink in 1899; the first lamps to be fueled by kerosene were used here in 1883; and in 1898, it was one of the first electrically lit seacoast lighthouses in the country. The present-day brownstone double lighthouses were built in 1862 on the site of the original 1828 Navesink Lighthouses. This is my personal favorite, with amazing views of Sandy Hook and NYC!


Photo by

3. Sea Grit Lighthouse

(9 Ocean Ave., Sea Grit, NJ 08750) – Nestled within an L-shaped Victorian building, the Sea Girt Lighthouse first shone in 1896. Like most lighthouses of the day, its fourth-order Fresnel lens revolved on ball bearing driven by complex clockworks. With just one winding, the light turned for 7 1/2 hours, turning red for two seconds out of six. Originally built to bridge the 40-mile gap between Barnegat Light and the Twin Lights of Navesink, this square red brick tower attached to a keeper’s dwelling was decommissioned in1945. The interior of the lighthouse has been meticulously restored by a local citizens committee and furnished in keeping with its historical period.


Photo by Kevin Plant

4. Barnegat Lighthouse

(208 Broadway & Long Beach Blvd., Barnegat Light) – Panoramic view of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Inlet, and Island Beach State Park. Trails through one of the state’s last maritime forests, birding site for water fowl, fishing, scheduled nature walks and talks. Site of Barnegat Lighthouse on the northern tip of Long Beach Island, regarded as one of the most crucial ‘change of course’ points for coastal vessels.


Photo from

5. Tuckerton Seaport & Baymen’s Museum

(120 W. Main St/Rt.9, Tuckerton) – The Tuckerton Seaport, a working maritime village, is located along the Tuckerton Creek. This one-of-a-kind attraction, in the heart of historic Tuckerton, brings the Jersey Shore’s maritime traditions of the past and present to life through people, exhibits and hands-on activities. Experience the rich traditions of the Jersey Shore and its Baymen through the Seaport’s recreated and historic buildings, demonstrations, interpretive exhibits, events, festivals, live aquatic displays and more. Decoy carvers, boat builders, basket makers, and baymen entertain, educate, and delight visitors of all ages.


Photo by Sam Guirguis

6. Absecon Lighthouse

(31 S. Rhode Island Ave., Atlantic City) – Built in 1857, this 171-foot lighthouse is New Jersey’s tallest and one of the oldest in the country. The lighthouse hosts educational programs, weddings, guided tours, events and much more. You’ll see breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline and up top you’ll come face-to-face with the original first-order Fresnel Lens, first lit in 1857. The lighthouse’s recent multi-million-dollar restoration also includes a stunning replica of the Lightkeeper’s dwelling, an educational museum, charming gift shop, Fresnel Lens exhibit in the original Oil House and expansive grounds. Free parking and admission to the keeper’s house museum, exhibits and grounds. 


Photo from

7. Hereford Inlet Lighthouse

(111 N. Central Ave., North Wildwood) – Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is a working lighthouse as well as a museum that’s open to the public for guided and self-guided tours. Visitors will learn about the history of Hereford and get a glimpse of the life of a lighthouse keeper in the late 19th and early 20th century. A park surrounding the lighthouse is designed with many different garden areas containing more than 200 plant varieties. The gardens are planted in the Victorian cottage style and extend right up to the ocean seawall. They have won several awards, including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Suburban Greening Award. Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is open year-round.


Photo by

8. East Point Lighthouse

(10 Lighthouse & E. Point Roads, Heislerville) – The East Point Lighthouse stands alone in a picturesque setting on the Southern Bayshore in Cumberland County, New Jersey. The historic and active Lighthouse marks the mouth of the Maurice River on the Delaware Bay and has guided commercial fishermen and pleasure boaters since 1849. Its distinctive Cape Cod style was the inspiration for many of the early lighthouses built on the Pacific Coast. The two-story brick structure is whitewashed with a bright red roof and has a black lantern room on top.  The Lighthouse is fully restored, furnished and is open year-round.


Photo by Zeete |

9. Finns Point Rear Range Light

(Fort Mott & Lighthouse Roads, Pennsville) – c. 1876 wrought iron lighthouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Originally constructed in Buffalo, New York and then moved here by train and mule-wagon, this unusual wrought-iron, open-frame, lighthouse was built at a cost of $1,200 in 1876. Standing 115 feet tall, it featured a 24-inch range lens with double wick burner and kerosene vapor lamp emitting 150,000 candlepower. Close by is Fort Mott State Park, a 104-acre waterfront park with buildings and gun emplacements from the Spanish – American War. 


Photo by Zeete |

10. Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse

(70 2nd St., & Mantua Ave., Paulsboro) – First lit on New Year’s Eve in 1880, this light pairs with the Tinicum Front Range Light to serve as a key guide for ships heading north along the Delaware River toward ports at Philadelphia and Camden. Its fixed red light and 1,000-watt lamps exhibit 500,000 candlepower from atop an 85-foot-high tower. Located on the corner of Mantua and Second streets in Paulsboro. 


Photo by William Sherman |

11. Cape May Lighthouse

(215 Lighthouse Ave.- Rt. 626, at Yale Ave., Cape May Point) – Built in 1859, the Cape May Lighthouse is still an aid to navigation. Visitors who climb the 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse are rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. Climbing the lighthouse has become an annual tradition for thousands of visitors. For those who choose not to climb, the Oil House contains a fully accessible visitors’ orientation center. A little further down Sunset Boulevard is the World War II Lookout Tower, which was part of the immense Delaware Bay Harbor defense system known as Fort Miles. Features include a Wall of Honor recognizing area veterans.


As the sun sets over the Atlantic, painting the sky in hues of crimson and gold, New Jersey’s lighthouses stand as steadfast sentinels, weaving tales of maritime adventures. From Cape May to Tinicum, these historic beacons encapsulate the rich charm and maritime heritage of New Jersey, promising stories to be cherished by generations to come.

Share This: