These Lighthouses Double As Boutique Hotels, Quaint Bed and Breakfasts, and Charming Retreats
Historically, the duty of a lighthouse keeper was vitally important but also very isolating. These guardians of the shore were in charge of operating and maintaining the imperative beacons, helping countless seafarers navigate treacherous coastlines and sail toward safety. Oftentimes, they existed in solitude, choosing to dedicate their lives to the noble service.
Today, modern technology has all but eliminated the original purpose of these towering structures. While some are still functioning, many have become defunct, standing as lonely along the seaboard as their long-departed keepers.
Luckily, not all of the charming landmarks have suffered such a solemn fate. A handful have found new second lives, welcoming hordes of visitors as museums, gallery spaces, and even restaurants. But the most interesting of the bunch have been reimagined as one-of-a-kind hotels, welcoming travelers from all across the globe in search of an unforgettable stay. Here, we explore a stunning selection of breathtaking lighthouses where you can actually spend the night.
Cape Otway Lightstation, Australia
Established in 1848, Cape Otway Lightstation is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia, and is still considered to be the most important on the continent. Nestled in Victoria along a picturesque stretch of the Great Ocean Road, it stands on a staggering sea cliff approximately 300 feet above where the Southern Ocean and Bass Straight collide. It earned its nickname “the Beacon of Hope” because it was often the first indication of land for countless immigrants who spent months traveling to Australia by sea in the 19th century. During an overnight stay, guests can learn about Aboriginal culture, join an expert-guided bushwalk, or partake in whale watching from the lighthouse balcony.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon
The historic Heceta Head Lighthouse can be found tucked away on the Oregon coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean’s crashing waves. Constructed in 1892, the lighthouse and its keeper's quarters were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 due to its architectural and engineering significance. It was closed to the public in 2011 while a team of more than 100 local craftsmen and contractors spent nearly two years restoring the structure to its former glory, including its original wooden flooring, metalwork, and masonry. Although it now offers a full bed and breakfast, it also still serves as an operating lighthouse. To this day, its beam can be spotted up to 24 miles out at sea. Guests can book one of six well-appointed rooms year round, each outfitted with cozy furnishings and antique touches.
The Lighthouse on Cape d'Or, Canada
Visitors flock to the serene Cape d’Or headland in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia for its scenic panoramas and natural wonders. Built in 1874, the Lighthouse on Cape d’Or hovers above the Bay of Fundy, set against a dense forest of towering pines and offering unobstructed vistas of the Minas Basin. Although somewhat challenging to reach, it’s known for providing a remote yet stunning retreat for its overnight visitors. But if you’re looking for a lavish lighthouse escape, this probably won’t fit the bill. A pair of lighthouse keepers’ cottages have been transformed into an inn with quaint but basic accommodations. The seasonal operation runs from May through November, but leave your credit cards at home ― this is a cash-only establishment.
Saugerties Lighthouse, New York
The Saugerties Lighthouse has been a long-treasured landmark for native New Yorkers and holidaymakers alike. Surrounded by the Hudson River, the existing tower dates back to 1869, although the station itself was founded in 1835. Easily identifiable by its square-shaped, red brick exterior, guests can find the restored hideaway by following a half-mile nature trail that connects the village of Saugerties with the lighthouse. There’s also a small dock available to boaters on a limited basis. Although it remains open throughout the seasons, securing a reservation can prove challenging since there are just two guest rooms which are only available four nights per week. The building also houses a museum, gift shop, and parlor, but the light tower is a fan favorite, thanks to its sweeping views of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River Valley.
Porer Lighthouse, Croatia
For a truly secluded stay, head to Croatia’s Porer Lighthouse, which rises 115 feet from the center of its very own teensy islet. Lying approximately two miles from Istria’s southernmost cape, a local captain cheerfully ferries visitors from the mainland to Porer Island (as well as other must-see, neighboring attractions). Take the two-minute stroll around the island while waves from the Adriatic Sea lap the shore. The lighthouse traces its roots to 1833 and can sleep eight people, thanks to two apartments. Here, guests spend their days swimming and fishing in the surrounding shallow waters, basking in the sun, or simply enjoying a private off-the-grid getaway.
Faro Punta Cumplida, Spain
In-the-know globetrotters have long gravitated to La Palma, one of Spain’s famed Canary Islands. Nicknamed La Isla Bonita (or “the Beautiful Island”), it’s known for its verdant landscapes, lush hiking trails, and commanding coastal views. Faro Punta Cumplida is set on the northeastern tip of La Palma in the laid-back town of Barlovento. First lit in 1867, it’s the oldest of the island’s four signature lighthouses, and was recently transformed into a swanky boutique hotel, featuring three spacious suites just beneath the watchtower. Perks include private terraces, a shared infinity pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and access to the top of the lighthouse (replete with a minibar for a sunset cocktail).
Rose Island Lighthouse, Rhode Island
Built in 1870, the Rose Island Lighthouse is located just off Newport’s coast in Narragansett Bay. After a century of service, the lighthouse was abandoned in 1971 and suffered years of vandalization and neglect before it was restored by the non-profit Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation in 1993. Today, it’s a picture-perfect example of quintessential New England charm. The attraction provides a diverse array of accommodations, including two ground-level lighthouse bedrooms; the keeper’s apartment on the second floor; a romantic escape in the adjacent Foghorn Building; and the seasonal Barracks Rooms housed within a bomb-proof bunker. While overnight stays are available, volunteers can also become a “Keeper for the Week,” paying a reduced fee in exchange for performing maintenance work during their extended stay.
East Brother Light Station, California
Strong currents and thick fog made navigating between the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays a nightmare, which is exactly why the East Brother Light Station was erected in 1873 on a small island just off Point San Pablo. When the Victorian lighthouse was automated in 1969, the keeper’s house was no longer necessary and was scheduled for demolition. Luckily, a group of concerned locals lobbied to save the house, which was fully renovated and turned into a five-room bed and breakfast in 1980. Open to guests from Thursday through Sunday night, those checking in can look forward to flutes of champagne, gourmet meals, and an impressive view of one of the world’s most sought after skylines.
Rua Reidh Lighthouse, Scotland
Looking for the ultimate digital detox? Then book a room at the Rua Reidh Lighthouse situated near Gairloch in Wester Ross, Scotland. Sitting at the very end of a three-mile private road, the lighthouse enjoys some of the region’s most dramatic scenery. Built in 1912, the isolated outpost now welcomes guests in search of an unplugged adventure. Without WiFi, cell service, or televisions, guests are able to fully connect with nature and immerse themselves in Scotland’s surrounding beauty. Wildlife lovers will be able to spot a sundry collection of creatures, such as whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, otters, seabirds, and more. On the horizon, enjoy unobstructed vistas of the Isle of Skye, the Shiant Isles, and the Outer Hebrides. Plan a winter trip for a chance to watch Aurora Borealis light up the evening sky.
New Dungeness Lighthouse, Washington
One of the best ways to soak in Washington’s wild, windswept beauty is from atop the New Dungeness Lighthouse ― but it won’t come easily. Tucked back in a corner of the sprawling Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge, tourists can trek along a five-mile route to reach the light station. But before scoring a reservation, hopeful guests must first register as members of the New Dungeness Light Station Association ($35 annual fee for individuals; $50 for families). Then, through the Lighthouse Keeper Program, look for vacancies on the availability calendar and secure a week-long window that works with your schedule. Keepers are expected to roll up their sleeves and help with maintenance duties, which include giving tours of the lighthouse to visitors, mowing the grass, raising and lowering the flag, polishing the brass tower, and more. A stay here requires a bit more red tape and elbow grease than others, but offers a one-of-a-kind experience that won’t soon be forgotten.