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The Best Lighthouses Around the World

I don’t know what it is about lighthouses that make them so intriguing and beautiful to me. It could be that there weren’t any where I grew up – well only boring small ones that don’t even look like lighthouses.

Or maybe it’s just because they look cool. Maybe I was a lighthouse keeper in a past life. I don’t know why, but I like them a lot.

Because of my love for them, understandably I tend to gravitate towards them when travelling and I have now visited an impressive amount over the past 14 years of travel.

The best lighthouses to me have a cool history, a great location and they look the part. Tall and conical with red and white coloring are my favorites.

There are still so many more I would like to visit but so far, these are my favorites – what I think are the best lighthouses around the world.

The Best Lighthouses Around the World

Portland Head Light, Maine, USA

Built in the late 18th century and added on to over the years, the iconic Portland Head Light is a striking sight with its long white body and black hat, perched on rocks above the crashing waves.

A small and interesting museum in the red-roofed former lighthouse keeper’s quarters is definitely worth a visit for the excellent interpretive displays and to learn about the past lighthouse keepers and their families.

Entry is only $2 and there is also a small gift shop. We topped off our time there with a visit to the nearby Lobster Pound at Two Lights for a Maine specialty: Lobster dinner with Blueberry pie for dessert.

Portland Head Light Two Lights Lobster Pound in MaineHornby Lighthouse, Sydney, Australia

I have passed this red-and-white striped lighthouse daily on the ferry to work since I moved to Manly in August 2014. Standing guard over the harbor entrance, it looks like a candy cane sticking out of the cliffs.

A 40-minute return hike will take you from the seaside suburb of Watson’s Bay to this attractive lighthouse with stunning views over the Sydney coastline and over to my home, Manly.

Still used today, sometimes the only thing I can see when I am taking the ferry on a moonless night is the lighthouse beacon flashing, alerting me to the fact we are about to cross over the rocky waters at the harbor mouth.

Hornby Light Sydney - one of my favorite lighthouses Hornby Light in SydneyCape Reinga Lighthouse, New Zealand

Possibly the most famous lighthouse in New Zealand, this squat white lighthouse commands an awe-inspiring position on a wild coastline at the northern tip of New Zealand. Built in 1941 to replace another lighthouse that was located on a treacherous island offshore, the Cape Reinga Lighthouse has not been manned since 1987.

It would be pretty hard to see the lighthouse without any tourists and when we visited in early January, there were busloads of people. The crowds really didn’t distract from the beauty of the area and the lonely lighthouse sitting at the end of long cliff, protruding out into the sea.

We hiked a short trail down to a rocky black sand beach for more spectacular views of the impossibly colored coastline and managed to escape the crowds quite easily.

Cape Reinga Lighthouse - one of my favorite lighthouses Cape Reinga viewsPeggys Cove Lighthouse, Peggys Cove, Canada

Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada, and it’s not hard to see why. One of the most beautiful lighthouses I have visited, it is the classic red and white color combo with little windows up the side of its octagonal body.

There was a low fog pervading the area when we were there and it gave the lighthouse a mystical quality. Sitting upon smooth granite rock, it is a treacherous place in big surf with many people slipping off the rocks and into the freezing cold water, some to their deaths.

The quaint fishing village of the same name is a great spot to explore with weather-worn lobster boats bobbing in the small harbour and piles of fishing nets and lobster pots everywhere.

Peggys Cove Lighthouse - one of my favorite lighthouses Warning at Peggys Cove LighthouseHeceta Head Lighthouse, Oregon, USA

Another beautiful red and white lighthouse, Heceta Head Lighthouse looks out over a rocky cove and is surrounded by dense green forest. Built in 1894, this historical lighthouse has recently been restored and has the strongest light on the Oregon Coast. A Bed and Breakfast operates out of the former Assistant Lighthouse Keeper’s house nearby.

It is particularly striking on a misty day, which is common on the Oregon Coast. It definitely has one of the most picturesque settings for a lighthouse that I have seen.

There is an interesting Interpretive Centre with old photos and belongings from past lighthouse keepers on the ground floor of the Keeper’s house and we were able to enter the lighthouse itself on a tour.

Heceta Head Lighthouse in Oregon - one of my favorite lighthouses Heceta Head Light in OregonBass Harbor Head Lighthouse, Maine, USA

This squat white and black lighthouse with an attached cottage stands among the trees right on a cliff edge in Maine’s gorgeous Acadia National Park. You aren’t allowed to enter the vicinity of the lighthouse as it is the private residence of a local coastguard member and is family.

For the best view, there is a short walk down to the rocks where you are then looking back up at the lighthouse and along the coastline. Like everywhere in Acadia National Park, the setting is beautiful.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Maine - one of my favorite lighthousesSlangkop Point Lighthouse, Cape Town, South Africa

I loved how tall and skinny this lighthouse was, quite different from the shorter fatter ones I have usually seen. It is one of the only remaining lighthouses in the world to be manned by a lighthouse keeper.

We didn’t realize you could actually pay to climb to the top of the lighthouse which is meant to have spectacular views, but it was pretty impressive just seeing it from afar like we did.

There is a lovely waterside path you can walk from the lighthouse to the small seaside town of Kommetjie, which ended up being one of my favorite Cape Town villages.

Slangkop Lighthouse in Kommetjie, South Africa - one of my favorite lighthousesCape Borda, Kangaroo Island, Australia

The lighthouse at Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island itself isn’t one of the more impressive I have seen but what made our visit here extra special was that we slept in one of the lighthouse keeper’s huts right by the lighthouse.

It was a small and simple hut with no bathroom and limited kitchen facilities but we loved it. The best part was sipping red wine under the lighthouse while we watched the sky turn a brilliant pink when the sun set, then as soon as it got dark, watching the beacon switch on automatically.

It is a spectacular spot overlooking the ocean at the end of Australia.

Cape Borda Lighthouse on Kangaroo Island - one of my favorite lighthousesYaquina Head Light, Oregon, USA

Another amazing lighthouse and the tallest in Oregon, Yaquina Head Light sits at the end of a headland that juts out into the ocean. The lighthouse was made in Paris and shipped to Oregon in 1868 where it has been guarding the rocky coastline ever since.

I walked the spiral staircase to the top where there were fantastic views from beside the massive lens, which was so much bigger than I thought it would be close up.

You may recognize this lighthouse from its appearance in the horror movie ‘The Ring’. That movie terrified me so I am pleased I didn’t know that when I visited! A short walk will take you to a sheltered cove with tidal pools and great views back to the lighthouse.

Yaquina Head Light in Oregon - one of my favorite lighthouses Light at Yaquina Head Light in OregonBarrenjoey Head Lighthouse, Sydney, Australia

I only visited this lovely lighthouse for the first time last weekend, despite it only being about 20km from my home in Manly. It is a 40-minute return walk up to the lighthouse and is more than worth the hike for the sweeping views over Palm Beach and the Pittwater.

It was built with local sandstone in 1881, which makes it fairly old for this part of the world. The grave of the first lighthouse keeper George Mulhall is nearby and states that he died from being struck by lightning.

View over Palm beach Sydney from Barrenjoey Lighthouse Barrenjoey Lighthouse in Palm Beach, Sydney - one of my favorite lighthousesPoint Atkinson Lighthouse, Vancouver, Canada

Although you can’t access the lighthouse itself there is a beautiful park (aptly named Lighthouse Park) surrounding it where there are hiking trails through pristine coastal rainforest and a couple of rocky beaches with views over to the city.

This lighthouse casts a solitary figure on a mound of granite boulders fronting Burrard Inlet. It is best seen from the water which I was lucky enough to do when we rented a small boat and cruised around the harbour last time I was in Vancouver.

Point Atkinson Lighthouse in West Vancouver - one of my favorite lighthousesBig Tub Lighthouse, Bruce Peninsula, Canada

The Big Tub Lighthouse on Canada’s Bruce Peninsula is special because it was the first one I have visited that looks out onto a lake, rather than the ocean. Not that it looks like a lake.

The swimming pool waters of Georgian Bay, part of Lake Huron, would look more at home in the Caribbean rather than a lake in Canada. A white weatherboard lighthouse with jaunty red-framed windows, it is definitely one of the more photogenic lighthouses I have visited.

Big Tub Lighthouse in Ontario, Canada - one of my favorite lighthouses Georgian Bay in Lake Huron, CanadaChrome Island Lighthouse, off Denman Island, Canada

Located on a teeny tiny island off another tiny island, off a big Island off the coast of British Columbia, Chrome Island Lighthouse is pretty remote! The lighthouse is actually manned by a couple who file weather reports every three hours and collect scientific data.

I can’t imagine what life must be like on a rock that is less than two acres in size. The best place to view Chrome Island and its lighthouse is from Boyle Point Provincial Park on Denman Island.

Chrome Island in British Columbia, Canada - one of my favorite lighthousesCape Point Lighthouse, Cape Town, South Africa

Another lighthouse where I wasn’t super impressed by the lighthouse itself, but more for the history of the area and the commanding views over the turbulent Atlantic Ocean.

The legend of the Flying Dutchman, a ghost ship that when seen is said to be a bad omen, is from the rough waters surrounding the Cape Point lighthouse. I loved the small museum that told tales of the Dutchman and the many ships that sunk trying to round the Cape over the years.

The short hike up to the lighthouse was congested but offered brilliant views from all points. I also loved the hike below the lighthouse to a second smaller light at the end of a narrow promontory.

Cape Point Lighthouse in South Africa - one of my favorite lighthouses Cape Point in South AfricaSwallowtail Lighthouse, Grand Manan Island, Canada

I saved the best till last. My absolute favorite lighthouse in the whole wide world, the gorgeous Swallowtail Lighthouse on Grand Manan Island has everything that makes a lighthouse great. Incredible views, good looks, remote access, and not many people. It even has an awesome name.

Swallowtail Lighthouse is located on a windswept peninsula that looks out upon lobster boats and whales and sits among lush green grass.

We could see the lighthouse from our prime camping spot on the edge of a cliff nearby where we experienced hands down the best sunset we have ever seen. You can’t enter the lighthouse but you can wander around the grounds which we did one sunny afternoon in early summer.

It was a highlight of my five months in Canada.

Sunset over Swallowtail Lighthouse on Grand Manan Island - one of my favorite lighthouses Swallowtail Lighthouse on Grand Manan Island, Canada Swallowtail Lighthouse on Grand Manan Island in Canada - one of my favorite lighthousesDo you love lighthouses as much as me? What lighthouses are your favorites?

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28 Comments on The Best Lighthouses Around the World

  1. I also love lighthouses. You should tour the old one in San Diego. Impresive views, too. By the way, I love the name of your blog!

  2. Great list, I love lighthouses as much as you, I think! 2 of my favourites are the one at Seal Rocks in NSW, it has the most spectacular views of a wild and wavy beach and huge waves smashing on the rocks. The other one I love is Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse in Augusta WA (I’ve written about it here – – it’s a very tall lighthouse right at the end of a flat narrow peninsula surrounded on 3 sides by tempestuous seas. I haven’t been to many lighthouses overseas, atleast not many that really stood out, but I have been up to Cape Reinga and loved the views and the green grass.

    • I will have to get up to Seal Rocks at some point as it’s definitely within weekend road trip distance of Sydney. I took a look at your post on Cape Leeuwin – that is a beautiful lighthouse and reminds me a lot of the style I have seen in the US

  3. Yes, there’s something about lighthouses, I ‘collect’ them, too. One of my favorites is the old lighthouse at the tip of Key Biscayne (Miami). Old white lighthouse, white sand, white-hot sun making the whole scene shimmer like a mirage.

  4. I completely understand your fascination with them. I find them very interesting as well and you’ve got some beautiful ones on your list! 🙂

  5. What a gorgeous collection of lighthouses!! The Hornby one is so cute and I also love the Chrome Island one. I’ve only visited a couple of lighthouses, but i love how beautifully lonely they look. The lives of old lighthouse keepers are fascinating!

  6. Another light house you may want to visit ,is Point Hicks light house at Croajingalong National park Victoria .This national park has forrest secluded beaches and back in the 1990’s The sand dunes there were not named yet.Point Hicks light house is in a rather remote region.I hope i am not boring you with all this information .Never got to see one overseas though

  7. Oh, and a couple favorites are the Grand Haven Lighthouse, it’s at the end of cute pier and very bright red. It’s also awesome in the winter as it gets covered in ice waves. I also like the lighthouse at Little Sable Point. It’s so simple, tall, brown and sand swept in dunes on Lake Michigan. A few I’d like to see which are on islands are the Grand Island East Channel Lighthouse and also the Round Island Lighthouse just near our historic Mackinac Island. 🙂

  8. Another nice little post. The Hornby one is so cute, love the stripes. Isn’t the Bruce Peninsula beautiful? I’ve been there many times during the summer. It’s a 5 hour drive from my house. You’ll have to visit Michigan sometime, we have tons of lighthouses seeing that we are surrounded by fresh water. 🙂

    • Thanks Sheri, the Bruce Peninsula was insanely beautiful, I would love to go back. I have been to Michigan but only for a brief 2 days visit to Saugatuck, Holland and New Buffalo but I would love to get up to Sleeping Bear Dunes one day

  9. Green Cape light house ,Ben Boyd National park Eden NSW .It is so huge in height .One of the highest in Australia.The builder who built it ,fell into financial difficulty,couldn’t pay his workers ,so he put dinamite in his mouth lit it and committed suicide .A very sad story however the light house is awsome.

      • People believe his ghost lingers around .You can also stay in the cottage houses and the area is so remote .Visit disaster bay with beautiful natural beaches and forrests but as you are driving closser to the light house ,the vegitation changes from the typical Australian bush to heath vegetation.It is the most South Westerly point in Australia and if you were heading straight down the ocean you will miss New zealand and head straight to Antartica.I also swas from the light house Southern wright wales .You can use a two wheel drive car if the unsealed road is dry ,howeverA 4Wd is the best car to use.U love light houses and if i could i would travel the world to see them all.Another good one is in Hat Head National park called Smokey Cape Light House in Hat head national park .If you walk up to the light house ,you see beautiful vies of the national park and beach.Approximately 6 hour drive north of Sydney

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