Pigeon Point lighthouse, Pescadero, California, USA
Ah, lighthouses! What’s not to love about these beacons of light, which have been guiding ships since the 17th century? At least, the modern versions have: the Egyptians, ever the pioneers, built their first lighthouse around 280 BC. How's that for looking ahead?
Not surprisingly, lighthouses are most spectacular at night, when their lights beam dutifully for miles out to sea, guiding vessels through rough waters. In honor of these life-saving light-givers, we’ve found 20 simply stunning shots of lighthouses at night.
Here’s a great moonrise shot of Marblehead Lighthouse in Marblehead, Ohio with star trails in winter sky and a great chunk of sea ice in the background. It was built in 1821 and is the oldest lighthouse on the Great Lakes to have been in continuous operation.
Photographer Luke Hertzfeld describes his experience of being out there in the middle of a freezing winter night: "It was dead quite except the shifting ice, which sounded like huge steel cables breaking. If you've ever heard that sound, it's quite unnerving, and I never really got comfortable with the sound for the three hours I was out here."
Well, we sure appreciate the effort and can emphatically say that it was worth it!
With the fog rolling in over the dark rocks, this image of Start Point Lighthouse is pretty dramatic – if not outright sinister! It's no coincidence that the white, 92-foot (28 m) structure reminds one of a castle tower, as it was built in the Gothic style. It has been guiding ships since 1836 and is located in south Devon, England.
This lighthouse is not only stunning but was also captured with a perfect reflection in the water, on a cloudless and still night. Rather unusual for an area known for its strong tides and currents. The 112-foot (34 m) tall lighthouse, built in 1860, stands at Cape Trafalgar in Cadiz, Spain, northwest of the Strait of Gibraltar. This is the historic spot where the Battle of Trafalgar took place in 1805.
Only 23-foot tall (7 m), this short and stubby white lighthouse is located at Fingal Head, one of Australia’s easternmost spots. It was built between 1878 and 1880. Though located in a public beach and picnic area, you won't be able to get much closer than this: the lighthouse tower itself is, unfortunately, closed to the public.
If ever there were an image to epitomize the phrase 'beacon of hope' it would surely be this one. The lighthouse pictured stands 92-foot (28 m) tall, in the city of Dornbusch, on the Baltic island of Hiddensee in Germany. It was built from bricks in 1887/1888 and then painted white. Some 102 steps lead up to this lighthouse, and today it is open to the public. Don't take a big group, though! Visitors are limited to 15 at a time.
Tall and beautiful, Pigeon Point Lighthouse lies 50 miles south of San Francisco and seems to radiate light in this amazing night shot. At 115 feet (35 m) tall, the lighthouse is one of the tallest in the US. For those living in the area, there’s also an opportunity to learn more about the structure: California State Parks, the organization taking care of it, is currently looking for volunteers.
An orange sunset dramatically lights up the sky around Coquille River Lighthouse in Bandon, Oregon. Named after the Coquille Indians that populated the area, the lighthouse was built in 1896 to guide ships at the spot where the Coquille River flows into the Pacific Ocean. Abandoned for nearly 25 years, this beautiful piece of architecture was restored to its former glory in 1976.
This atmospheric, almost ethereal image, taken on Denmark’s central North Sea coast, shows the Blåvand Lighthouse, close to Esbjerg harbor, adorned with a crown of light. The lighthouse has provided a guiding light in rough North Sea storms for more than 100 years. From 125 feet (38 m) up, the view is stunning and uninterrupted in all directions. According to one source, on a clear day you can expect to see: “Esbjerg harbour, Blåvand's long sandy beaches, the offshore windmill farm, a good few old German WWII bunkers, and of course the hundreds of lovely summerhouses in the sandy dunes.” Sounds worth a visit!
This mysterious and rather spooky image shows Moose Peak Lighthouse on the (rather amusingly named) Mistake Island in Maine. Though the light station here was established in 1826, the 57-foot (17.5 m) tall tower didn’t get built until 1851. While the picturesque lighthouse is sadly not open to the public, boat trips to the surrounding area can still give you a great view of the 160-year-old building.
With the fog rising from Narragansett Bay, Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport, Rhode Island looks rather surreal. Built more than 120 years ago in 1890, the lighthouse is still used today by the United States Coast Guard, helping boats navigate the slim East Passage around Aquidneck Island. While the lighthouse is unfortunately not open to the public, the area around it is, and, with a little bit of effort (like climbing up the rocks in near darkness with photographic equipment, as photographer Chris Lazzery did!) one can be rewarded with stunning pictures like this one.
This amazing shot shows Whiteford Lighthouse in Whiteford Point, Gower, South Wales. The white glow around the lighthouse is not its light but the sun! Given the atmosphere and purple light, one could almost mistake it for a sunset shot.
In our excitement, we don’t want to miss out on some details about this 1865 lighthouse, as it differs quite a bit from the others featured in our list. Not only is it a cast-iron structure (one of the last remaining examples of cast-iron lighthouses in the UK) but the 44-foot (13 m) high tower also stands in the water, supported by 88 wooden piles.
This spacey-looking lighthouse was snapped against a beautiful starry night sky in Turnberry, south Scotland. It can be found on the Ayrshire coast, on the site of the old Turnberry Castle, most likely built in the 1200s. The brick lighthouse was erected on the stone ruins of the castle in 1873, thus giving visitors to the site a double whammy of historic buildings at which to marvel!
This unpainted, redbrick lighthouse with yellow on its window and door accents is unusual for Scotland. The Butt of Lewis Lighthouse in the Outer Hebrides has been helping ships navigate the rough and stormy sea around the Isle of Lewis’s northernmost point since 1862. The structure is much needed, it seems: the location made it into the Guinness Book of Records as the windiest spot in the UK.
Pigeon Point Lighthouse in the San Francisco Bay seems to radiate light angelically in this stunning image. At 115 feet (35 m), it's the joint tallest lighthouse on the West Coast (along with Point Arena Light in California) and was built in 1871. There’s great news for lighthouse fans, too: the old lighthouse keeper’s quarters from the 1960s have been restored and turned into a youth hostel! And for those only young at heart, there’s good news as well: additional accommodation for up to 50 people is available in surrounding buildings. If you’re wondering about the name of the lighthouse – located between Santa Cruz and San Francisco, by the way – it’s in honor of the Carrier Pigeon, a ship that was wrecked in rough waters in 1853.
The dramatic sky captured here illuminates a structure that is part of a set of range markers and lights in Rondea Harbor in Erieau, Ontario, Canada. This is the characteristic east side channel marker, with its white, skeletal frame, and the square lantern room on top painted a bright red. Makes for a pretty picture, for sure!
This minimalist lighthouse – white, with just one wide, red stripe – can be found at Low Head, Tasmania. After a number of shipwrecks in the rough waters in the 19th century, the 62-foot (19 m) lighthouse was built in 1833, the third lighthouse in Australia and the second in Tasmania.
This charming lighthouse, so beautifully lit, stands in Chania, Greece, on Crete’s northwestern coast. As we mentioned at the beginning, the Ancient Egyptians are said to have been the inventors of the lighthouse, and they also had a hand in this one – the oldest on our list.
The Chania Lighthouse is believed to have been established in 1570 by the Venetians, who gave it its cylindrical shape. The Egyptians occupied Crete from 1821 to 1841, and then left their mark on the little lighthouse with a shape reminiscent of a minaret and elegant steps leading up to the balcony.
This scenic white lighthouse stands in Mevagissey, Cornwall in southwest England. The cast-iron lighthouse is 29.5-foot (9 m) tall and was completed in 1896, after a fierce blizzard destroyed the original lighthouse and pier in 1891.
Thanks to the lighthouse, the town of Mevagissey was the first in the UK to have street lighting, courtesy of the excess electricity from the lighthouse’s pilchard-powered station, built in 1895. A nice story, don’t you agree?
This red and rotund lighthouse makes for a lovely composition in front of the pink evening sky. Interestingly, it is no longer found in its original location: the Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse has abandoned its place at the mouth of Maryland's Patapsco River and now sits as a landmark on the Inner Harbor waterfront in downtown Baltimore.
Built in 1856, Seven Foot Knoll is the oldest screw-pile lighthouse that’s still intact. A screw-pile lighthouse is a structure that stands on piles that are screwed into the seafloor or riverbeds. Seven Foot Knoll once towered at a height of 40 feet (12 m) and was crowned by the lighthouse keeper’s quarters and gallery. Though inactive since 1987, it is now enjoyed by school children and other visitors as a museum.
Though we could do this all day, sadly our tour of incredible lighthouses ends here. Hard to pick a favorite, isn’t it? In the meantime, we hope we've shed some light (if you'll pardon the pun) on these beautiful and historic structures.