11 Historic Lighthouses Opened for Tourists Along the Jersey Shore This Weekend

The 15th annual Lighthouse Challenge makes for a quintessential autumnal road trip down the Shore.

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Cape May Lighthouse

Lighthouses have the power to stir even the most practical among us. They’re beacons of hope in the darkness, safety in a storm and strength in solitude. Tapping into our love and wonder of these maritime structures, the Friends of the Lighthouse host the 15th annual Lighthouse Challenge on October 17th and 18th from 8 am to 6 pm each day along the Jersey shore.

If you choose to accept the challenge, you must visit all 11 lighthouses and the three life-saving museums in one weekend, running approximately 135 miles down the length of New Jersey from Sandy Hook to Cape May Point. It is a special weekend where all the lighthouses are open at the same time. Typically, some are open only in the summer or for special events. For those who complete the entire list, they become eligible for a raffle prize worth approximately $1,000 in lighthouse-related items.

Visitors are not required to climb all eleven working lighthouses, (though they can!), but should buy the souvenir booklet at the first lighthouse they visit ($2 a book) and get a stamp at each subsequent lighthouse. The history of these maritime structures is impressive — Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the country dating back to 1764; the Twin Lights of Navesink has the country’s first Fresnel lens; The 1876 Finns Point Rear Range Lighthouse is wrought-iron with an unusual open-frame design; the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse has a unique stick-style building designed by the same architect, Paul J. Petz, who designed the Library of Congress.

Nanci Coughlin, advisory committee chair for Friends of the Cape May Lighthouse, explains the reason for the Challenge’s enduring popularity: “These lighthouses are huge sentinels that people fall in love with whether for the love of history or the sea. Some people find it spiritual. People get married at the top of these lighthouses or get engaged. There’s just a huge attraction for them. It’s an amazing event.”

Visit visitnj.org for more information.