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6 New England lighthouses where you can spend the night

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse In Pre Dawn Light, Bristol, Maine Several New England lighthouses offer overnight stays. Perched on the edge of a narrow peninsula near Bristol, Maine, Pemaquid Point Lighthouse has guided ships entering Muscongus Bay since 1827. | Photo by Paul Lemke/stock.adobe.com

Up and down New England’s rugged coastline, lighthouses stand as picturesque symbols of the region’s rich maritime history. These structures harbor stories of daring rescues and sunken ships, epic storms, and safe havens. For a unique summer escape, why not stay in one? Accommodations range from plush stays with plenty of amenities to rustic, glamping-style digs perfect for more adventurous travelers. Whichever you choose, these special getaways provide a rare opportunity to embrace New England’s seafaring heritage while supporting the preservation of these magical structures, many of which have become obsolete.

Be sure to plan ahead—these sought-after spots book well in advance. And although you won’t be filling lamps with whale oil or polishing the glass Fresnel lenses, your stint as a lighthouse keeper is sure to be memorable, with panoramic ocean views, spectacular sunrises and sunsets, and an endless soundtrack of crashing surf. Here are six of the best New England lighthouses where you can spend the night.

1. Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, Bristol, Maine

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is the featured site on Maine’s State Quarter. | Photo by Kovcs/stock.adobe.com

Pemaquid Point Lighthouse is the featured site on Maine’s State Quarter. | Photo by Kovcs/stock.adobe.com

Throughout mid-coast Maine, narrow peninsulas of land reach toward the ocean like fingers, sheltering snug harbors full of colorful fishing boats and picturesque coves surrounded by fragrant pines. Hand-lettered signs along winding, two-lane roads point the way to just-harvested oysters, handmade pottery, and u-pick blueberries. Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park is at the very end of one of these rugged points, and its eponymous lighthouse sits high on a rocky bluff overlooking Muscongus Bay. The beacon has guided ships since 1827. Today, travelers looking for coastal solitude can take up residence in the cozy, one-bedroom apartment on the second floor of the keeper’s house—a welcoming, white clapboard Cape with a big front porch and magnificent ocean views.

While you could spend your entire stay exploring the park’s beautiful grounds—perusing the on-site Fisherman’s Museum or walking along enormous rock ledges stretching along the coast—the surrounding area begs you to venture further afield. Nearby, Pemaquid Beach Park is perfect for a morning stroll—be sure to grab a couple of superb cinnamon buns at the Cupboard Café on your way. In New Harbor, Hardy Boat Cruises offers seasonal jaunts to and from Monhegan Island as well as guided puffin-watching tours around Eastern Egg Rock. Afterward, tuck into freshly caught lobster on the dock when Shaw’s is open. Enjoying a crisp Maine brew on the keeper’s house porch at sunset is the perfect end to the day. Rent the keeper’s house apartment year-round for $200 a night or $1,350 per week. 

2. Whitehead Light Station, St. George, Maine

This 17th-century light station hosts summer adult learning retreats from an island in Midcoast Maine’s picturesque Penobscot Bay. | Photo courtesy Matthew Wall

This 17th-century light station hosts summer adult learning retreats from an island in Midcoast Maine’s picturesque Penobscot Bay. | Photo courtesy Matthew Wall

Commissioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1803, Whitehead Light Station has provided safe passage to ships sailing into Maine’s Penobscot Bay for more than two centuries. Like many historic lighthouses, Whitehead fell into disrepair after an automated light replaced the original whale-oil lamp in 1982, rendering the keeper obsolete. In 1997, ownership passed to Pine Island Camp as part of the Maine Lights Program, which allowed for the transfer of several Maine lighthouses from the U.S. Coast Guard to responsible stewards. Over the next 12 years, Pine Island restored Whitehead’s assistant keeper’s house—the main house had been razed in the 1980s—and the property welcomed its first overnight guests in 2009.

Today, this picturesque seaside haven hosts all-inclusive, adult learning retreats where participants can delve into topics such as blues guitar, creative writing, knitting, and craft brewing. When no programs are scheduled, the property can be rented privately, making it a magical place to gather with family and friends. The house sits on a windswept granite headland and delights with 270-degree ocean views, seven charming bedrooms with iron bedsteads and private bathrooms, and a spacious kitchen and dining room. Adirondack chairs dot the lawn outside and days can include hiking through spruce-filled woods, exploring the rocky coastline by foot or kayak, or just lounging with a good book. Perhaps the best perk is access to the Light Station’s boat and its on-site skipper for nautical adventures around Penobscot Bay. Don’t miss the fabulous lobster rolls and fresh blueberry pie at McLoon’s Lobster Shack on nearby Sprucehead Island.

Whitehead Light Station offers multiple summer adult educational programs from June through October, while the house itself is available for private rentals for $7,500 per week (which includes use of the boat with the captain). It can also be rented for a minimum of three nights. 

3. Bakers Island Light Station, Salem, Massachusetts

Guests staying in the Assistant Keeper’s House at Bakers Island Light Station can pick wild blackberries and swim off a private beach. | Photo by Marcus Baker/Alamy Stock Photo

Guests staying in the Assistant Keeper’s House at Bakers Island Light Station can pick wild blackberries and swim off a private beach. | Photo by Marcus Baker/Alamy Stock Photo

Bakers Island Light Station began its nautical career in 1791 as an unlit beacon marking the entrance to Salem Harbor. In 1795, President George Washington authorized the construction of a lighthouse on the island, leading to a keeper’s house bedecked with twin light towers. By 1820, two freestanding towers, nicknamed “Ma” and “Pa,” replaced the original structure. Today, only “Pa,” the taller of the two, remains.

Overnight guests at Bakers Island Light Station, which the Essex National Heritage Commission maintains, stay in the assistant keeper’s house, an airy, off-the-grid homestead with three bedrooms and a partial kitchen. Solar panels provide electricity for lighting, device charging, and enough hot water for quick showers. Whatever the property lacks in creature comforts, however, it more than makes up for with its magnificent setting. Climb aboard Naumkeag, Essex Heritage’s 32-foot Munson landing craft, for the 30-minute trip across Salem Sound to its 10-acre property on Bakers Island. On the island, Tara and Brian Flanagan, the light station’s summer caretakers, greet guests, lend a hand with bags, and offer a brief orientation. Forage for blackberries, swim off the private beach, or play a game of croquet on the lawn. After the sun sets, the stars sparkling in the night sky are breathtaking.

The assistant keeper’s house sleeps six and is available to rent weekends June–September with a two-night minimum during the pandemic (Friday–Sunday). The cost is $790 for up to four people, including boat transportation to and from the island. Up to two additional guests are $95 per night each. Essex Heritage membership ($65) is also required. 

4. Borden Flats Lighthome, Fall River, Massachusetts

Anyone looking to live the true life of a lightkeeper should spend a night in Massachusetts at this offshore lighthouse on the Taunton River. | Photo by Kevin Ferias

Anyone looking to live the true life of a lightkeeper should spend a night in Massachusetts at this offshore lighthouse on the Taunton River. | Photo by Kevin Ferias

This whimsical sparkplug-style lighthouse on the Taunton River is probably one of the most unique places you’ll ever spend the night. The 50-foot lighthouse helped steamships navigate the bustling, 19th-century port of Fall River back when the town was known as Spindle City for its thriving cotton mills. In 2010, lighthouse aficionado Nick Korstad won the cast-iron tower at auction and spent eight years painstakingly restoring the structure, which had been abandoned in 1963 after being automated.

Korstad transformed the long-neglected beacon into a welcoming retreat complete with campy, nautical decor and fabulous outdoor seating areas with 360-degree water views. A spiral staircase links five charming levels that include an entry foyer/kitchen with a small fridge and a gas stove, a living room, an entertainment room, a queen-bedded bedroom, and a classic lantern room at the very top. In 2018, Korstad sold Borden Flats to local lighthouse fan Kevin Ferias, who is now the host.

Staying here is an unplugged experience. Though cozy and inviting, the lighthouse receives its power from a bank of solar panels and there’s no running water—think of it as glamping at sea. Bottled water is provided for drinking and washing dishes. A full-size gas grill on the deck allows guests the chance to cook up a memorable bay-front barbecue.

Borden Flats can be booked for overnights from mid-April to November (the 2021 season is sold out). The price ranges from $395 to $449 per night and includes boat transportation to and from the lighthouse. 

5. Rose Island Lighthouse, Newport, Rhode Island

Egrets, heron, gulls, and harbor seals are frequently spotted at Rose Island, an important wildlife refuge in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay.  | Photo by Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

Egrets, heron, gulls, and harbor seals are frequently spotted at Rose Island, an important wildlife refuge in Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay. | Photo by Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

Standing sentinel atop the southwest bastion of Fort Hamilton—one of the nation’s earliest military fortifications—this elegant, 19th-century lighthouse set in Narragansett Bay is one part living-history museum and one part seaside getaway. Built in 1870, the two-story keeper’s house, with its mansard roof and octagonal light tower, guided ships from Industrialization’s heyday until 1970, when Newport’s iconic Pell Bridge proved to be a superior navigational aid. Decommissioned in 1971, the lighthouse succumbed to vandals until 1985, when ownership transferred to the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, which completed a restoration in 1993 that incorporated solar power and a water cistern.

Today, guests can choose from a variety of accommodations—from one of two 19th century–styled rooms on the first floor of the keeper’s house to a chic, modern apartment on the second floor. For more rustic stays, folks can book an off-grid room in the historic Fort Hamilton barracks or the property’s scenic foghorn room, perched on the edge of the bastion overlooking the bay. The 18-acre island is also an important wildlife refuge, providing safe haven and nesting areas for shorebirds and waterfowl. From fall to early spring, harbor seals often find their way to the island to sun themselves on the rocky shoreline.

The two historic rooms and the second-floor apartment in the keeper’s house at Rose Island Light Station can be booked April through October, as can the barracks room and foghorn room in outbuildings. Rates start at $89. 

6. Saybrook Point Resort and Marina Lighthouse Suite, Old Saybrook, Connecticut

This plush suite right on the marina at Saybrook Point is considered one of the most romantic places to stay in Connecticut. | Photo by Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

This plush suite right on the marina at Saybrook Point is considered one of the most romantic places to stay in Connecticut. | Photo by Gina DeCaprio Vercesi

Although not a lighthouse in the traditional sense, the romantic Lighthouse Suite at the Saybrook Point Resort and Marina offers a plush escape perfect for special occasions. From its secluded, dockside perch, the cedar-shingled lighthouse treats guests to unobstructed views of where the Connecticut River flows into the Long Island Sound. Saybrook Point’s ocean access made it an attractive hub for trade and commerce in the 1800s. The Lynde Point Lighthouse marks the river mouth and despite its light’s 1975 automation, a keeper still resides there today. The road to Lynde Point is closed to the public but the tower creates a lovely backdrop for Lighthouse Suite guests, who can take in the scene from their balcony.

 

The resort property itself has a long history of hospitality, from its elegant 19th century beginnings as the Pease House to its 23-year run as the swank, mid-century modern Terra Mar, which catered to the likes of Frank Sinatra, Ted Kennedy, and Jane Mansfield. The Tagliatela family purchased the hotel in 1980 and spent the next nine years crafting it into the Saybrook Point Inn. During that time, the owners built the Lighthouse Suite as a miniature beach house to use during the renovation. Today, the charming suite, which features an inviting living room, kitchenette with dining area, and a cozy bedroom, has been lauded as one of Connecticut’s most romantic places to stay.

The Lighthouse Suite at Saybrook Point can be booked from May to October. Rates begin at $699. 

Gina DeCaprio Vercesi is a New York–based writer with a passion for history, conservation, and 1973 Buick Skylark convertibles.

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