You Can Spend the Night in These 7 Charming Lighthouses

These dreamy historic structures are the perfect shoreside escapes.

The red brick facade of Big Bay Point Lighthouse in Michigan, a house and short tower surrounded by greenery

Some U.S. lighthouses take on volunteer lightkeepers; others, like the Big Bay Point Lighthouse in Michigan, operate as bed-and-breakfasts.

Courtesy of Big Bay Point Lighthouse

Lighthouses once played an important in maritime safety, helping ships navigate hazardous coastlines and find safe passage into harbors. But with the advance of GPS and other modern technologies, many of these structures have been relegated to the role of helpful backups, and some have been retired. Functioning or not, scores of lighthouses have found new purpose attracting throngs of camera-toting tourists.

“The inherent beauty of lighthouses, starkly etched against the sky, is undeniably a big part of what makes them so alluring,” says Eric Jay Dolin, author of Brilliant Beacons: A History of the American Lighthouse. “But America’s intrinsic fascination with lighthouses runs deeper than that. Over three centuries, these brilliant beacons have indelibly woven themselves into the American fabric, and it is this rich history more than anything else that draws us in.”

Many lighthouses in the United States take in short-term boarders, giving visitors a chance to taste the life of lightkeeper and connect more deeply with history. Some operate as bed-and-breakfasts, while others expect guests to pitch in by cleaning bathrooms or logging a few hours in a visitor center or gift shop.

The following architecturally appealing or historically interesting light stations welcome overnight guests and are all within an easy drive of major metropolitan areas. To find more pay-to-stay lighthouses, visit the United States Lighthouse Society website. Some of these stays require volunteering duties and a bit of elbow grease—so if you want a stay with no strings attached, consider looking into renting a lighthouse Airbnb.

Here are seven beautiful lighthouses across the nation that you can visit for an overnight stay:

The front entrance of Saugerties Lighthouse in New York, a two-story brick building

This property is currently managed by the Saugerties Lighthouse Conservancy, which offers two bed-and-breakfast rooms as well as public tours.

Courtesy of Reid Buchanan/Unsplash

1. Saugerties Lighthouse

  • Location: 168 Lighthouse Dr., Saugerties, New York | Find on Google Maps
  • Book now: Rates start at $550 per night, and there is a $50 fee for every extra person (each room accommodates two visitors).

There are few things more cozy than gathering around a coal-burning stove in a lighthouse overlooking Esopus Creek. At the Saugerties Lighthouse, you and a couple of your closest buddies can really get away from it all. The 155-year-old, red-brick lighthouse is located on a remote shoal that is only accessible via a half-mile walk along an easy trail. Visitors can get to the lighthouse from the center of Saugerties on foot (it’s about a 40-minute walk, total). Just head to the end of Lighthouse Drive, where a nature trail leads straight to the lighthouse.

Saugerties Lighthouse has two on-site bedrooms, and you have to book both—the perfect excuse to gather your friends for a group trip. Guests are not expected to perform any work duties, and breakfast is included in the room rate.

The exterior of Pottawatomie Lighthouse in Rock Island, Wisconsin, with green lawn and trees

Pottawatomie Lighthouse was manned by civilian lightkeepers for more than a century, from 1836 to 1946.

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2. Pottawatomie Lighthouse

  • Location: Washington Island, Wisconsin | Find on Google Maps
  • Book now: Free.

History buffs will want to look into a stay at the Pottawatomie Lighthouse Museum, which offers visitors a chance to play lighthouse keeper and docent. But this place is for those serious about the job, which involves caring for the property and leading public tours. Lighthouse keeper hopefuls must take a ferry from Jackson Harbor on Washington Island, where the lighthouse staff will meet them and help haul their things on a 1.5-mile hike through the woods to the house for the one-week stay. The lighthouse is full of historic details, such as the kitchen trap door that leads to the former school room and the original wavy glass in the bedrooms.

One thing to keep in mind: There isn’t any indoor plumbing or electricity at Pottawatomie Lighthouse Museum. Consider this a chance to really take a step back in time and disconnect. There’s an outhouse on the property, and guests will need to bring their own bed linens and food as well. Docents are brought on as volunteers, meaning there is no room rate or cost for your stay.

Viewed from water: the white New Dungeness Lighthouse (with red roofs) with snowy Cascade Mountain Range behind it

The New Dungeness Lighthouse was one of the first to institute a volunteer lightkeeper program.

Courtesy of New Dungeness Lighthouse

3. New Dungeness Lighthouse

  • Location: On Washington’s Olympic Peninsula between Port Townsend and Port Angeles | Find on Google Maps
  • Book now: The light station recommends volunteers stay for one week, which costs $490 per person (this will increase to $510 in 2025), with all proceeds going to the upkeep of the facility.

Situated in the Dungeness National Wildlife Refuge on Washington’s northwest coast, the New Dungeness Lighthouse enjoys views of the Cascade and Olympic mountain ranges. It also sits in the middle of a migratory bird route from northern Canada to the southern United States, so in addition to whales off the coast, visitors might glimpse both land and sea birds such as bald eagles and Pacific loons.

Built in 1857, the lighthouse has undergone major modifications; in 1927, the top was lowered 27 feet due to crumbling stonework in the tower. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993, and soon after, it became one of the first lighthouses to accept volunteer lightkeepers. In fact, general manager Chad Kaiser notes that volunteers have staffed the site nearly every day for the past 23 years, helping to raise and lower the flag, give tours, and pick up trash.

The Little River Lighthouse near the rocky Atlantic coastline, with evergreens in background

The remote Little River Lighthouse sits on a 15-acre island off the coast of Maine.

Courtesy of Little River Lighthouse

4. Little River Lighthouse

  • Location: An island at the mouth of the Little River, in Cutler, Maine | Find on Google Maps
  • Book now: Rates range from $300 to $400 per night for a room (each accommodates two people).

The easternmost island light station in the United States, Little River Lighthouse juts up from a rocky, 15-acre landmass covered in pine trees off the coast of Cutler. To reach the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters, visitors take a 12-minute boat ride from the mainland, then stroll along a half mile of wooden boardwalk. The site is only open to overnight guests during the summer and to day-trippers during a handful of scheduled open houses. All told, this remote location sees about 1,000 visitors annually, and lightkeeper Terry Rowden says some come from as far away as Russia and Brazil.
According to Rowden, visitors can enjoy an abundance of natural splendor, including “beautiful sunrises; whale, seal, and dolphin sightings from the shore; bald eagles soaring overhead; and vistas.”

The first lighthouse here was built in 1847, then torn down and rebuilt with a cast-iron framework less than 20 years later. The current Victorian-style, wooden keeper’s quarters were built in 1888. Little River fell into disrepair and was decommissioned in the 1970s, but its light was relit in 2001 after local volunteers completed a massive restoration.

A guest bedroom inside Big Bay Point Lighthouse, with dark wood furniture and fireplace and slanted ceiling over bed

Big Bay Point Lighthouse overlooks Lake Superior and functions as a well-appointed bed-and-breakfast.

Courtesy of Big Bay Point Lighthouse

5. Big Bay Point Lighthouse

Big Bay Point Lighthouse serves double duty as a Coast Guard–active light station as well as a bed-and-breakfast. It’s perched on a 50-foot cliff overlooking Lake Superior, so guests are treated to spectacular views.

“We’re in the middle stretch of the lake, so our waters are crystal clear and on a clear day, mimic the color of the Caribbean,” lighthouse keeper Nick Korstad says. “There are no neighbors or homes within view of the property, allowing the guests to see the site as it was [when it was built] in 1896. As a bonus, the northern lights are quite common.”

This lighthouse is one of only a few remaining in which the tower is integrated into the keeper’s house. It’s also said to be haunted. The first lightkeeper, the red-headed William Prior, died by suicide after the unexpected death of his son. Visitors have reported seeing a red-haired figure in mirrors and hearing doors slam in the middle of the night.

Guests aren’t required to help out around the facility; they can spend their time exploring the surrounding area, which is known for its waterfalls and abundant wildlife. The bed-and-breakfast offers massages in a screened hut yards away from the cliffside, integrating the sounds and smells of the lake and woods into the experience. And the community of Big Bay—population 550—is only 3.5 miles away; its Lumberjack Tavern was the scene of the 1952 crime that inspired the movie Anatomy of a Murder.

The yellow and red exterior of Victorian East Brother Light Station in San Francisco Bay

The Victorian East Brother Light Station sits on an island in the San Francisco Bay.

Courtesy of East Brother Light Station

6. East Brother Light Station

  • Location: 900 Stenmark Dr., Richmond, California | Find on Google Maps
  • Book now: Rooms are available Thursday through Sunday night and start at $475.

Just northeast of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, the East Brother Light Station sits alone on an island in San Francisco Bay and enjoys one of the most picturesque skyline views in the United States. A 10-minute boat ride from Point San Pablo Harbor in Richmond (about a half-hour drive from San Francisco), it’s an easy weekend escape for Bay Area locals.

The lighthouse was built in 1873, and its beacon was automated in 1969. At that time, the federal government wanted to tear down the surrounding facility, keeping only the light, but a local nonprofit took over the Victorian-style station and transformed it into an inn.

Champagne and hors d’oeuvres are served to guests upon arrival, as well as a multi-course dinner and a full breakfast the next morning. One thing to note: Water is in short supply, so showers are only available for guests staying more than one night.

The gray brick facade of the Salmon River Lighthouse and its unique birdcage lantern

The birdcage lantern atop the Salmon River Lighthouse is one of only a few remaining in service today.

Courtesy of Salmon River Lighthouse and Marina

7. Salmon River Lighthouse and Marina

The Salmon River Lighthouse stands beside Lake Ontario. Visitors can climb the 181-year-old lighthouse’s spiral staircase to the beacon and take in 360-degree views of the harbor and surrounding area.

Once known as the Selkirk Lighthouse, it was officially retired in 1858, but kept its distinctive birdcage-style lantern. Co-owner Abe Ellis says only a handful of these rare lanterns remain in service today. The lighthouse was placed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and reactivated as a working lighthouse in 1989.

Purchased and completely refurbished in 2014, the two-story, three-bedroom lighthouse is especially popular with fishers angling to catch a brown trout or Chinook salmon.

This article originally appeared online in March 2019; it was most recently updated on February 13, 2024, by Erika Owen, to include current information.

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