North Head Lighthouse
A salty ocean breeze, the cries of seagulls and a familiar white structure jutting up against the coastline: There is something undeniably mesmerizing about the stalwart and nostalgic charm of lighthouses. If you and your family want to really dive into this feeling, you’re in luck. Did you know you can spend the night in real lighthouse keeper’s quarters?
Pacific Northwest coastlines are peppered with these historic and essential stations, many of which have opened up to visitors seeking a taste of life on the edge. Some lighthouses and keeper’s quarters have been fully converted into vacation properties, offering the lighthouse mystique along with full-service comfort. Others invite you in to fully experience the lightkeeper’s life with programs that involve guests in carrying out basic station duties.
Whether you’re looking for a fun night’s stay or a unique learning experience for the entire family, check out these seven unforgettable lighthouses along the Washington and Oregon coasts
Point No Point Lighthouse, Hansville, Washington
Sitting on the northeastern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, about an hour by car from Seattle, the lighthouse at Point No Point was built in 1879 and is considered to be Puget Sound’s oldest lighthouse. Two on-site properties are available as vacation rentals. The Keeper’s Quarters, perfect for a family, presents a cozy home with a living and dining room, two bedrooms and a full kitchen. Also on the station property is keeper John Maggs’ Cottage, built by the first lighthouse keeper and his wife. The cottage can house as many as four adults and a child.
This station’s unique locale opens to nearly unbelievable panoramic views of the sound’s islands, Mount Baker, Mount Rainier and the Seattle skyline. The lighthouse also sits next to a nature preserve, so keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife, including bald eagles, waterfowl, other cool bird species, seals and more!
Point Robinson Lighthouse, Vashon Island, Washington
Considered one of the jewels of Vashon Island, Point Robinson Park has a rich history. It was home to the island’s first fog signal, built back in 1885. The Point Robinson Lighthouse, still in operation today, was built in 1914. In 1997, the Vashon Park District rented and renovated the lighthouse and two keepers’ quarters on the property, turning the quarters into vacation rentals.
There are two homes to choose from: A three-bedroom home sleeps six and includes a full kitchen and living room. A two-bedroom house that sleeps four has been restored to resemble its 1919 condition, complete with a sitting parlor. Overlooking Puget Sound, both homes are fenced for privacy and have cozy porches for relaxing or playing games. Miles of shoreline invite beachcombing, fort building and kite flying. Or just sit back and watch cargo ships sail past, and maybe even catch a glimpse of the J pod swimming by. Note that summer bookings require a weeklong stay; off-season bookings have a two-night minimum.
Browns Point Lighthouse Park, Tacoma, Washington
Eleven miles from Tacoma, the historic 1903 lightkeeper’s residence at Browns Point has been described by the U.S. Lighthouse Society as one of the finest lighthouse restorations anywhere in the country. The three-bedroom waterfront home, which sleeps six, overlooks an expansive park lawn and gardens perfect for frolicking. Further on, the lighthouse itself rises on the saltwater beach, affording awe-inspiring views of the south Puget Sound, the Olympic Mountains and Tacoma’s glittering city lights.
To add to the unique experience, families get a glimpse of life as a lightkeeper by taking part in some casual duties: raising the flag daily; maintaining a log of maritime traffic; and keeping the cottage and yard tidied up for the next guests.
Looking for more activities to fill the day? Hop over to check out some of Tacoma’s top attractions: Point Defiance Park and its newer Dune Peninsula section, Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium, the pay-what-you-wish Children’s Museum of Tacoma or the refreshed Swan Creek Park.
Point Wilson Lighthouse, Port Townsend, Washington
Located within sprawling — and fantastic — Fort Worden Historical State Park, the Point Wilson Lighthouse sits at the tip of the Olympic Peninsula, where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Admiralty Inlet. The restored Point Wilson Light Station offers the Chief’s House for rent, with four bedrooms (sleeps eight), two bathrooms and comfortable living quarters. All necessities, from toiletries to tea, coffee and free Wi-Fi, are provided. And you’ll sleep well knowing that income generated from the rental contributes to the station’s restoration efforts.
The locale makes it a great base camp for exploring the amazingly diverse peninsula, including Fort Worden itself, the quaint Victorian town of Port Townsend and, of course, Olympic National Park, a short drive away.
New Dungeness Lighthouse, Sequim, Washington
For a true taste of what life was like as a turn-of-the-century lighthouse keeper, look into the Keeper Program at the New Dungeness Lighthouse. This lighthouse sits at the end of 5-mile-long Dungeness Spit on the Olympic Peninsula. Participation in the Keeper Program requires a membership to the New Dungeness Light Station Association ($50 per family), an organization dedicated to preserving the landmark and its important legacy.
Aspiring lightkeepers are delivered to the Lighthouse in a four-wheel transfer vehicle (saving you a long hike) and spend a week in the Keeper’s Quarters. The property has four bedrooms and sleeps as many as eight people. While there, duties include maintenance, lawn work and leading tours to visiting members of the public. Children ages 6 and older are welcome, with at least four adults required to be present on the station. Plentiful wildlife, marine traffic and beautiful sunsets await visitors out on the beach. Inside, movies, board games, a pool/ping-pong table fill any downtime — along with cable TV and internet access to give modern lightkeeping an edge over the old days.
North Head Lighthouse, Ilwaco, Washington
At the base of Long Beach Peninsula, Cape Disappointment State Park is a popular camping destination, but did you know you can also enjoy this spot’s far-from-disappointing landscape from the comfort of a lightkeeper’s home? Two residences (one of which is a duplex) are available for overnight accommodations, both situated within walking distance of the North Head Lighthouse and each having served as living quarters for nearly 75 years. Both of the pretty two-story Victorian homes sleep as many as six people each, with three bedrooms, a kitchen, and living and dining rooms. The properties come fully furnished and are stocked with linens, towels and kitchen essentials.
When you head out to explore, walk the park’s hiking trails and coastline; watch storms from the cove at Waikiki Beach or fly a kite at Benson Beach. To learn more about the history of the area, check out the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, an interactive history museum and observation deck set high on the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean.
Heceta Head Lighthouse, Yachats, Oregon
This upscale take on the lighthouse experience is for the more mature crowd — kids ages 10 and older are welcome — but it’s definitely worth it. Dating to 1894 and still in operation, Heceta Head Lighthouse is perched on a cliff 205 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the central Oregon coast. It’s reported to be the most photographed lighthouse in the country.
The adjacent Heceta Lighthouse Bed & Breakfast offers six rooms for rent in the lightkeeper’s cottage, with a queen and extra twin beds available in each. Guests are treated to a variety of indulgent experiences, from the seven-course breakfast to nighttime stargazing strolls to the lighthouse. Grown-ups can enjoy the wine and cheese social and stunning views on the wraparound porch. Check out the tours at the house’s interpretive center, and venture out to explore everything the central Oregon coast has to offer — including sea lion caves, sand dune buggies, aquariums and more. (Pro tip: Pronounce the name of the town "YAH-hots.")
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