Long Island's first lighthouses were simple bonfires which helped sailors navigate to safe harbors. That all changed when President George Washington ordered the construction of a permanent facility in Montauk in 1792. Here is a look at some of the Long Island’s lighthouses and when you should go to visit.
Eatons Neck Lighthouse
End of Lighthouse Road | Eatons Neck, NY | (631) 261-6959 | google map
In 1798, President John Adams signed legislation to build a lighthouse on the east side of the Huntington Harbor entrance. This 50-foot tower on the Coast Guard Station is the second oldest lighthouse on Long Island after Montauk. This sandstone tower was first lit in 1799.
The lighthouse was renovated in 1868. Wooden steps were replaced with iron steps and landings, the walls lined with bricks, the keeper's quarters expanded, and a steam fog signal installed. The tower holds Long Island's only remaining active Fresnel lens.
The grounds may be visited by appointment. The station has been closed to the public since 2000 but private tours can be arranged.
U.S. Coast Guard at Eaton's Neck - (631) 261-6959
Fire Island Lighthouse
Robert Moses State Park | Parking Field 5 | Fire Island, NY | (631) 661-4876 | google map
The Fire Island Lighthouse is Long Island's tallest lighthouse with its 182 winding steps. On a clear day it’s possible to view the Manhattan skyline from the light. Its museum covers the history of the lighthouse and the U.S. Lifesaving Service (Pre-Coast Guard). The lighthouse is open year round but a visit during the summer makes for a great day at the beach. After hour sunset tours of the lighthouse can be arranged.
Horton Point Lighthouse
End of Lighthouse Road | Southhold, NY | (631) 765-2101 | google map
The structure, a working lighthouse, was authorized by George Washington in 1790 but not built until 1857. It houses a nautical museum operated by the Southold Historical Society featuring paintings, whaling tools, logbooks and artifacts relating to the sea, sound and bay. It is only open on weekends from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. The best bet for visiting is after Labor Day, a time of year that is perfect for a stop at some of the nearby wineries.
Huntington Harbor Lighthouse
1-2 Browns Road | Town Park at Gold Star Battalion Beach | Huntington Bay, NY 11742-1847 | (631) 421-1985 | google map
Located at the entrance to Huntington Harbor and Lloyd Harbor in the Long Island Sound, the original light was constructed on the tip of Lloyd's Neck in 1857. The present light was built in 1912, making the lighthouse resemble a small castle. In 1983 it was deemed unsafe for servicing personnel and too expensive to repair. A project to save the lighthouse has been underway since 1985.
Public docking is not permitted but tours, including a 10-minute boat ride out to the lighthouse, are available.
Boat tours run in season, weather permitting. Special tours can be arranged by request or by phoning (631) 421-1985
Montauk Point Lighthouse
2000 Montauk Hwy. | Montauk, NY 11954 | (631) 668-2544 | google map
The lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington in 1792 with construction completed in 1796. The museum, and gift shop in its base, is run by the Montauk Historical Society. It features early lighthouse photos and displays with guides on hand. Visitors can climb to the top to take advantage of the spectacular views and its sweeping vistas. Hours vary according to the season. A minimum height requirement to climb the tower is 41 inches.