There is something magical about lighthouses. They serve as a gateway to Washington’s rich history and are prominent fixtures for coastal photography. Washington state parks are home to eight of these lighthouses, beginning up north in the San Juan islands and continuing to the southwestern part of the state. We’ve profiled each of them below, with photos and a glimpse into their history.
Lime Kiln Point State Park
If you’re looking to see the famed orca whales, Lime Kiln Point State Park, which sits on the west side of San Juan Island, is a must-visit. The park is considered one of the best places in the world to view whales from land. Minke whales, orcas, porpoises, seals, sea lions and otters cruise the shoreline, feasting from the nutrient-rich kelp beds. The lighthouse was built in 1919 and still serves as a navigational beacon for ships in Haro Strait. Interpretive programs and lighthouse tours are available during the summer months.
Fort Casey Historical State Park
The center fixture of Fort Casey Historical State Park on Whidbey Island is theAdmiralty Head Lighthouse, which was built in 1903. In 2012, a new, historically accurate lantern house was added as well. Once you’re inside, interpretive panels recount a brief cultural history about the Native American nations from the area, the first pioneer settlers as well as the building of the Red Bluff Lighthouse and the construction of Fort Casey. The best part? You can climb the narrow, steep staircase to the top of the lighthouse and take in sweeping views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Fort Worden Historical State Park
Located on the outskirts of Port Townsend, Fort Worden State Park is one of the most frequented parks in the state. Within the park, Point Wilson Lighthouse, built in 1914, marks the western side of the entrance to Admiralty Inlet from the Strait of Juan de Fuca and is an important landmark for vessels traveling to and from Puget Sound.
Cape Disappointment State Park
Few spots along Washington’s Pacific coast offer you as commanding a view of thundering ocean waves as Cape Disappointment State Park. Perched upon the cliffs, the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse was constructed in 1856 to warn seamen of the treacherous river bar known by then as “the graveyard of the Pacific.” This is the oldest functioning lighthouse on the West Coast. After the Cape Disappointment Lightstation was built in 1856, mariners approaching the river from the north complained they could not see the light until they had nearly reached the river. As a result, many shipwrecks occurred along the Long Beach Peninsula, just north of the cape. The call for a second lighthouse was heard and the North Head Lighthouse was erected in the late 1800s. This lighthouse is open to visitors from May to September.
Westport Light State Park
Located on the Pacific Ocean at Westport, the park is named for the historic Westport Lighthouse (also called Grays Harbor Lighthouse). Constructed in 1898, the lighthouse was built as a navigational aide for Point Chehalis at the south entrance to Grays Harbor. The lighthouse itself is not on State Park property but is operated by the Westport Maritime Museum and is open to the public, except in December and January. The nearby day-use state park is an excellent destination for beach exploring.
Fort Flagler Historical State Park
Fort Flagler State Park sits on northern tip of Marrowstone Island in Jefferson County. Along with the heavy batteries of Fort Worden and Fort Casey, the park area once served as a guarded nautical entrance to Puget Sound. Not your standard lighthouse, Fort Flagler features a small light station to aid ships in the area. Though automated in 1962, the station still remains fairly intact and serves as a scientific research facility.
Patos Island Marine State Park
Patos Island is located five miles northwest of Orcas Island and is only accessible by boat. It’s perfect for an overnight kayak trip as you can stay in one of the island campsites for the night. The lighthouse on the park dates back to 1918 and was occupied and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard staff and their families until the late 1960s. Civilian employees and then Washington State Parks staff lived and operated the site until it was finally automated in the 1970s.
Burrows Island Marine State Park
Bonus lighthouse:Burrows Island lies south and west of the town of Anacortes. In 1905, prompted by the loss of several vessels to nearby Dennis Shoal and Lawson Reef, the Lighthouse Board selected Burrows Island as the site for a new light station. The oldest wooden light station in Washington state was automated in 1972, and a helicopter landing pad now stands where the keeper’s bungalow was located. Technically, the light station is not located within the state park boundary, but Washington State Parks owns about 70 percent of the island. You can get to the lighthouse from the park. The park has no developed facilities and is accessibly only by boat. Some local charter boat operators can take you to the island. According to Waggoner’s Cruising Guide, if you go by boat, anchor in Alice Bight on the northeast shore or, if possible, beach your boat. The rest of the island is rimmed mostly in steep cliffs.