Following the lights above the sea: Washington's coastal and island lighthouses

Lighthouse day 1

The unique architecture of Admiralty Head Lighthouse at Fort Casey Historical State Park makes it one of the most picturesque lighthouses in Washington.

Picture yourself on a cliff above a turbulent seascape with a beaming lighthouse at your back.

August 7 is National Lighthouse Day, so why not pack a picnic and take an impromptu trip to a lighthouse at one of eight Washington state parks?

Washington enjoys a wild coastline and a rich maritime heritage. The state is home to 21 lighthouses, nearly half of them in and around state parks. So, pick your park or parks, plan a trip and find the lighthouses of your dreams.

Admiralty Head Lighthouse — Fort Casey Historical State Park

Fans of Italianate Revival architecture will love Admiralty Head Lighthouse (pictured above). The tower sits high above sea level and glows pink at sunset. Located in Fort Casey Historical State Park on Whidbey Island, the area comes alive with military and maritime history. When you’re done taking pictures, peek into the small museum/gift shop.

  • Put into service: Current building 1903; originally built in 1861
  • Automated: no lens
  • Height: 30 feet
  • Tours: Offered by volunteers on summer weekends; check with park staff: (360) 678-4519

Cape Disappointment and North Head Lighthouses — Cape Disappointment State Park

Lighthouse Day 2

The Cape Disappointment Lighthouse's façade includes intricate metalwork. 

At Cape Disappointment State Park, you’ll get two lighthouses for the price of one.

The southernmost Cape Disappointment Lighthouse is the oldest in Washington, built in 1856, near the confluence of the Pacific Ocean and the Columbia River. The tall, elegant North Head Lighthouse came later as a way to make the foreboding cliffs at the mouth of the Columbia more obvious to ships sailing in from the north.

Make sure to gaze up at Cape Disappointment Lighthouse from Waikiki Beach, and at North Head Lighthouse from Benson Beach.

Curious about lightkeepers’ lives? Rent the North Head light keeper’s or assistant light keeper’s residence for your group of up to six people and have the place to yourselves overnight.

For more information on the North Head Lighthouse check out this short documentary Carly Vester made for her master’s degree at University of Montana, featuring parks interpretive staff.

Cape Disappointment Lighthouse: 

  • Put into service: 1856
  • Automated: 1962
  • Height: 53 feet
  • Claim to fame: The oldest lighthouse in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tours: Viewable from exterior.

Lighthouse Day 3

North Head Lighthouse stands high on a cliff, as seen from Benson Beach below.

North Head Lighthouse

  • Put into service: 1898
  • Automated: 1961
  • Height: 65 feet
  • Claim to fame: The most intact light station in the Pacific Northwest
  • Tours: Closed for construction until 2019

Grays Harbor Lighthouse — adjacent to Westport Light State Park

Lighthouse 4

Grays Harbor Light peeks out from behind the trees.

Rising out of an evergreen thicket, the Grays Harbor Lighthouse is tall and thin, and it sits one block from Westport Light State Park. Climb the tower’s tight spiral staircase in season, and walk the park’s beach path through yellow grasses that wave in the breeze.

  • Put into service: 1898
  • Automated: 1933
  • Height: 107 feet
  • Tours: Offered seasonally; check with park staff: (360) 268-9717

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse — Lime Kiln Point State Park

Lighthouse Day 5

Lime Kiln Point Lighthouse offers spectacular sunsets, whale watching and more.

The Lime Kiln Point lighthouse on San Juan Island offers dramatic sunsets and is considered one of the best land-based whale watching spots on earth, On summer weekends, kayakers share the shoreline with the whales, and crowds throng the bluff. Cheers go up whenever a whale blows or breaches.

  • Put into service: 1919
  • Automated: 1962
  • Height: 38 feet
  • Claim to fame: Whale watching, May to September
  • Tours: Offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends; check with park staff: (360) 378-2044

Marrowstone Point Lighthouse — Adjacent to Fort Flagler Historical State Park

Sheltered by a huddle of red-roofed buildings, Marrowstone Point is not your typical lighthouse. The original 1888 light is an empty shell, while the light shines from a squat newer building beside it. A short jaunt from Camp Richmond at Fort Flagler Historical State Park, or a beach walk to the northeastern point of the island will get you to this unique light. 

  • Put into service: Current building 1918, original 1888
  • Automated: 1962
  • Height: 20 feet

Patos Island Lighthouse — Patos Island Marine State Park

Lighthouse Day 6

The Patos Island Lighthouse in the San Juan Island chain is the northernmost lighthouse in Washington, accessible only by boat and then by foot.

Take a boat or a kayak to Patos Island in the northern San Juan islands, and stroll through the forest to Patos Island Lighthouse. Between meadow grasses and barnacle-dotted rocks, the area makes a pleasant summer picnic and exploration spot. Send the kids to find the international boundary marker, as the lighthouse is only a few miles from Canadian waters. 

  • Put into service: Current building 1908; original 1893
  • Automated: 1974
  • Height: 38 feet
  • Claim to fame: Northernmost lighthouse in Washington
  • Tours: Offered most weekends, Memorial Day to Labor Day; call Sucia Island State Park for information: (360) 376-2073.

Point Wilson Lighthouse — Adjacent to Fort Worden Historical State Park

The Point Wilson Lighthouse and Fort Worden Historical State Park are primo sightseeing stops on a visit to Port Townsend and the Olympic Peninsula. The unpretentious lighthouse is an easy walk from the park or the beach. Though the compound is closed to the public, you can still get great shots from the sandy beach below.

  • Put into service: Current building 1914; original 1879
  • Automated: 1977
  • Height: 46 feet

Turn Point Light Station — adjacent to Stuart Island Marine State Park

Lighthouse Day 7Turn Point Lighthouse on Stuart Island is a lovely 3-mile hike from Prevost and Reid Harbors on Sucia Island.

To reach the Turn Point Light Station, dock at Prevost or Reid Harbor on Stuart Island Marine State Park and hike 3 miles to the western tip of the isle. The hike reveals a small community, forests and pastures, a former one-room schoolhouse, a cemetery and a bluff ominously called Lovers’ Leap. A cluster of buildings shields the light station, which sit precariously on the point.

  • Put into service: Current building 1936, original 1893
  • Automated: 1974
  • Height: 16 feet

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