New Jersey Lighthouses have played a significant role in maritime history in aiding the safe navigation of ships since the 1700’s.
Aside from their place in maritime history, the added appeal of New Jersey lighthouses has to do with their architectural design and location in some of the most scenic and relaxing settings with oceanfront views and sandy beaches.
New Jersey lighthouses have served mariners along the Jersey shoreline for over a century, warning them of hazards to their ships and the protection of loss of crew and cargo. The endurance of these maritime structures is a tribute to the innovative architecture and engineering that contributes greatly to maritime history in New Jersey.
New Jersey lays claim to many of the oldest and historically significant lighthouses in the nation. They can be found along the 127 mile coastline from the northernmost point in Sandy Hook down to the southern tip of in Cape May.
New Jersey lighthouses can be seen in a variety of settings and in the serenity of the landscape that surrounds them. The scenic beauty of a lighthouse setting varies, depending on the time of day it’s viewed. With the sun and moon rising over the ocean, sunrise and a full moon are especially appealing times to view a lighthouse either by taking a walk along the beach, or relaxing and picnicking in a beach chair or blanket. For the more active, take a hike up the steps of a lighthouse and experience the magnificent views and skylines that surround it.
There is something about Lighthouses that stimulate our interests as they are both historic and architecturally appealing with magnificent structural designs. The color pattern or day marker for each lighthouse is distinctive so approaching ships at day can see which lighthouse they have in sight.
The lighthouses were built to survive the treacherous coastline hurricanes and storms and yet their structures came to be known as significant maritime historical sites and beautiful scenic landmarks.
Lighthouses come in all shapes and sizes. In addition to the popular tall conical shape structures, New Jersey has a lighthouse with twin brownstone towers in the Atlantic Highlands that resembles the front of a military fort, and a lighthouse in Sea Girt that has the style of a Victorian home, and a lighthouse in Hereford Inlet with Swiss Gothic-style architecture and a tower attached to its roof.
The maritime history of lighthouses in New Jersey is deep and storied, beginning with the opening of the Sandy Hook Lightship in 1823, becoming the first outside lightship in the United states.
Not to be forgotten are the heroic stories associated with lighthouses. They are the keepers of a harbor, beacons during stormy nights, and the providers of direction to those off course.
During World War II, the beacons of New Jersey lighthouses were turned off so as not to give direction to enemy ships. But the Coast Guard used many of the lighthouses as bases for beach patrols in search of German U-boats.
With the development of automated navigational equipment, offshore navigational towers, radar, and other advanced navigational equipment, the 20th century began the phase out of manned lighthouses. While there are still working lighthouses in New Jersey, most have been decommissioned.
Today there are currently ten land based lighthouses in New Jersey that are open to the public.
Absecon Lighthouse, Barnegat Lighthouse, Cape May Lighthouse, East Point Lighthouse, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, Navesink Twin Lights, Sandy Hook Lighthouse, Sea Girt Lighthouse, Statue of Liberty, and Tinicum Island Range Lights