With more than a dozen lighthouses guiding the way for boaters across Long Island, there’s no shortage of historic beacons to visit Wednesday for National Lighthouse Day, including more than a half dozen that offer tours.
They include the Montauk Point and Fire Island lighthouses—arguably LI’s two most iconic—the Horton Point Lighthouse in Southold, the Huntington Harbor Lighthouse and Execution Rocks Lighthouse off Sands Point, which all offer tours. The rest are harder to reach, if not only viewable from afar, but historically significant nonetheless.
“We all should recognize lighthouses for the prominent part they have played in the growth and expansion of our country,” said Donald Terras, president of the American Lighthouse Council. “Safeguarding ships and passengers along coasts and inland waterways, into and out of U.S. ports, with a network for distribution of commerce that has had a significant impact on every state in the nation.”
Although the Fire Island Lighthouse tower renovations mean it will be closed for a few more weeks, tours of the grounds are being discounted to $2 Wednesday. The Montauk Point Lighthouse will be hosting special events for its “Lighthouse Weekend” Aug. 17-18.
While Montauk and FI are open daily, the Horton Point Lighthouse is only open weekends and the Huntington and Execution Rocks lighthouses conduct tours on select dates. The Eaton’s Neck and Old Field lighthouses also offer tours, but by appointment only.
There are a total of 19 such beacons—from tall towers to “minor aids”—in Nassau and Suffolk counties, according to the Cutchogue-based Long Island chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society, an historic preservation group.
Long Island Lighthouses:
The Montauk Point Lighthouse, commissioned by George Washington in 1792, is the oldest in New York State and now part of the state park system.
The Fire Island Lighthouse, lit for the first time in 1858, was decommissioned in 1973 and restored a decade later before becoming part of the Fire Island National Seashore.
Horton Point Lighthouse, built in 1857 in Southold, is open weekends Memorial Day through Columbus Day and is home to numerous exhibits.
Stepping Stones Lighthouse, built in 1875 in the Town of North Hempstead, is named for part of the Long Island Sound where small reefs in colonial times were called the “Devil’s Stepping Stones.”
The Huntington Harbor Lighthouse, built in 1910 to replace the Lloyd Harbor Lighthouse that was later destroyed by fire, opened for public tours a decade ago and is hosting a music festival Aug. 31.
Execution Rocks Lighthouse between New Rochelle and Sands Point was built in 1798, dating back to the Revolutionary war, when British authorities would chain prisoners to the rocks, leaving them to drown as the tide rose.
Sands Point Lighthouse, built by a Revolutionary War Veteran in 1806, was deactivated in 1922, but its brownstone foundation still stands strong as a village landmark.
Cold Spring Harbor Lighthouse, established in 1889 to warn ships of the danger upon entering the harbor, was abandoned in 1965 and has since been moved to a private home on Centre Island.
Eaton’s Neck Lighthouse, built in 1798, stands at the east side of the Huntington Bay entrance and serves as an active navigational aid on the active U.S. Coast Guard Station.
Old Field Point Lighthouse, built in 1824 and rebuilt in 1869, sits between the entrances to Port Jefferson Harbor and Stony Brook Harbor and now serves as a government office.
Stratford Shoal Lighthouse, sitting in the middle of the Long Island Sound halfway between Port Jefferson and Bridgeport, Conn., was originally created to warn boaters of the two small islands on either side that had been eroded over time.
Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, first lit in 1871 at the entrance of Orient Harbor, was destroyed by fire in 1963 and replaced with a replica in 1990.
Cedar Island Lighthouse, built in 1839, originally guided whaling ships through Sag Harbor until it was decommissioned in 1934 and later became part of the Suffolk County park system.
Latimer Reef Lighthouse, built in 1884 in the middle of Fishers Island Sound on the border of New York and Connecticut, is named after James Latemore, a Revolutionary War patriot.
Orient Point Lighthouse, built in 1899, marks the end of Oyster Point Reef on the western side of a deep gap between Orient Point and Plum Island known as “Plum Gut” and is known as the “Coffee Pot.”
The Plum Island Lighthouse was built until 1827 near what is now home of the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, and although it is at risk of erosion, East End Seaport Museum and Marine Foundation is working to protect the lighthouse.
Little Gull Island Lighthouse, built in 1804 northeast of Orient Point, where the Long Island Sound and Block Island sound meet, is surrounded by a protective wall after much of the island was swept away in a hurricane in the 1800s.
Race Rock Lighthouse was built in 1868 to warn of a dangerous set of rocks of the coast of Fishers Island and at the mouth of The Race, where the waters of the sound rush in both directions at great speeds according to the tide.
North Dumpling Lighthouse, built in 1849, on the north side of Fishers Island, was supposedly used in aiding Prohibition-era bootleggers distribute alcohol illegally before the island was sold as private property in 1986.
-With Timothy Bolger