Amazing views, stories of sunken ships, daring rescues, and best of all, an adventure that entire family can take part in. There’s something about lighthouses that draws the curiosity and love of visitor at any age.
Rhode Island boasts 31 current and former lighthouses, serving as a reminder of its status as a major trading state. All unique and offering a variety of attractions, trips to lighthouses throughout Rhode Island (and New England) is one of our favorite summer pastimes here at Gooseneck Vineyards!
4 of Our Favorites
1. The Beavertail Lighthouse sits in a dramatic setting, with waves crashing on the rocks overlooking the bay. The historic landmark has a keeper’s house that dates to 1856, making it the third-oldest lighthouse in the USA. The museum is worth visiting, and there are scheduled visits to the top of the tower, too.
A tip from our founders, Liana & Paul: before leaving Jamestown, stop by the Shack for a truly local experience and some great tacos!
2. Rose Island lighthouse is featured in a book series about Wanton Chase, a boy who lived in the lighthouse with his grandparents from the time he was 18 months old until he had to leave the island to go to school in Newport.
Rose Island is a working lighthouse that dates to 1869 and sits on a 18 acre island accessible by ferry from Newport during the summer months.
To truly experience the lighthouse, you can stay overnight in the first-floor museum or play keeper for a week during a stay in the second-floor keeper’s quarters. (Your duties would include raising and lowering the flag each day, listening to marine weather and welcoming day and overnight visitors.)
3. Lime Rock Lighthouse, or Ida Lewis Light, is where Ida Lewis, the first female lighthouse keeper, operated the light (now named Ida Lewis Yacht Club). Her many saves were legendary, and she was visited by President Ulysses S. Grant and Vice-President Schuyler Colfax.
4. Castle Hill Lighthouse, with beautiful views of the Narragansett Bay, and on the grounds of the luxurious Castle Hill Inn. Completed in 1890 on the cliff face, the lighthouse is particularly beautiful to photograph at sunrise or sunset. After visiting the grounds, enjoy a glass of wine on an Adirondack chair at the inn and toast the good summer life (or taste the moment as we like to say at Gooseneck Vineyards).
If you’re looking to see multiple lighthouses in one day in a more relaxed fashion, ocean cruises are a wonderful option. Below is a list of some of Rhode Island boating excursions where you can view the state’s beautiful lighthouses by sea…
Save the Bay offers four different lighthouse cruises that encompass most of Rhode Island’s lighthouses.
Snappa Charters – Enjoy a cruise to Block Island or the protected waters of Narragansett Bay on a 35-foot fiberglass custom sport fisherman.
Rhode Island Bay Cruises – Lighthouse cruises departing from Quonset Point include views of Poplar Point, Plum Beach, Dutch Island, Beavertail, Castle Hill, Lime Rock (Ida Lewis Yacht Club), Newport Harbor, Rose Island, Conanicut, and the remains of Whale Rock Light.
Jamestown and Newport Ferry Company – Ferry service between Newport and Jamestown; stops at Rose Island on request. Prudence Island Ferry – Year-round car and passenger ferry from Bristol. Reservations required for vehicles.
Prudence Island Light is within walking distance from the ferry.
5 Lighthouse Fun Facts
1. The first lighthouse in what is now the United States was built on Little Brewster Island at the entrance to Boston Harbor in 1716. The British blew it up in 1776. The replacement tower, dating to 1783, still functions as a navigation aid. Known as Boston Harbor Light, it is the only U.S. lighthouse that is still manned.
2. The oldest existing lighthouse in America (never rebuilt) is Sandy Hook, NJ (1764), which is still in operation. Part of the building of the lighthouse was paid for by the sale of lottery tickets and shipping interest in New York City paid for the rest.
3. The first American lighthouse to use electricity was the Statue of Liberty in 1886.
4. The lighthouse service was created in 1789 by the 9th Act of the first Congress. Lighthouse keeping was one of the first U.S. government jobs available to women in the 19th century.
5. The only lighthouse equipped with an elevator is Sullivan’s Island in Charleston, SC.
Sources: visitusa.com, Unites States lighthouse society