New Jersey's Iconic Lighthouses Open for Fall Tours

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Museums, 11 Lighthouses Part of Oct. 18-19 Lighthouse Challenge

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The 2014 Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey is scheduled for the weekend of Oct. 18-19. Available to participants are tours of three museums – Tatham, U.S. Station 30 and Barnegat – plus 11 lighthouses. In addition, visitors will have the opportunity to climb Navesink Twins’ North Tower, which offers spectacular ocean views, as well as participate in night climbs at the Absecon, Cape May, Tinicum, and Tuckerton lighthouses.

The goal for Lighthouse Challenge participants is to visit all of New Jersey’s beautifully maintained navigational aids, which represent a rich nautical history and a testament to a level of engineering and quality that continue to withstand the test of time. In addition, participants will earn souvenirs at each tour site. Proceeds from the Challenge will help raise needed funds for the continued preservation of these treasured state landmarks.

During the weekend of the Challenge, most of the museums and lighthouses open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m., although there are exceptions. A complete list of hours of operation is available at http://www.visitnj.org, http://www.lhchallengenj.org, and http://www.njlhs.org.

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Twin Lights of Navesink
2 Lighthouse Rd.; Highlands
732.872.1814
When Henry Hudson first saw the high hills here in 1609, he described them as being a very good land to fall with a pleasant land to see. Indeed, there are many firsts associated with the Twin Lights, which tower 250 feet above Sandy Hook Bay on one of the highest points along the coast. Twin Lights of Navesink is where the United States’ first Fresnel lens was located, where Guglielmo Marconi demonstrated the first practical use of the wireless telegraph in 1899, and where the first lamps to be fueled by kerosene were used in 1883. Plus, in 1898, Twin Lights became one of the first electrically lit seacoast lighthouses in the country. The present day brownstone double lighthouses were built in 1862 on the site of the original 1828 Navesink Lighthouses. Twin Lights was decommissioned in 1949. The handsome building today houses a museum of lighthouse and lifesaving station artifacts, offering films and slide shows. Spectacular views are also available from atop the medieval-style towers. Located in Highlands, it is open daily from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer, and 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday the rest of the year. Exhibits and gift shop are accessible to the disabled. A small donation is requested.

Barnegat Lighthouse
State Park 208 Broadway & Long Beach Blvd.; Barnegat Light
609.494.2016
Barnegat Lighthouse features panoramic views of Long Beach Island, Barnegat Inlet and Island Beach State Park, trails through one of the state's last maritime forests, a birding site for water fowl, fishing and scheduled nature walks and talks. Located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island, this lighthouse is regarded as one of the most crucial “change-of-course” points for coastal vessels. Bound to and from New York along the New Jersey coastline, vessels depended on Barnegat Lighthouse to avoid the shoals extending from the shoreline. The swift currents, shifting sandbars and the offshore shoals challenged the skills of even the most experienced sailors. The park is included as a maritime site on the New Jersey Coastal Heritage Trail. The nearby Barnegat Light Museum houses the lighthouse's original Fresnel lens. Barnegat Lighthouse is open Memorial Day to Labor Day. To climb the lighthouse, the fees are $3 for those 12 years and older, $1 for 6 to 11, and free for 5 and under.

Absecon Lighthouse
31 S. Rhode Island Ave.; Atlantic City
609.449.1360 | 609.449.1919
Built in 1857, the 171-foot Absecon Lighthouse is New Jersey's tallest. It hosts educational programs, weddings, guided tours, events and more, and remains one of Atlantic City's most popular attractions. Visitors can take an amazing journey into time and as they ascend the 228 steps of Absecon, one of the oldest lighthouses in the country. Breathtaking views of the Atlantic City skyline will greet those who make the top, where the original first-order Fresnel Lens, originally lit in 1857, can be viewed. The lighthouse's recent multi-million dollar restoration also includes a stunning replica of the lightkeeper’s dwelling, an educational museum, gift shop, and a Fresnel Lens exhibit in the original Oil House and expansive grounds. It is free to visit the keeper’s house museum, exhibits and grounds. There is a small admission fee to climb to the top of the lighthouse.

Tuckerton Seaport
120 W. Main St., Rte. 9; Tuckerton
609.296.8868
Tuckerton features a 40-acre working Maritime Village with 16 restored and replicated buildings, including the Tucker's Island Lighthouse. These buildings preserve maritime history, heritage, and lifestyle of baymen. Tucker’s Island Light is a re-creation of an Atlantic Ocean lighthouse that fell into the sea in 1927 after years of pounding surf and beach erosion. Originally erected in 1848, the lighthouse now stands in Tuckerton Seaport, serving as a maritime interpretive center. It houses exhibits telling the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, Barnegat Bay pirates and the bay itself. It is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is closed on major holidays. Admission fees: $8 adults, $6 seniors (62 and older), $5 children 6-12, free for children 5 and under.

East Point Lighthouse
10 Lighthouse Rd. & E. Point Rd.; Heislerville
856.546.7810 | http://www.eastpointlight.info
The East Point Lighthouse stands alone in a picturesque setting on the shore of Delaware Bay, marking the mouth of the Maurice River and miles from any developed lands. East Point Lighthouse has guided commercial fishermen and pleasure boaters since 1849. Its distinctive Cape Cod features were the inspiration for many of the early lighthouses built on the Pacific Coast. The two-story red brick structure is painted white and is topped by a bright red roof and lantern. Group tours may be arranged.

Finns Point Rear Range Light
197 Lighthouse Rd.; Pennsville
856.935.1487
This wrought-iron lighthouse is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Originally constructed in Buffalo, and then moved here by train and mule-wagon, this unusual open-frame lighthouse was built in 1876 at a cost of $1,200. Standing 115 feet tall, it featured a 24-inch range lens with double wick burner and kerosene vapor lamp, which emitted 150,000 candlepower. Close by is Fort Mott State Park, a 104-acre waterfront park with buildings and gun emplacements from the Spanish-American War.

Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse
2nd St. & Mantua Ave.; Paulsboro
856.423.2545
First lit on New Year’s Eve in 1880, this light pairs with the Tinicum Front Range Light to serve as a key guide for ships heading north along the Delaware River toward ports at Philadelphia and Camden. Its fixed red light and 1,000-watt lamps exhibit 500,000 candlepower from atop an 85-foot-high tower. Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse is open the third weekend of each month, April through October, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission is free. Donations are requested.

Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
111 N. Central Ave.; North Wildwood
609.522.4520
Open year round, Hereford Inlet Lighthouse is a working lighthouse as well as a museum open to the public for guided and self-guided tours. Visitors will learn about the history of Hereford and get a glimpse of the life of a lighthouse keeper in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. A park surrounding the lighthouse is designed with many different garden areas containing more than 200 plant varieties. The award-winning gardens are planted in the Victorian cottage style and extend right up to the ocean seawall. The gift shop features lighthouse and nautical theme art works, books, miniatures, shirts, hats, mugs and more. The garden and grounds around the Lighthouse are wheelchair accessible. A photo album tour is available, upon request, to those unable to climb the lighthouse. Groups are welcome with special rates available for larger groups.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Park Entrance off Rt. 36
Sandy Hook Unit Gateway National Recreation Area; Highlands
732.872.5970
The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. It is located on the grounds of Fort Hancock, at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Atlantic Highlands. Amazingly well preserved, the lighthouse’s unique octagonal tower dates back to the 18th century. Except for being darkened during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II, the beacon has been operating ever since. The National Park Service owns the tower and the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light. Sandy Hook Lighthouse is open from noon to 4:30 p.m. all July and August weekdays; noon to 4:30 p.m. all weekends from April through October; noon to 4:30 p.m. November through mid-December. Tours and talks are presented by members of the New Jersey Lighthouse Society.

Sea Girt Lighthouse
9 Ocean Ave. & Beacon Blvd.; Sea Girt
732.974.0514
Nestled within an L-shaped Victorian building, the Sea Girt Lighthouse first shone in 1896. Like most lighthouses of the day, its fourth-order Fresnel lens revolved on ball bearing driven by complex clockworks. With just one winding, the light turned for nearly eight hours, turning red for two seconds out of six. Originally built to bridge the 40-mile gap between Barnegat Light and the Twin Lights of Navesink, it was decommissioned in 1945. The interior of the lighthouse has been meticulously restored by a local citizens’ committee and furnished in keeping with its historical period. Sea Girt Lighthouse is open 2 to 4 p.m. on Sundays beginning the week after Easter until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. Admission is free and donations are welcome.

Cape May Lighthouse
Cape May Point State Park
299 Lighthouse Ave. (Rt. 626) at Yale Ave.; Cape May Point
609.884.5404 | http://www.capemaymac.org
Built in 1859, the Cape May Lighthouse is still an aid to navigation. Visitors who climb the 199 steps to the top of the lighthouse are rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. For those who choose not to climb, the Oil House contains a fully accessible visitors’ orientation center and a shop stocked with maritime accessories and memorabilia. A little further down Sunset Boulevard is the recently opened World War II Lookout Tower, which was part of the immense Delaware Bay harbor defense system known as Fort Miles. Features include a Wall of Honor recognizing area veterans. A small admission fee applies.

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Karen Moraghan
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