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Lighthouse B&Bs let guests play keeper for a night Chris Wadsworth, special for USA TODAYJanuary 27, 2013
Most lighthouses are automated, and most ships are guided by satellites, radar and computers today
- Many old lighthouses are finding new life as charming bed-and-breakfasts and rental homes
- Lighthouse stays are available in more than a dozen states
- Lighthouse stays are available in more than a dozen states . . . more
[private] Once guardians of the seashore, lighthouses stood tall against wind and storm, guiding ships of yore to safety along America’s coastline.
Romantic? Sure, but no longer a reality. Today, most lighthouses are automated, and most ships are guided by satellites, radar and computers rather than lights, horns and bells from a distant tower.
That’s why many old lighthouses are finding new life as charming bed-and-breakfasts and rental homes.
The U.S. has handed over many federally owned lighthouses to local municipalities, nonprofits and private operators. The goal: offer visitors unique lodging while preserving the structures and keeping them accessible to citizens.
Lighthouse stays are available in more than a dozen states. Check out these four in the Pacific Northwest, which allow you to experience what it’s like to live in a lighthouse.
EAST BROTHER LIGHT STATION
East Brother Island | Richmond, Calif.
Set sail to reach one of the most unique bed-and-breakfasts in North America—the island of East Brother, home to the East Brother Light Station, 30 minutes from downtown San Francisco. Operational for more than 133 years, the light station offers guests luxurious rooms, four of them in the light station itself. The other one is in the adjacent Fog Signal Building.
A stay includes champagne and hors-d’oeuvres upon arrival, a sumptuous dinner with wine and a full breakfast. “It’s a remote place. You have all these Victorian-style rooms, this Victorian house with a white picket fence. We’re trying to create a romantic atmosphere,” says innkeeper Richard Foregger.
Tour the small island, learn its fascinating history and relax with amazing views of San Francisco, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin County coastline. $295–$415 per night; 117 Park Pl .; 510-233-2385; ebls.org
HECETA HEAD LIGHTHOUSE*
Situated on a cliff 150 feet above the crashing surf, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most dramatic sights along the Pacific Coast.(Photo: GoEscape)
Heceta Head State Park | South Yachats, Ore.
Situated on a cliff 150 feet above the crashing surf, the Heceta Head Lighthouse is one of the most dramatic sights along the Pacific Coast. Nearby sits one of the original lightkeeper’s cottages—Heceta House—re-imagined and renovated as a charming bed-and-breakfast. Cozy rooms with views of the 56-foot-tall tower and the Pacific Ocean beyond play host to up to 15 guests in six bedrooms.
Heceta House serves seven-course gourmet breakfasts, featuring artisan cheeses, fresh produce and homemade pastries. It’s also known for Rue, the friendly ghost rumored to roam the property.
An Oregon State Parks and Recreation spokesman wouldn’t confirm the legend of Rue. “As a public employee, what I can say is I love stories like that because they spark your imagination,” says Chris Havel. “I encourage visitors to learn about the rich history of this part of the Oregon coast and have fun with stories like that. They bring the landscape to life.” $133–$315 per night; 92072 Hwy. 101; 866-547-3696;hecetalighthouse.com
*Heceta Head Lighthouse is undergoing renovations until August 2013. However, tours are ongoing and the visitors’ center is open. The bed-and-breakfast is also open throughout the renovations.
NORTH HEAD LIGHTHOUSE
Cape Disappointment State Park | Ilwaco, Wash.
Three lovely rental residences await overnight visitors near Washington’s famed 65-foot-tall North Head Lighthouse at the mouth of the Columbia River, a treacherous and turbulent stretch of water where the river meets the Pacific Ocean.
Located in Cape Disappointment State Park, the Head Lightkeeper’s home is a century-old Victorian house with breathtaking views of the ocean. Nearby are the Assistant Lightkeepers’ residences—smaller, but still beautiful. “They’re absolutely gorgeous,” says Linda Burnett, a spokesperson for Washington State Parks. “The residences themselves and the furnishings are very luxurious compared to the primitive camping you might envision at a state park.”
Just watch out for the wind. North Head is known as the windiest lighthouse area in the nation, frequently recording wind speeds of 100 miles per hour. Staff love to tell the tale of a duck that blew off course in 1932, crashed through a lighthouse window and chipped the lantern’s mammoth lens. Assistant lightkeeper’s residence: $224–$299 per night depending on season, head lightkeeper’s residence: $318–$424 per night depending on season; North Head Lighthouse Rd.;360-902-8844;parks.wa.gov/vacationhouses/capedisappointment
POINT ROBINSON LIGHTHOUSE
Maury Island, Wash.
Maury Island in Washington’s Puget Sound is the setting for the 38-foot Point Robinson Lighthouse built in 1915. It shares a sandy beach with two renovated keeper’s quarters rental homes, perfect for families and small groups to get away and unwind. The two bungalows have full kitchens, sitting parlors and porches, all with stunning views of the sound.
Captain Joe Wubbold, president of the nonprofit Keepers of Point Robinson organization, says the quarters aren’t luxurious, but rather homey and comfortable. “They are the way that they were when the keepers from the lighthouse service were living there,” he says. “We have appliances in there that go back to the era. It’s really a beautiful restoration.”
Outside, water birds abound around the lighthouse, and the busy shipping lanes are filled with colorful watercraft of all shapes and sizes. The larger Vashon Island is just a short drive across a manmade isthmus from Point Robinson. $975–$1,580 per week depending on season, $225 per night in the off-season (two-night minimum stay); 206-463-9602
If you find yourself caught up imagining the adventures of those long-ago lighthouse keepers, there’s an amazing opportunity for you. Some old lighthouses now offer what are called keeper programs, where you pay a small fee and then get to live and work at a lighthouse for one to two weeks.
For example, the New Dungeness Light Station on a spit of land in Canada’s Strait of Juan de Fuca, offers families the chance to work as keepers. Duties include watering plants, mowing the lawn and giving tours of the light station to the public, including climbing all 74 steps. For more info on keeper programs, visit uslhs.org.
This article is excerpted from GoEscape, USA TODAY’s travel magazine, on sale now. Buy wherever magazines are sold or at goescape.usatoday.com. [/private]
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What a wonderful neat idea to make a lighthouse from clay pots. Staked and on top of it a light ( or perhaps even a solar garden light) this definitely makes for an eye-catching garden decoration.
It’s really easy to do and painting the lighthouse in the color of your choice will make it “fit” perfectly into your garden or backyard. Check out this easy to-follow tutorial via the link below (make sure you scroll down on the page – the drawing and explanation are here: Terra Cotta Lighthouse