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Exploring Long Island’s Lighthouses Year-Round

January 4, 2016

There’s nothing quite like a brisk winter walk to one of Long Island’s historic lighthouses. Some, like the Fire Island lighthouse and Montauk lighthouse are open year-round, so you can actually go in, warm up and venture to the top for an amazingly crisp view on a clear winter’s day. Plus you might encounter wintering birds and other Long Island wildlife along the hike.   (Montauk Lighthouse photo by Doug Kelley)

Being surrounded by water on all sides has proven, over the years, to be quite the boon for Long Island. Not only has it provided us with impeccable beaches and a pleasant ecosystem, but historically ports were an integral part of the whole of New York and New England. It is from this necessity that so many lighthouses can be found in New York State, particularly the Long Island region. These towering sentinels, illuminating the safe path, were part of a lifeline that played an important role in the development of our country.

Visiting each lighthouse is a different story. During the summer months, several are accessible with a boat tour, while others can only be seen from the shore. Two of our lighthouses, the Fire Island and Montauk Point lights, are open now and may allow visitors to climb up and enjoy unparalleled views of the sea. Check hours at: Long Island lighthouses

Tour opportunities are available from a number of sources. The East End Seaport museum, based on the north fork in Greenport, offers several tours year round. Most of these tours focus on the “Bug Light”, also known as the Long Beach Bar light off the western tip of Orient Beach State Park, however they aren’t limited to just this one. During certain months they offer a Super Cruise, which covers a massive 10 to 12 different lighthouses (time allowing) in addition to the Bug Light: Orient Point, Plum Island, Little Gull, Race Rock, New London Ledge, New London Light, Latimer Reef, North Dumpling, The Ruins and Cedar Point.

In order to keep these lights in top shape there are frequent restoration efforts, from repainting the Fire Island lighthouse every few years to refurbishing and replacing the entire top section of the Bug Light.  The Huntington Harbor and Execution Rocks lighthouses, for instance, have seen a number of improvements thanks to fundraising and non-profit actions. As a result the Huntington Harbor light now allows for scheduled tours by boat, and you can even stay overnight at the Execution Rocks light!

Fire Island Lighthouse is one of three lighthouses in Suffolk County open to the public. Located on the western part of the Fire Island National Seashore, the lighthouse overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and the Great South Bay. Walk along the boardwalk through the scenic sand dunes leading to the lighthouse. Standing at an impressive 167-feet, visitors wearing comfortable footwear may climb the winding 182-steps of Long Island’s tallest lighthouse tower. The current lighthouse was built in 1857, although the ruins of the earlier lighthouse are on-site. Other area attractions include a visitor’s center with exhibits, gift shop, and nature trail. It is open year-round, with special events throughout the seasons. Parking is available in Robert Moses State Park, Field 5 (seasonal parking fee).

Montauk Lighthouse is located on the eastern point of Long Island’s South Fork, in Montauk Point State Park, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  The Montauk Lighthouse was the first built in New York State and currently is the 4th oldest active lighthouse in the United States. According to the Montauk Point Lighthouse, the construction of the lighthouse was authorized by the Second Congress under President George Washington in 1792. The lighthouse museum displays the original document signed by President George Washington which authorized the purchase of the land for development of the lighthouse. The construction began on June 7, 1796 and was completed on November 5th 1796. The tower stands at 110 feet and 6 inches tall. The 1860 Keeper’s House, once served as a house to lighthouse keeper and his assistants now operates as the Lighthouse Museum. The museum displays photographs, drawings, exhibits, and historical documents. The lighthouse is open year round. Parking is available in the Montauk State Park parking lot (fee 8 am – 4 pm, free after 4 pm). The museum has seasonal hours and includes a fee.

The Horton Point Lighthouse, located north of downtown Southold, was constructed by the U. S. Lighthouse Service in 1857. It is open weekends from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Find more about Long Island rich history and its lighthouses at: www.discoverlongisland.com/paththroughhistory

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