The Colonial Inn’s Lighthouse Tour!
The Colonial Inn at Historic Smithville is so close to many beautiful lighthouses around New Jersey. We’re just minutes away from the Absecon Lighthouse, which is a 171 foot yellow and black tower that was built in 1857 to mark the dangerous shores of Absecon and Brigantine. After the lighthouse was built, it immediately attracted thousands of visitors to climb its 228 steps. Absecon Lighthouse still retains its original first order Fresnel lens, which is the only New Jersey light to do so. We recommended stopping at the Absecon Lighthouse to our guests because it is one of the area’s most popular attractions. This got us thinking that as well as stopping in Absecon, our guests could take a ride to the other local lighthouses and make their visit into a lighthouse tour of New Jersey. Here’s a few of our favorites and how long it will take you to get to each of these lighthouses from Historic Smithville.
Be sure to visit Tucker’s Island Light, 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 re-created lighthouse now stands in Tuckerton Seaport, serving as a maritime interpretive center that is only 20 minutes away from Historic Smithville. It houses exhibits telling the history of the U.S. Lifesaving Service, Barnegat Bay pirates and the bay itself. Tuckerton Seaport is a newly re-created working maritime village, celebrating the legacy of the Jersey Shore, and is located on a 40 acre site adjacent to Tuckerton Creek.
Bring a pair of comfortable shoes for your stay and take a 45 minute ride to trek up the 217 step winding staircase of “Old Barney”! The view from the top is spectacular, with breathtaking Island Beach State Park to the north, the 18 miles of Long Beach Island to the south, and a bird’s-eye view of Barnegat Inlet from every angle! This 165 foot red and white tower, which was used as a lookout during World War I, was restored to its original splendor in 1988 and remains a symbol of the state’s proud maritime heritage. The original 40 foot lighthouse was built in 1835 to mark a hazardous shoal as well as the fortieth parallel, a point lens can be viewed at the nearby Barnegat Lighthouse Museum. Listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the lighthouse is open year round.
Just an hour ride from the Colonial Inn and Historic Smithville, a visit to historic Victorian Cape May becomes even more memorable once you stop at the lighthouse at Cape May Point State Park. Towering 157 and a half feet about the southernmost tip of the state, its distinctive beam flashes once every 15 seconds and is visible 24 miles out at sea. Built in 1859 under the supervision of First Lieutenant George Meade, who besides his love of lighthouses, is best known for his role as a military officer for the Union during the American Civil War and defeating the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Robert E. Lee, at the Battle of Gettysburg. The original lens for the Cape May Lighthouse was so large that when refueling it, the keeper actually stood inside it. This lens specified by Meade is on display today at the Cape May Court House Museum.
For those looking to wander a little farther North, The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. It is located at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Atlantic Highlands. Amazingly well-preserved, this unique octagonal tower dates back to the 18th century and has been in service since 1764. Except for being darkened during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War 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. The lighthouse is open to the public weekends April – Oct., noon – 4:30 pm., Nov. – mid Dec., noon – 4:30 pm, weekdays in July and Aug., 1 pm – 4:30 pm. Tours and talks (everything is FREE admission) are presented by members of the New Jersey Lighthouse Society. The lighthouse is on the grounds of Fort Hancock and is just one of the unbeatable tourist attractions at Sandy Hook. The peninsula also boasts a spectacular holly forest, excellent surf fishing, hiking, beaches, trails, salt marshes, and more than 300 species of birds and other historical sites.
An hour ride will bring you to The Sea Girt Lighthouse, which was the last live-in lighthouse built on the Atlantic Coast. In the late 1800’s, it became necessary to illuminate the long coastline between Sandy Hook and Barnegat Inlet. Congress appropriated $20,000.00 to purchase land near the Manasquan Inlet to build a lighthouse, located at Beacon & Ocean Avenue in Sea Girt. It was completed and first illuminated on December 10, 1896.
Almost a decade later, an inspection of the lighthouse was preformed and revealed that the structure was eighty feet to the nearest high water mark. The ocean had crept up on the lighthouse by such a degree that in the 1920’s the government feared it would crash into the sea. Water lapped at the base, making it necessary for steel pilings to be installed on the seaward side. In 1921, the Sea Girt Lighthouse became the first shore lighthouse to be equipped with a radio fog signal. The lighthouse was used up until the 1950’s, when operational costs and the change of shipping lanes factored into the decline of the practicality of the lighthouse. It was offered for sale to The State of New Jersey, however, the offer was declined and the Borough of Sea Girt stepped in and acquired the property.