New England is world-famous for its historic lighthouses. You can find many of these unique landmarks in the state of New Hampshire. Some of these lighthouses are opened to the public, while others are the best viewed from a boat. Wherever you decide to visit, you will not want to miss your chance to see these charming pieces of the New Hampshire landscape.
During the late 1800s, Lake Sunapee was one of the poshest spots in New Hampshire. Families from all over New England would come here to beat the summer heat. To protect their fleet of steamships, the Woodsum brothers decided to build several lighthouses. Built in 1893, one of those lighthouses is Herrick Cove. By the time of the Great Depression, the area’s tourism faded, and the lighthouses were left to deteriorate, including Herrick Cove. The lighthouse would continue to crumble until 1965. However, a few years later, most of the lighthouses on Lake Sunapee underwent extensive refurbishments.
The Herrick Cove tower saw the most extensive repairs that required the lighthouse to be lifted out by a helicopter. The tower had rotting wood to its tower and base, which needed repairs to save it. Once the refurbishment was completed, the lighthouse was brought back to its original location. The lighthouse had a few updates, such as maintenance-free solar panels. A plaque dedicated to local resident, Ginger Cross, was also added to the base. Today, Herrick Cove Lighthouse is also known as Ginger’s Light. The State of New Hampshire is now the owner of the lighthouse. The tower is closed, and there are no tours. However, you can visit the lighthouse by taking sightseeing cruises that depart from Sunapee Harbor.
On the southern end of the lake is the Burkehaven Lighthouse, another historic lighthouse. The original lighthouse was built in 1893 by the Woodsum Brothers. Like the Herrick Cove Lighthouse, it was left to deteriorate on the shoreline. In 1935, an ice storm destroyed the lighthouse, and it was left unrepaired due to a lack of funding. The Lake Sunapee Protective Association raised enough money to rebuild the lighthouse in 1983. Those repairs would only last for another decade as ice damaged the lighthouse stands.
Loon Island Lighthouse is the third active lighthouse on Lake Sunapee. The area is extremely rocky, with very shallow waters around the island. In 1891, the Edmund Burke struck one of these ledges, and the steamer experienced extensive damage. For that reason, there was a need for a lighthouse to protect the steamer ships from the rocky coastline. The Loon Island Lighthouse was built in 1893 for only $400. By 1896, the tower caught fire as the fire department was completing repairs. With only one bucket, the fire crew extinguished the fire at the lighthouse. There would be more damage to the firehouse in 1960. The Loon Island Lighthouse was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. Local residents knew the importance of the lighthouse, and there was a fund drive for the repair costs. The tower saw an upgrade in the 1980s with the addition of solar panels.
If you do travel to Lake Sunapee, you can explore the nine miles of shoreline. Along with the lighthouses, the coastline contains public and private beaches, including the large beach at Mount Sunapee State Park. In the Sunapee Harbor area, make sure to visit the artists’ galleries, restaurants, and shops in the downtown area.
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
If you want to get inside the interior of a lighthouse, then you will want to visit Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse. In the 1600s, the British established Fort William and Mary to protect Portsmouth Harbor. By 1771, a wooden lighthouse was built at Fort Point. The tower would be one of eleven constructed before the start of the American Revolution. The Fort played an essential role in the war, and it suffered from some extensive damage. In 1880, the Americans rebuilt the fort, and it was renamed Fort Constitution.
Today, you can still explore this historic fort. Located inside the Coast Guard Station of Portsmouth Harbor, the grounds around the lighthouse are not open to the public except on special events. Every Sunday from late May to mid-October, from 1:00 PM to 5:00 PM, guests are welcome to explore the site. If the grounds are closed, you can still get a great view from the Great Island Common. There is no admission fee for the tours, but the suggested donation is around $4 for adults and $2 for children. While on the tour, you can climb up (no elevators) to the lantern room to see the harbor and the fourth-order Fresnel lens. Visitors can learn about the history of the light station or buy a souvenir to remember your visit.
Isles of Shoals
The Isles of Shoals is a cluster of nine islands off the coast of New Hampshire and Maine. According to some stories, fishermen named the islands after the schools, or shoals, of herring and mackerel. By 1820, Congress authorized funds to build a lighthouse on the Isles of Shoals. The first lighthouse was built in 1820, and it began service in 1821. The original foundation was a stone tower, but shingles and wood would later encase it. Over the years, there have been at least six versions of the lighthouse. During the 2005 restoration, more than 1,000 bricks were replaced and strengthened with stainless steel ties. The tower also received a layer of stucco, and the glass block windows were replaced to match the look of the original windows. In 2007, a storm damaged the lighthouse, with the walkway between the tower washed away by the waves. The island is not open to the public, but you can take an excursion boat to get a closer view of this historic lighthouse.
While New Hampshire might not have a considerable amount of lighthouses, the ones located in the state are some of the most unique in New England. When you visit the state of New Hampshire, you will want to see these fantastic spots that protected the shores of the Granite State.