Friday, September 23, 2016

Lighthouse hunting at the Jersey Shore

Navesink Twin Lighthouses
New Jersey has 11 lighthouses. We have visited nine of them. Today we crossed the last 2 off our list. They are both in northeastern New Jersey.

High above the Sandy Hook Lighthouse on the highlands of New Jersey there is an impressive stone structure with a lighthouse at either end. These are the Navesink Twin lights established in 1928.
New York Harbor needed an additional aide to navigation once the Erie Canal was completed and traffic in the harbor increased. The lights are historically significant for many reasons.
1841-The Navesink lights were the first in the United States to have Fresnel lenses installed.
1893-The Pledge of Allegience was first head here accompanied by a grand Naval Flotilla anchored off the coast of Sandy Hook.
1899-Guglielmo Marconi set up his wireless telegraph at the Navesink lights and conducted experiment in transmitting ships in the harbor. Those experiments helped to establish wireless communication as a viable technology.

The lighthouse is located in an winding neighborhood of beautiful homes and pretty gardens. To reach it you must drive a steep one way road to the top and hope that no one is coming down the narrow passage because unless both vehicles are Smart Cars someone will be backing up.  
The lights were closed on the Tuesday that we visited. We spent an hour walking around the structures and enjoying the view before heading out to Sandy Hook. It was dissapointing not to see the museum or climb the tower but will will leave that for another trip.

Fred at Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Sandy Hook is a 4 mile long spit of land that reaches from the base of New Jersey’s  Atlantic Highlands out into New York Harbor. In the late 1700’s it was a serious hazard to navigation for boats using the harbor. Several shipwrecks in early 1761 caused merchants in New York to band together and petition the local government to provide a lighthouse at the tip of the Hook.
The lighthouse, funded by a series of lotteries, was first lit June 11, 1764 making it the oldest lighthouse on US soil that is still standing.
There was an attempt to destroy it during the Revolutionary War but the 10 foot thick stone walls withstood the attack of cannons.

Sandy Hook Lighthouse stands today in what has become the Gateway National Recreation Area, part of the National Park Service. It remains in it’s original position but as prevailing current constantly adds  sand to the Atlantic side of the hook is now located 150 yards from the water.
It has been in continuous service since 1764 except for intentional darkening during the Revolutionary War, Civil War, Spanish American War and World Wars I and II.

We enjoyed our visit to Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Pete, the Park Ranger on duty is a former history teacher and his enthusiasm for the lighthouse and the area were apparent. Turns out that he was raised in New York not far from our home town. We had a lot in common and spent 30 minutes or so chatting with him.  
The climb was 95 steps. I skipped the last 8 which were a ladder straight up into the lantern room. Fred went up and really enjoyed the view of the Atlantic and New York Harbor.

Fortifications at Fort Hancock
I did take a walk around Fort Hancock admiring the fortifications and the Waterfront Victorian homes that were once Officer’s Quarters. Built in the 1890’s, the Fort protected NY Harbor from invasion by sea until after the end of WW II. In the years following the second world war the Fort was armed with anti-aircraft guns and then Nike Missiles. Fort Hancock was decommissioned in 1974. It is now administered by the National Park Service.

Sandy Hook Beach
Garden of beach garbage.
We left the Lighthouse and made a stop at the beach to enjoy the sound of surf and the smell of salt air. Sandy Hook Beach is a a long stretch of shoreline that is part of the Gateway National Recreation Area. We found it peaceful on a warm and sunny September afternoon. We were impressed with the Garden of Garbage leftover from a Summer Education program.

Navesink Twin Lighthouse
2 Lighthouse Road
Highlands, NJ
Open: Wednesday to Sunday 10-4:30

Sandy Hook Lighthouse
85 Mercer Rd
Highlands, NJ
Open for climbing daily 1-4:30


  1. The twin lighthouses have always fascinated me, Bonnie. We will have to make it a point to visit them.

    1. I think you would really like it Diana. It's a beautiful area.

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