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Block Island Ferry

Exploring the Lighthouses of Block Island

Block Island is a charming haven for beach lovers, nature enthusiasts, and history buffs alike. But for centuries, the island held a different reputation – a treacherous “stumbling block” for mariners navigating its unforgiving shores. According to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association shipwreck database, between the island’s European establishment in the 1660s and 1865 there were about 180 documented wrecks in or around Block Island’s waters. The residents on the island lived by three rules: never expect a day without wind; never expect visitors; but always be prepared for a shipwreck.

To guide them away from danger, two sentinels were erected, silent guardians bathed in the glow of their beacons: the North Light and the Southeast Lighthouse. For decades these structures helped guide vessels away from danger, saving countless lives. Let’s delve into their fascinating history and discover why they are must-visit landmarks.

North Light: Battling the Elements

Standing tall on the island’s northern tip, the North Light has weathered more than its fair share of storms. Built in 1867, it’s the fourth iteration of a lighthouse at this location, its predecessors succumbing to the fury of the Atlantic. This sturdy granite and steel tower has stood strong for over 150 years, its powerful light guiding countless ships to safety. Visitors can take in the ground’s breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and coastline. Legend whispers of “Mad Maggie,” the ghost of a lighthouse keeper’s wife said to haunt the premises, adding a touch of intrigue to the North Light’s already fascinating history.

Southeast Lighthouse: A Beacon of Beauty

Perched atop the dramatic Mohegan Bluffs, the Southeast Lighthouse paints a striking picture against the vastness of the ocean. Erected in 1875, its 52-foot brick and granite tower boasts a unique green light, differentiating it from its white-flashing cousin. Originally located dangerously close to the eroding cliffs, Southeast Light underwent a remarkable relocation effort in 1993, where it was moved 245 feet inland to safeguard it from the threat of erosion. Today, the lighthouse grounds welcome visitors with stunning vistas, beautiful exhibits, and a quaint gift shop. Climb the 136 steps to the observation deck for panoramic views of the island, the bluffs, and even the Block Island Wind Farm on a clear day.

Stories and Experiences

The lighthouses of Block Island are more than just iconic landmarks; they’re silent storytellers, whispering tales of resilience, hardship, and the unwavering dedication of lighthouse keepers. Each lighthouse has exhibits detailing the history of these structures. While tower access is prohibited at North Light, the 1st floor has been renovated and is open to the public during the summer as a maritime museum. Southeast Lighthouse also offers summer and fall museum access as well as guided tours of their tower.

Block Island’s lighthouses are more than former navigational aids; they embody the island’s maritime heritage and resilience. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, a photography buff, or simply seeking breathtaking views, a visit to these lighthouses is a must!

Shine that beacon and Sail Away…