No one told us that chasing lighthouses would be this hard. And fun.
We came to Washington to do some hiking and see a few sites in Seattle. A docent at the Admirality Point Lighthouse suggested we check out a few lighthouses along the way. The same docent sold us a “passport” to have stamped at each location, plus a selection of related maps. He might have sold us the Tacoma Narrows Bridge if we had stayed much longer.
And so we committed to a lighthouse odyssey. We traveled by automobile, ferry and foot. We peered through fog and past no trespassing signs. We drove to the extreme northwest corner of the contiguous United States and through the streets of Seattle. We hiked five miles to the end of a spit of sand. And back.
A handful of the light stations were resplendent with renovations, boasting docents and giftshops. Nearly all of them were still operational, but many needed a coat of paint. One had moved from the coast to town decades ago and survives as a home on a quiet street. Most did not have a stamp for our passport. Alas.
But we tracked down 15 lighthouses, or their remnants, and had a great time doing it. Here’s where we visited:
WHIDBEY & MARROWSTONE ISLANDS
Our lighthouse quest began here. Beautifully restored with a little museum and gift shop, the lighthouse is just part of the fun at Fort Casey Historical State Park on Whidbey Island. We also enjoyed tromping around, across and inside the stone walls that undergird the gun battery overlooking Admirality Inlet. Two 10-inch guns on disappearing carriages and a pair of three-inch guns – all imported from the Philippines in the 1960s – are on display. We scored our first passport stamp!
The Bush Point Beach Association discourages visitors to this tiny lighthouse. Located in a small subdivision on a private beach, the lantern sits behind a “no trespassing sign” at the end of a wide gravel path. A heavy rope is strung across the drive for emphasis. Needless to say, there was no stamp to collect.
Mukilteo is not on an island, but passengers on the ferry from Whidbey Island disembark here. So, close enough. The lighthouse and support buildings looked spotless, but they close at 6 p.m. We arrived at 6:05. The stamp and ink pad were visible through the window of the gift shop. Sigh. We eased our pain with dinner and adult beverages down the street at Ivar’s Mukilteo Landing .
This scruffy little lantern on a point adjacent to Fort Flagler State Park on Marrowstone Island looks a bit like a lamp without a shade. The Coast Guard still operates the light, but the Department of Interior has turned the residence and other buildings into work space. Signage discouraged visitors, but we walked up the wide open drive to take our picture. No stamp.
The drive to Discovery Park across miles of Seattle city streets felt endless. Parking, by permit only, was a hassle. Although restored in 2012, the lighthouse looked like it might need a refresh. An upended picnic table leaned against the side of the structure. No stamp.
The Coast Guard welcomes visitors with a large “WARNING NO TRESPASSING” sign. The fine print on a neighboring sign, however, notes that the public is welcome for a few hours on summer Sunday afternoons. Alas, we stopped by on a summer Thursday. The lighthouse and residence, which houses the Guard’s 13th District Commander, senior commander of the Pacific Northwest, looked to be in ship shape behind a black rod-iron fence. Stamp status is uncertain.
STRAIT OF JUAN DE FUCA
The lighthouse was closed for renovations, so we walked next door and enjoyed lunch at Doc’s Marina Grill. The United States Lighthouse Society runs a vacation rental on the light station grounds. We’re guessing there will be a stamp.
The lighthouse was deactivated at the turn of the century. All that remains is the residence, just across the drive from the Callam County Sheriff’s Department. We doubt there ever was a stamp.
The light, located on the Ediz Hook Spit at Port Los Angeles, was decommissioned and dismantled in 1946. The residence was moved from the spit to town. You can find it at Fourth and Albert streets. We chose not to knock and ask about a stamp.
It’s a long drive to Cape Flattery, the most northwestern point in the contiguous United States. It’s even further to the lighthouse, which sits offshore on an island. Fog obscured our view. Anyone who drives to this remote corner of Washington deserves a stamp.
The light station is located at the end of a five-mile spit of sand that extends into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. We hiked out at low tide. And yes! There was a stamp! Bless ‘em.
The lighthouse is closed to the public. But the grounds, owned and operated by Kitsap County Parks and Recreation, are pristine and inviting. They include a picnic area and driftwood sculptures installed on the lawn. The residence is home to the U.S. Lighthouse Society, which issued our passport. Stamp availability is uncertain, as the offices were closed. C’mon!
The private residence owned by the 12-member Skunk Bay Lighthouse Association houses a Coast Guard approved light. Built in 1965 from plans for the Mukilteo Lighthouse (see above), the structure includes a lantern room salvaged from the defunct Smith Island station before it collapsed into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The lighthouse is difficult to find. Visitors are not welcome. We skulked around online to identify the approximate location and spotted it on the outskirts of town through a screen of trees. No stamp.
This pint-sized light guards the entrance to bustling Gig Harbor, a busy tourist mecca on west side of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The waterfront shops and restaurants looked cute but we were in a hurry and didn’t stick around. No stamp.
The lighthouse is a bit south of the Kitsap Peninsula at Boston Harbor. We stopped on the drive south toward home. After securing an iffy parking space, we asked for directions to a view. The locals pointed to a nearby dock and warned us the lighthouse wasn’t much to look at. We’ve seen worse. Lord knows it wasn’t the first without a stamp.
3 thoughts on “Lighthouse Tales from the Washington Shoreline”
You are the intrepedist of all intrepid trekkers. The US Lighthouse Society owes you some stamps. If I were creative & energetic, I’d design some funny stamps for those fuddy-duddy lighthouses that didn’t let you in.
Hi Dan and Dawn. I really enjoyed your lighthouse tour in Washington. Your adventures are so well detailed that I feel like I’m right there with you and the photos are gorgeous! Did you get into any of the lighthouses to see the view from above? I was recalling the movie “vertigo” when I saw some of the taller lighthouses you visited!!
We were able to climb to the light in several, but these are all very short stations. Not at all like what you might find on the Outer Banks, for example. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse is a loooong climb.