29 Historic & Unique Lake Erie Lighthouses in the United States
Lake Erie lighthouses can be found in three states — Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. These U.S. towers are popular destinations for lighthouse lovers because of their magnificence and history as a vital part of the shipping industry.
Today, some of them are open to the public, while others can only be viewed from outside. Either way, their beauty is excuse enough to take a Lake Erie lighthouses tour.
Lake Erie Lighthouses in Ohio
Northwest Ohio Lighthouses on Lake Erie
Turtle Island Light
Turtle Island is split between Ohio and Michigan, which has led to some problems with saving the tower. The brick lighthouse was built in 1866 and has a 44-foot tower.
It became a money pit and was finally decommissioned in 1904 when the channel became too shallow for shipping. Attempts to save it since then have all failed. It can be viewed from boat tours to Toledo Harbor Lighthouse but isn’t open to the public.
Perry’s Victory & International Peace Memorial
This stunning memorial to the victor of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, Oliver Hazard Perry, has an amazing history. Despite major attempts for over 100 years, it wasn’t until 1915 that the memorial was opened to the public.
This memorial to a war victory was the victim of all the wars that took place during those 100 years. While it wasn’t built to be a lighthouse, two marine-type lights were added in 1940 to aid mariners on Lake Erie. It’s an inspiring sight and a must-visit historical structure.
Point Place Lighthouse
Bay View Park is the site of a long-departed amusement park called Lake Erie Amusement Park and Casino, which thrived from 1895 to 1910. It was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.
Dedicated in 2008, Point Place Lighthouse is strictly an ornamental lighthouse and is a popular attraction along the biking and walking path that goes through the park. It’s a good place to view the lake and enjoy bird-watching.
Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
Toledo Harbor Lighthouse was constructed in 1904 to replace Turtle Island Lighthouse, which is 4 miles away. Located 8 miles from the mouth of the Maumee River, it’s designed in the Romanesque style with a rolled edge steel roof. It marks the beginning of the Toledo Harbor shipping channel.
The original lens from this Lake Erie lighthouse is now on display at Maumee Bay State Park. Also, the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the lighthouse, so it’s still an important navigational aid. No visitors are allowed inside, but you can see it on an occasional boat tour from the state park.
West Sister Island Lighthouse
Located in the area of Lake Erie where Commodore Perry won his great naval battle, West Sister Island is located about 8 miles offshore. In 1847, a lighthouse was established on the westernmost point of the island. In 1868, updates were made to the lighthouse complex.
The light was automated in 1937, at which time the keeper’s house was abandoned, and the island was designated as a refuge for migratory birds. The West Sister Island Lighthouse is still an active light and one of the oldest lighthouses on Lake Erie.
Green Island Lighthouse
Green Island is now a bird sanctuary, and you have to get permission to visit it. The first lighthouse on the island was constructed of wood in 1854, and it burned to the ground on New Year’s Day 1864.
The new lighthouse was constructed of limestone — a better choice. The light was automated in 1926 but abandoned in 1939 when the light was placed on an 80-foot, steel, skeletal tower, located 960 feet southwest.
South Bass Island Lighthouse
South Bass Island Lighthouse is open for private tours during the summer. During a tour, you can climb to the top.
The lighthouse was built in 1896 in an unusual style. The keeper’s house was a large two-story brick building, and the tower was 45 feet and square with a light atop.
The light was electrified in 1929, and the amount of light was greatly increased. In 1983, it became a meteorological station, and in 1990, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Now, it’s home to Ohio State University research and academic staff.
Port Clinton Lighthouse
Port Clinton has a long maritime history, which isn’t surprising given its location at the mouth of the Portage River. The first lighthouse here was constructed in 1833, but the current (and second) lighthouse tower was constructed in 1896.
The light was decommissioned in the late 1920s, and in 1952, it was moved to a marina where it remains to this day. It’s a small but very attractive little lighthouse. It has been restored, and there are plans to move it to the waterfront, which will hopefully be its home forever.
Lake Erie Lighthouses Near Sandusky
Sandusky Harbor Breakwater Lighthouse
Constructed in 1925, this light is at the end of an almost 5,000-foot jetty that was created in 1914. It has a concrete foundation and a steel tower. The permanent light was placed atop the tower in 1928 and was visible for 15 miles.
In 1928, a foghorn was added. Then, the metal tower was replaced in 1992 with a much more attractive one. Currently, the tower is owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the best view is from the parking lot at Cedar Point Amusement Park.
The Year 2022 marks the 200th anniversary of Marblehead Lighthouse, and special events can be expected. The tour season at the lighthouse runs from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend until Labor Day. For a minimal fee, which must be paid in cash, you can climb the 77 steps to the top.
Admission to the museum and the replica Lifesaving Station is free. And, make sure that you take your camera. Not only is the lighthouse one of the most photographed landmarks in Ohio, but the views from the top are rather spectacular.
Cedar Point Lighthouse
Located on the Cedar Point peninsula in Sandusky Ohio, this lighthouse is located within the Cedar Point Amusement Park property. It stands at the entrance to Sandusky Bay.
This Lake Erie lighthouse is made of limestone, stands 38 feet tall, and was built in 1862. It was deactivated in 1909 and lost its tower and lantern room after that. However, it remained a U.S. Coast Guard facility until 1975.
When Cedar Point Amusement Park decided to build a nautical village on Lighthouse Point as accommodation for guests, the park restored the lighthouse. It isn’t easy to visit without a vacation rental or roller coaster tickets, but it’s possible to observe the tower from the outside.
Huron Lighthouse & Fishing Pier
The mouth of the Huron River and Huron Harbor was and is a busy travel lane for cargo ships, and by 1835, it needed a lighthouse. This light stands on a mile-long fishing pier that extends 900 feet into the lake.
The original lighthouse was built of wood and couldn’t withstand the wind and water. It was destroyed in 1854 and was replaced by an iron structure in 1857. In the 1930s, an amazing 72-foot Art Deco lighthouse was commissioned, and that light was automated in 1972.
The U.S. Coast Guard solarized the lighthouse in 2015. Since 2018, the exterior of the tower has been illuminated with LED lights that change colors seasonally.
In 1847, the federal government funded a lighthouse in Vermilion Ohio. In 1859, the light was rebuilt, and the new tower was wood with a whale oil lamp.
However, a new iron lighthouse was commissioned and constructed in Buffalo New York in 1877. It was carried on barges on the Erie Canal to Vermilion, while the lantern was picked up in Cleveland. The tower was 34 feet and had a 400-foot catwalk around it.
In 1929, the lighthouse was dismantled and moved. Then, a replica was built in 1991. For many years, the fate of the old lighthouse was unknown, but it has since been rehabilitated and stands watch in Ontario.
Greater Cleveland Lighthouses on Lake Erie
This lighthouse is a very familiar image. It’s often photographed, and images of it appear everywhere in Ohio. Though it no longer operates, it’s a very popular destination for lighthouse lovers.
Lorain Lighthouse turned 100 years old in 2017, and the massive reinforced concrete structure looks strong enough to withstand many more years. This is an attractive lighthouse, and boat tours to visit it are very popular, including sunset dinner cruises.
Called “The Jewel of the Port,” it stands proud and tall as a testament to the loyalty of those who fought to save it.
Cleveland Harbor East Pierhead Lighthouse
At the entrance to Cleveland Harbor, this tower was established in 1831. In 1911, a new light was installed, and the white tower with a black lantern has become a familiar sight. It stands 25 feet tall, and the light can be seen for 7 nautical miles.
The tower is made from steel. In 2007, the U.S. Coast Guard decided the lighthouse was unnecessary and put sold it at auction. The small but attractive lighthouse is not open to the public but can be admired via boat tours.
Cleveland Harbor West Pierhead Lighthouse
This tower also dates from 1911 and is quite a lot bigger than its diminutive partner. It stands 67 feet tall and is made of steel. Visiting is not allowed, but it can be viewed from a boat.
An impressive sight in the winter, the crashing waves freeze over the entire structure. Think of it as a black and white ice castle. Automated in 1965, the light flashes every five seconds, even when it’s iced over.
Cleveland East Entrance Lighthouse
Cleveland is an important port on Lake Erie. As the port became busier, it was evident that a lighthouse was necessary.
Breakwaters were constructed to keep some of the worst waves from reaching the shore, and there’s currently a 47-foot D9 steel tower that’s white with a red band. It’s similar to other pier lights around the Great Lakes.
This tower replaced earlier lighthouses, and since the breakwater isn’t attached to the shore, it can only be accessed on a boat. However, you can see it from the overlook within Lakefront Nature Preserve if you look east.
Lake Erie Lighthouses in Northeast Ohio
Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Light
This breakwater light was commissioned in Fairport Harbor in 1925 and led to the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse closing. No one has lived here since the light was automated in 1948.
Sold at auction, this lighthouse has been undergoing renovations and will be used as a vacation retreat and getaway destination.
This picturesque lighthouse was controversial because some of the funds for completing it were supposed to be used to demolish the other lighthouse. A public outcry saved the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse.
Fairport Harbor Marine Museum and Lighthouse
The 60-foot Fairport Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1871 to replace an earlier lighthouse and remained in operation until 1925. Today, it stands proud and can be visited on a regular tour schedule or on private tours. In 1945, the keepers’ house was turned into a marine museum.
Plan to visit Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, and all Legal Holidays from Memorial Day Weekend through mid-September. Private tours are available throughout the summer and until about mid-fall. Your preservation fee allows access to the museum and the lighthouse.
Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse
Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse can only be visited on a boat ride, and the ride comes with a tour — weather and water conditions permitting. The U.S. Coast Guard manned this lighthouse until 1973 when it was automated, making it the last manned lighthouse on Lake Erie.
The current lighthouse dates from 1916 when the site of the lighthouse was moved. A larger structure was added to the 1905 building for the lighthouse keeper. This Ashtabula lighthouse has a long and interesting history and is worthy of a road trip.
Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse
Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse that was built in 1934. A lighthouse has existed in Conneaut since the 1830s, and this one is located on a breakwater, standing 60 feet tall.
The tower was deemed excessive by the U.S. Coast Guard in 2007 and has since been purchased at auction twice. Now, it’s privately owned but can be easily viewed from shore.
Pennsylvania Lighthouses on Lake Erie
Presque Isle Lighthouse
If you’re looking for a beautiful lighthouse to visit, Presque Isle Lighthouse is a good choice. Constructed in 1872, Presque Isle Lighthouse is still protecting boats on Lake Erie but has been automated since 1962.
Tours are offered from Memorial Day to Labor Day and include the lighthouse and keeper’s house. If you want to enjoy the view, you can climb the winding staircase of 78 steps to the top. It’s the tallest of the three Erie Pennsylvania lighthouses at 68 feet tall.
North Pier Lighthouse
The North Pier Lighthouse is one of three in Erie Pennsylvania. It’s also known as the Presque Isle North Pier Light.
The original lighthouse was a wooden structure that dates from 1830, but it was destroyed in 1857. The current lighthouse is 34 feet tall and dates from 1867. Made from metal forged in France, it has been moved twice.
Currently, the U.S. Coast Guard operates an automated red flashing light atop the tower. Visitors can come onto the pier where it’s located, but the tower isn’t open to the public.
Erie Land Lighthouse
If you visit North Pier Lighthouse, you can see Erie Land Lighthouse on the bluff. It’s the original site of the lighthouse on Presque Isle that was constructed in 1818. The land on the bluff proved to be unstable and the current Berea sandstone tower required a very large foundation to stabilize it.
When the Presque Isle Lighthouse was created, this lighthouse lost its name and eventually its light in 1899. Today, you can visit this attractive lighthouse every Saturday, Sunday, and the first Tuesday of the month.
Lake Erie Lighthouses in New York
Southwest New York Lighthouses on Lake Erie
This very photogenic lighthouse was built in 1829 and is the first natural gas lighthouse in the United States. It was operated by the federal government until 1859 when it went into the ownership of a variety of private parties.
In 2008, it was acquired by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be visited between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
This active and historic site is open to the public. It was commissioned in 1826, but the current tower dates from 1875. It has a gift shop and museum that not only tells the story of the lighthouse but also honors veterans.
What brings visitors here, though, is more than that — It’s about ghost hunting. The lighthouse is supposedly haunted, and you can take organized or private ghost tours. If you visit the website, you’ll see the tour schedule and how to book your spot or your private tour.
Lake Erie Lighthouses in Buffalo
Buffalo Intake Crib
This has to be one of the most unique lighthouses on Lake Erie. Although it isn’t really a lighthouse, it did replace a lighthouse.
Built on a reef, there was always a problem with this location, which originally belonged to Canada. The old Horseshoe Reef has deteriorated to nothing but a foundation. A light has been attached to the red tile roof of the round intake crib, which provides water to the city of Buffalo.
Buffalo Main Light
This beautiful lighthouse is one of the oldest structures in Buffalo New York. The base dates from 1833 and the remainder from 1857. Limestone and bluestone were used in the construction, and it holds up well to the wind and weather.
While the lighthouse has a 20-foot diameter at the base, it’s only 12 feet in diameter at the top. The walls are 4 feet thick in base and 2 feet thick at the top, and the tower stands 68 feet tall.
Though it was almost dismantled 60 years ago, public outcry resulted in it being saved as the gorgeous monument that it is.
Horseshoe Reef Lighthouse
When this lighthouse was constructed in 1855/56, Canada had to cede an acre of land to the United States since it was in Canadian waters. In 1913, the border between the two countries changed, placing this lighthouse within the United States and changing the shape of the border.
Horseshoe Reef had to be constructed strong enough to withstand the ice flows and current. It has four iron columns that anchor it with a wooden building, and the light is atop that.
Unfortunately, it was decommissioned in 1919 and left to rot. Usually, sea birds perch on the leftover base and frame.
Frequently Asked Questions About Lake Erie Lighthouses
Which state has the oldest operating lighthouse in the Great Lakes?
Ohio has the oldest continually operating lighthouse — Marblehead Lighthouse on Lake Erie. What began as a lighthouse with whale oil lights became LED lights by 2013 and is now automated but still doing its job after 200 years.
Which Great Lake has the most lighthouses?
Lake Michigan has the most lighthouses. More lighthouses are located in Michigan than any other state in the United States.
Why is there a lighthouse in Ohio?
Lake Erie is partially in Ohio with 871 miles of shoreline. It has been an important shipping route since it was first explored by the French in the 17th century.
During the War of 1812, a major naval battle took place here. Afterward, Congress allocated funds to build the first lighthouse. Lighthouses make it easier for mariners to avoid accidents.
What lake is Marblehead Lighthouse on?
Marblehead Lighthouse is one of the Lake Erie lighthouses in Ohio.
Is the Marblehead Lighthouse open?
Yes, it’s open to visitors during the summer. These Lake Erie lighthouse tours take place daily from Memorial Day weekend to Labor Day weekend every 20 minutes between noon and 4 p.m. Tours also happen during the Lighthouse Festival in October.