Move over, luxury treehouse. Maybe next year, mountain retreat and lakeside cabin. This year, our vacation daydreams are filled with lighthouses.
The United States Lighthouse Society is a not-for-profit historical and educational organization dedicated to preserving lighthouses around the country. They help organize lighthouse cruises and tours, have a full slate of lighthouse education, stockpile lighthouse research materials, and, best of all, have a list of lighthouses that are available for overnight stays. That’s right, you can stay in a lighthouse, including a handful in the South.
Lighthouse enthusiasts can book stays at lighthouses in Kitty Hawk and Bald Head Island in North Carolina and in Smithfield, Virginia, the perfect venues for stepping into a Hemingway novel.
Party for 19 at Kitty Hawk Lifesaving Station #7
The Lifesaving Station #7 in Kitty Hawk was built in 1912, designed as a bigger and better replacement for Kitty Hawk lifesaving station #6. The house has stood the test of time, surviving through storms, floods, beach erosion, and more. Since then it has been converted into a dreamy vacation home with five bedrooms, three baths, and the ability to sleep 19 of your closest friends and family. And, since it’s designed for keeping an eye on the water, it has unobstructed 180-degree ocean views. That means quick beach access, cocktails in the Captain’s Watch, camping out in the old crew quarters, watching the sunrise from the front deck, and enjoying sunsets from the pool.
Chesapeake Bay Meets the Pagan River
The Virginia lighthouse is a replica of the Hooper Strait Lighthouse, which has been keeping ships safe in Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay since 1879. Virginia’s version, the Lighthouse at Smithfield, gives lighthouse enthusiasts the opportunity to play keeper at an exact replica of a working Chesapeake-Bay-style lighthouse, albeit in a lighthouse overlooking the Pagan River in Virginia. The lighthouse has two spacious suites, including the Captain Sinclair Suite, which is located on the top level of the lighthouse and features a spiral staircase with access to the scenic lighthouse overlook for all your lighthouse keeper dreams.
Voluntourism in North Carolina
For a less luxurious, more realistic lighthouse experience, head out to the Frying Pan Shoals Lighthouse, located roughly 33 miles offshore from Bald Head Island, North Carolina, in the so-called Graveyard of the Atlantic. The offshore Coast Guard Light Station, which dates back to 1964, has eight bedrooms way out in the ocean, but the only way to stay there is to volunteer. They provide on-site accommodations and food in exchange for work repairing and restoring the lighthouse and helping to keep the operation up and running. Here are the details for how to volunteer and what sort of skills they need.
Similarly, the Bodie Island Lighthouse, located at the northern end of Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been keeping ships safe since 1872. The Cape Hatteras Light Station, has been protecting one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast since 1803. They both offer volunteers a trailer pad with full hook-ups in exchange for 32 hours per week of service for a minimum of six weeks. Head to the National Park Service’s website for more details. It’s a big job, but you get killer views, oceanfront property, a sense of purpose, and the chance to play lighthouse keeper all for a good cause.
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