The most Instagrammable lighthouses, from California to England

From California to New Zealand via England, the world’s most Instagrammable lighthouses in all their windswept beauty and grandeur

  •  Though they no longer need a keeper on-site, many lighthouses are still in use as navigational aids
  •  Some have been turned into museums and even boutique hotels with hard-to-beat views
  •  The USA is home to more lighthouses than any other country and here we present some of the most striking

There is something undeniably intriguing about lighthouses, shrouded in history and standing strong against the tides of change.

Having once played a vital role in guiding passing ships, and safeguarding communities from intruders, they now serve mainly as a reminder of a bygone era, adorning the seascape with their striking designs.

Their bold colours and patterns, ranging from stripes and spirals to diamond shapes, have inspired many to take up lighthouse photography, resulting in images like the ones below. They have also provided the perfect backdrop for a whole host of novels about love and longing, such as Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse, and ML Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans.

Should you be similarly inspired by our foray into nautical nostalgia, you could take a road trip along the Californian coast and peek inside some of the many historic lighthouses that are dotted around it, such as the white-painted Point Pinos in Monterey. 

Or perhaps you’ll be tempted to book a cruise to Ushuaia, where a little red-and-white-striped tower marks ‘the end of the world’, as it is known to Argentines.

Here is our pick of the world’s most spectacular lighthouses, in all their windswept beauty and grandeur…

Beachy Head Lighthouse, which stands 108ft tall in the English Channel off the coast of East Sussex. It was built in 1902 to guide vessels along the cliffs

The website for Heceta Lighthouse proudly boasts that it’s one of the most beautiful in the world. And who are we to argue? It’s a working lighthouse, built in 1894, that stands 205 feet above the Pacific Ocean on the Oregon coast. What’s more, you can stay on the site at the Light Keeper’s home B&B. Visit for more information

This is Eldred Rock Lighthouse in Alaska, in northern Lynn Canal inlet. It began operating in 1906 and is the oldest original lighthouse in the state

This is Dry Tortugas Light, a 157ft-fall lighthouse built in 1858 that’s on Loggerhead Key, a spit of land in the Gulf of Mexico about 70 miles west of the very end of the Florida Keys. It was decommissioned in 2015 but in its prime was the brightest lighthouse in America

Nauset Light on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, dates back to 1877, stands 48 feet high and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s become quite a social media star and even has its own Instagram page

The impressive Cape Reinga Lighthouse, built in 1941, sits at the very top of the North Island of New Zealand and has a beam that reaches out 19 miles to shipping arriving from the Tasman Sea and North Pacific. It definitely sits in the ‘dramatic’ lighthouse category and is popular with tourists 

What a cutie: Photogenic Old Point Loma Lighthouse on the Point Loma peninsula at the mouth of San Diego Bay began operating in 1855 and stopped in 1891, when New Point Loma Lighthouse, at a lower elevation, took over its duties. Today it’s a museum. Lots of TripAdvisor users regard it as an unmissable attraction

New London Ledge Lighthouse in New London Harbor, Connecticut, was built in 1909 and has a striking townhouse design. It’s said to be haunted by Ernie, the ghost of a former keeper

Point Pinos Lighthouse, positioned on the rocky coast of the Monterey Peninsula in California, is the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast. As its website proudly boasts, it’s been guiding mariners to safety since 1855. You can explore it for $5

Dyna Fyr, which sits in the Oslofjord inlet near Oslo, used to be a lighthouse, but is now a party venue that serves tasty finger food. It dates back to 1874

Cape Otway Lightstation in Victoria’s Apollo Bay, built in 1848, is the oldest surviving lighthouse on mainland Australia and, its website draws your attention to, a ‘leading attraction on the Great Ocean Road’, which winds alongside the Southern Ocean for 150 miles. It continues: ‘For many thousands of 19th-century migrants, who spent months travelling to Australia by ship, Cape Otway was their first sight of land after leaving Europe, Asia and North America’

Behold the world’s oldest lighthouse – The Roman Tower of Hercules, which sits at the entrance of La Coruña harbour in Galicia in north-western Spain. According to Unesco, it’s ‘the world’s only fully preserved Roman lighthouse that is still used for maritime signaling’. Historians believe it was erected in the second half of the 1st century

The Ricasoli Breakwater Light, which sits on the east side of the entrance to the Grand Harbour of Valletta in Malta, was built in 1908 and is still operational today. In rough weather, it makes for an enticing photo subject

The modest little white-and-red-striped Lighthouse of Galinhos, in the state of Rio Grande do Norte in the northeast region of Brazil, sits on a largely undeveloped stretch of a peninsula only accessible by boat from Galinhos, a sleepy community around two hours away from Natal

The abandoned Rubjerg Knude Lighthouse in northern Denmark is gradually being buried in sand and is expected to fall into the North Sea by 2023. It sits at the top of Lønstrup cliff, 60 metres (200ft) above sea level on the coast of Rubjerg, in the Jutland municipality of Hjørring. The lighthouse was first lit in December 1900 and ceased operating in August 1968. But it has remained a popular tourist attraction

Fanad Head Lighthouse in County Donegal, Ireland, sits at one of the northernmost points along the Wild Atlantic Way – the longest defined coastal touring route in the world. Over the course of millions of years, the Atlantic Ocean has carved dramatic crevices into the rugged headland, resulting in spectacular scenery. It’s no wonder Donegal was named the ‘Coolest Place on the Planet’ in 2017 by National Geographic Traveller. Another 10 lighthouses adorn the 1,600-mile-long trail

Dondra Head Lighthouse on Sri Lanka’s southernmost point is the country’s loftiest lighthouse at 161 feet 

The Burnham-on-Sea Low Lighthouse is a Grade II listed building dating back to 1832 – and it’s still guiding Somerset mariners 

The Enoshima Sea Candle, also known as the Shonan Observatory Lighthouse, is an observation tower and lighthouse located in the Samuel Cocking Garden on the small tidal island of Enoshima in Fujisawa, Kanagawa, Japan

Located in western Estonia, the imposing Kõpu Lighthouse is thought to be the oldest lighthouse in the Baltic States – it dates back to 1505 

This is the mid-19th-century Lighthouse of Petit Minou, at Goulet de Brest on Brittany’s tip. TripAdvisor user ‘Nancy D’ remarked that it was ‘a nice place to stop and take pictures’. We concur

Fans of 1993’s Forest Gump will recognise Marshall Point Lighthouse in the fishing village of Port Clyde in Maine, because Tom Hanks’ character runs to the end of the runway and back

Kjeungskjaer Lighthouse, near Trondheim, Norway, was built in 1880 and automated in 1887. Tours can be arranged 

The Hatteras Lighthouse in North Carolina stands back on the beach behind the dunes. It protects one of the Atlantic’s most hazardous shipping areas, where the Gulf Stream collides with part of the Labrador Current from Canada called the Virginia Drift, according to its website. It says: ‘This current forces southbound ships into a dangerous 12-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the Graveyard of the Atlantic’

Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse near Ushuaia in Argentina – regarded as the southernmost city in the world. The 36ft high structure is known to the Argentines as the Lighthouse at the End of the World (Faro del fin del Mundo)

The Fastnet islet is Ireland’s most southerly point – it sits eight miles from the mainland. The lighthouse on it is the tallest in Ireland and guides mariners through a stretch of water treacherous because of regular high winds

Sunset at Ploumanac‘h lighthouse in Brittany. It was built in 1860 using grey granite then rebuilt after the Germans blew up the original during World War II using pink granite 

It’s black and white – the Farol de Sergipe lighthouse in Aracaju, Brazil, is a gem

The harbour entrance in Lindau on Lake Constance in Bavaria is decorated with a most handsome 118ft lighthouse

Split Rock Lighthouse on the shores of Lake Superior in Minnesota ‘is one of the most photographed and visited spots in the state’, according to the Minnesota Historical Society. It explains that the lighthouse was built following a 1905 November gale that wrecked 30 ships

One of the elegant lighthouses on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice. They both date to 1813

Tillamook Rock Light – known locally as Tilly – is a deactivated lighthouse located just over a mile offshore from Tillamook Head on the Oregon Coast on less than an acre of basalt rock in the Pacific Ocean

Built in the 1690s, Bahia’s oldest fort, Forte de Santo Antônio da Barra, is more commonly called the Farol da Barra for the lighthouse – South America’s oldest – within its walls. It houses a nautical museum, with relics and displays from the days of Portuguese seafaring, and exhibits on the slave trade

The Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth in the Gulf of Maine, USA, was completed in 1791 and is the oldest lighthouse in the state of Maine. Until 1989 the Keepers’ Quarters building was home to the head and assistant lighthouse keepers and their families – it now houses a museum showcasing lighthouse lenses and historical items. The popular attraction, on the shores of Fort Williams Park, is open all year round from sunrise to sunset

Bell Rock Lighthouse, off the coast of Angus, Scotland, is the world’s oldest surviving sea-washed lighthouse. It was built between 1807 and 1810 on the Bell Rock (also known as Inchcape) in the North Sea, 11 miles (18km) east of the Firth of Tay

Heard of the leaning lighthouse of Saaremaa? When it was built in 1933, the 25-metre-high (82ft) structure was 150 metres (492ft) inland on the Estonian island, but due to erosion it is now more than 50 metres (164ft) offshore in the Baltic Sea. A lack of supporting ground for the reinforced concrete tower has caused it to lean

Colossal waves battered the Porthcawl coast of South Wales during Storm Brian in 2017, which saw parts of the country hit by gusts of up to 84mph. Porthcawl Lighthouse, built in 1860, was the last coal and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK before it switched to being powered by North Sea gas in 1974, and electricity in 1997. It is still in use as a navigational aid today

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