Ten Famous Lighthouses From Around the World

Updated on August 3, 2018
The Les Éclaireurs lighthouse in Argentina. This is one of South America's most famous lighthouses and has often been mistaken as Jules Verne's "Lighthouse at the End of the World."
The Les Éclaireurs lighthouse in Argentina. This is one of South America's most famous lighthouses and has often been mistaken as Jules Verne's "Lighthouse at the End of the World." | Source

Some of the world's most essential buildings are lighthouses. They have been used to direct ships to harbors around the world and warn ships at sea about unsafe weather conditions such as fog or approaching storms for many centuries. Over the past century, light stations have been used for relaying radio and telegraph messages and, when necessary, for helping to coordinate search and rescue missions at sea.

Lighthouses and light stations are also important tourist attractions and relics from previous eras. Many were built over the past several centuries by the former European colonial powers. Others were built at a time when new technologies, such as the wireless radio and telegraphs, were first invented and put to good use.

In this article, you'll discover ten of the most famous (and maybe not so famous) lighthouses from around the world and a little history and background information behind them. You probably already know about some of these lighthouses, but others may be new to you.

So please, sit back and enjoy!

10 of the Most Amazing Lighthouses in the World

  1. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse/Outer Banks Lighthouses
  2. Kołobrzeg (Kolberg) Lighthouse
  3. Sumiyoshi Lighthouse
  4. San Juan del Salvamento Lighthouse
  5. Amédée Lighthouse
  6. Cikoneng Lighthouse
  7. Sambro Island Lighthouse
  8. Cape Race Lighthouse
  9. Slettnes Lighthouse
  10. Cape Guardafui Lighthouse

Continue scrolling for more details about each of these incredible sites!

1. Cape Hatteras Lighthouse/Outer Banks Lighthouses

Some of the most famous lighthouses in the USA are located in the Outer Banks island chain located off the coast of North Carolina. The most famous of all these - and perhaps one of the most famous lighthouses in the world - is the candy-striped Cape Hatteras lighthouse located at Cape Hatteras.

There are a number of lighthouses that dot the Outer Banks, which include the Cape Hatteras lighthouse, the black-and-white striped Bodie Island lighthouse, the Ocracoke lighthouse, the brick Currituck lighthouse, the Cape Lookout lighthouse, and the Oak Island lighthouse. Many of these lighthouses have been decommissioned, and a few others have been demolished altogether.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the United States, and an icon of America's East Coast. The current lighthouse was built in 1870 and replaces an earlier one built in 1803. In 1999-2000, the lighthouse was moved 2,870 ft. (870 m) inland due to an eroding shoreline.

During World War II, the Cape Hattteras lighthouse became an vital element to national defense when German submarines, or U-Boats, patrolled the waters off the Outer Banks and sank Allied merchant and navy ships, turning the area into a shooting gallery known as the "Torpedo Junction". During the War, Coast Guard lookouts used the lighthouse to watch for U-Boats which surfaced at night.

The Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
The Cape Hatteras lighthouse. | Source

2. Kołobrzeg (Kolberg) Lighthouse

One of Poland's famous Baltic Coast lighthouses is the Kołobrzeg lighthouse, which is located in the city of Kołobrzeg.

The city of Kołobrzeg is a prime spot for signalling ships at sea due to its proximity to the Baltic Sea. According to some accounts, signal lights were used at the mouth of the Parsęta River (a Baltic tributary) in Kołobrzeg as far back as 1666!

The original Kołobrzeg lighthouse was built by the Germans in 1899 when the Polish coastline was part of Germany and the city was known as Kolberg. In 1909, another lighthouse was built at the site of the current lighthouse, which is also a 19th-century Prussian fortress!

At the end of World War II, most of the city of Kołobrzeg was levelled during fighting between German and Soviet forces as the German soldiers occupying the city attempted to hold out against the Red Army onslaught. The lighthouse was also destroyed, but it was rebuilt in 1948 by the Communist authorities.

The Kołobrzeg lighthouse is unusual in that it has a round, double-columned construction and is built on top of the old Prussian fortress. Also, the lighthouse's lantern is raised on a series of eight columns instead of being attached to the floor as is the case in most other lighthouses.

The Kołobrzeg (Kolberg) lighthouse in Kołobrzeg, Poland.
The Kołobrzeg (Kolberg) lighthouse in Kołobrzeg, Poland. | Source

3. Sumiyoshi Lighthouse

The Sumiyoshi lighthouse in Ogaki, Gifu Prefecture, Japan, is Japan's oldest lighthouse. Built during the end of the Kamakura period (1185-1333 AD), the Sumiyoshi lighthouse was one of a number of wooden lighthouses built in ancient Japan. It built as an offering and a votive light to the guardian deity of the nearby Sumiyoshi Shrine. It has stood watch over the ancient river port of Funa-machi and the Suimon River for many centuries.

Unlike most other lighthouses, the Sumiyoshi lighthouse is an inland lighthouse that acted as a votive and a beacon for ships entering the river port. It was also powered by oil from the rapeseed flower rather than other fuels of the time such as paraffin oil or petroleum!

In 1950, the original Sumiyoshi lighthouse was destroyed by Typhoon Jane but was rebuilt using stone, which gives it a greater ability to withstand the elements.

Ancient Japanese painting of the Sumiyoshi lighthouse.
Ancient Japanese painting of the Sumiyoshi lighthouse. | Source

4. San Juan del Salvamento Lighthouse

One of the great works of literature about a lighthouse is Jules Verne's 1905 novel Le Phare au Bout du Monde, or "The Lighthouse at the End of the World". The lighthouse in this novel is the San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse, which is located on Isla de los Estados, or Staten Island, off the southernmost Argentine province of Tierra del Fuego in the South Atlantic near Cape Horn.

The original San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse was built in 1884 and guided ships to the island's only safe cove for ships that wasn't battered by high waves or gigantic rocks jutting out of the sea. During the few years when there was a prison located on the island (1899-1902), the lighthouse also guided in ships bringing prisoners to their remote and lonely exile.

Unfortunately, the lighthouse was closed in 1902 with the prison (which was deemed unsuitable for habitation due to the extreme wind and weather conditions) and was eventually demolished. However, in 1998, a group of French Jules Verne enthusiasts working along with Argentine Navy reconstructed the Light at the End of the World. This lighthouse is a major tourist attraction on the island...for those who dare to make the ocean crossing by boat on the extremely ferocious waves, that is!

The original San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse, or "The Lighthouse at the End of the World" on Isla de los Estados, Argentina in 1898.
The original San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse, or "The Lighthouse at the End of the World" on Isla de los Estados, Argentina in 1898. | Source
The present-day San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse, reconstructed in 1998.
The present-day San Juan del Salvamento lighthouse, reconstructed in 1998. | Source

5. Amédée Lighthouse

One of the most famous lighthouses in the South Pacific is the Amédée lighthouse, or le Phare Amédée in French. This lighthouse is located on Amédée Island, near the city of Nouméa on the island of New Caledonia.

The Amédée lighthouse was built in 1862 in Paris and transported to New Caledonia via Le Havre. After it was erected in 1865, the Amédée lighthouse lit the way for ships bringing French convicts to the port at Fort-de-France (now Nouméa). It fulfilled this role until 1897, when the French government stopped using the island as a penal colony.

Today the Amédée lighthouse is New Caledonia's most famous tourist attraction and is said to be one of the tallest iron structures in the world. To this very day, it still guides ships safely to Nouméa!

The Amédée lighthouse located outside of Nouméa, New Caledonia.
The Amédée lighthouse located outside of Nouméa, New Caledonia. | Source

6. Cikoneng Lighthouse

Another of the world's tallest lighthouses is Indonesia's Cikoneng lighthouse, which is located on Tanjung Cikoneng in Banten province, west Java. Standing at 60 meters (190 ft) tall, it was a very tall lighthouse for its time. It is officially Indonesia's second oldest lighthouse.

The original Cikoneng lighthouse was built in 1806 by the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia. When the Krakatoa volcano erupted in 1883, the original Cikoneng lighthouse was completely annihilated by the tsunami waves triggered by the massive volcanic eruption, which were at least 30 meters (100 ft) high! The current Cikoneng lighthouse was built two years later.

Today, the Cikoneng lighthouse is one of a small number of Indonesian lighthouses that offer easy access to visitors. However, across the Sunda Strait from the Cikoneng lighthouse is the still-active Krakatoa volcano, which is rapidly reemerging from the ocean after it completely destroyed itself that day in 1883.

The Cikoneng lighthouse circa 1933.
The Cikoneng lighthouse circa 1933. | Source

7. Sambro Island Lighthouse

Canada's oldest lighthouse—as well as the oldest continually operating lighthouse in North America—is the Sambro Island lighthouse located at the entrance of Halifax Harbour near the town of Sambro in Halifax municipality, Nova Scotia, Canada.

For over 200 years, the Sambro Island lighthouse has beaconed ships into Halifax Harbour. It also has a massive amount of history attached to it. During the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812, American raiders fought some bloody naval battles with British warships and even captured a few off Sambro Island Light. In 1895, the Canadian-American adventurer Joshua Slocum set off on his solo sea journey around the world from Sambro Island. During both World Wars, German U-boats torpedoed a number of Allied merchant and naval vessels near the light station.

The Sambro Island lighthouse was built in 1758-59 during the Seven Year's War between Britain and France. From the late 1700s well into the 1870s, cannons were used as a foghorn to warn ships at sea of dense fog!

In 1906, the lighthouse was expanded by two stories and red and white stripes were added two years later to make the lighthouse visible against blowing snow.

In 1988, the Sambro Island lighthouse was fully automated, and Sambro Island is now uninhabited. However, Sambro Island Light does receive occasional tourists who want to explore over 250 years of history at the site!

The Sambro Island Lighthouse.
The Sambro Island Lighthouse. | Source

8. Cape Race Lighthouse

Another famous lighthouse in Canada is the Cape Race Lighthouse, which is located on the southeastern tip of Newfoundland.

The Cape Race Light Station has been in existence since 1856 and has been a guiding light for ships from Europe approaching the Newfoundland coastline ever since. After all, Cape Race was the first land point they reached in North America. The original Cape Race lighthouse was built in 1856 but was replaced by the current lighthouse in 1907. That original checkered lighthouse can now be found in front of the Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.

The Cape Race Marconi Station, which was located at the light station site, is most famous for receiving the Titanic SOS message via wireless radio on that fateful day in April 1912. Throughout the next few hours, Cape Race sent numerous radio messages to any vessels that could race to the site of the Titanic and help save survivors and relayed news to the Canadian and US mainlands.

Up to the present day, Cape Race has been an important communications center. The Cape Race Telegraph Station was an important telegraph and, later, wireless center. It was the main telegraph link between St. Johns and New York City, and when the first trans-Atlantic cables were laid in the 1860s, it became an important communications link between North America and Europe when the lines were laid from Newfoundland to Ireland.

In 1904, the relatively new technology of wireless radio was utilized by Cape Race when the Cape Race Marconi Station was built. This station communicated with offshore ships via wireless radio until 1965, when it was retired. Today a replica of the station exists as a museum for visitors to the Cape Race Light Station.

The Cape Race Light Station still guides ships along the Newfoundland coast to this very day and still has an important role to play in trans-Atlantic navigation. Also, the public can now learn more about the fascinating history behind this lighthouse, as well as the history of the telegraph and wireless communication itself.

The Cape Race Light Station.
The Cape Race Light Station. | Source

9. Slettnes Lighthouse

The world's northernmost lighthouse is the Slettnes lighthouse, which is located in the Slettnes Nature Reserve near the village of Gamvik in Finnmark country, Norway. The lighthouse is located on the Arctic Ocean (Barents Sea) near the borders of both Finland and Russia.

The first lighthouse was built in 1905 but was destroyed by retreating German forces along with the rest of light station per Hitler's Scorched Earth policy in 1944 when Soviet forces went on the offensive against the Nazis in northeast Norway.

Slettnes Lighthouse was rebuilt after the war and went back into operation in 1948. To this day it is still manned and active, guiding ships through the Arctic waters.

Surrounding the lighthouse is the Slettnes Nature Reserve and bird observatory, where visitors can see the area's many birds and take in the beautiful scenery around the lighthouse!

The Slettnes lighthouse.
The Slettnes lighthouse. | Source

10. Cape Guardafui Lighthouse

In Somalia, there are many old lighthouses that were used to direct ships into Somalia's many port cities. In the midst of the wars and anarchy that have ravaged the nation since 1991, the majority of these lighthouses (excluding the lighthouses of the autonomous republic of Somaliland, most of which are operational at the time of this writing) are now abandoned.

One of the most noteworthy is the Ra's Asir—or Cape Guardafui lighthouse. This lighthouse is located at the extreme tip of the Horn of Africa in the autonomous region of Puntland. This point is Africa's most easterly point and is also the point where the Gulf of Aden meets the Indian Ocean. The Cape Guardafui lighthouse was built in the early 20th century by the Italian authorities.

In May 1941, the capture of this lighthouse and the nearby village of Tuhom from the Italians was the objective of a British commando raid (conducted with assistance from the Royal Indian Navy) during their early days in World War II when British forces were trying to capture the area from the Italians to facilitate safe passage through the Gulf. The mission was a success for the British Commandos, who had just been formed less than a year earlier.

This lighthouse was featured on a number of postage stamps from Italian Somaliland issued during 1932–34.

The Cape Guardafui lighthouse remained in operation throughout the 20th century but is now abandoned.

The Cape Guardafui (Ra's Asir) Lighthouse circa 1987.
The Cape Guardafui (Ra's Asir) Lighthouse circa 1987. | Source

Lighthouses are structures that have been around in some form or another for many millennia. As times and technologies change, lighthouses will most certainly adapt with them. Also, most of the lighthouses above will most certainly be around for visitors to enjoy for many more years to come....just as long as there is interest in them. They will be here to share their history, survive the elements, and continue their primary function: To guide ships to safe passage and docking.

Thank you for your visit to this article. Hopefully you've enjoyed this tour of some of the famous lighthouses from around the world!

Questions & Answers

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      • Linda Robinson60 profile image

        Linda Robinson 

        3 years ago from Cicero, New York

        I also have two about the area of Sodus Bay in New York State and Oswego New York State as well with photos of the two lighthouses as part of the hub if you are interested Fata, my husband, Bill the photographer and I love them too and the fascinating stories and history behind them. Linda

      • profile image

        Fata Lynch 

        3 years ago

        Love and collect light houses and I just loved the 4 that I was able to visit in the Outer Banks NC

      • Linda Robinson60 profile image

        Linda Robinson 

        3 years ago from Cicero, New York

        Just wanted to tell you how much I loved reading your hub, extremely interesting and informative, I look forward to reading all of yours. Please take a look at mine too, when you have the time. Thank you, Linda

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        4 years ago from USA

        Thank you so much for reading this hub Toytasting, and you are most welcome! It's been an immense pleasure writing this hub!

      • Toytasting profile image

        Toy Tasting 

        4 years ago from Mumbai

        It was great to know so much about the lighthouses. Thanks for sharing the information. :)

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        4 years ago from USA

        Thank you for the comment and the suggestion Andrea. That is a very old and important lighthouse that deserves a special place in lighthouse history! The background history behind the Lighthouse of Genoa is fascinating, and it's remarkable how it has stood the test of time and continues to guide ships to safe harbor up to this very day.

      • profile image

        andrea 

        4 years ago

        Great page. I love the light houses , you shoud know the lighthouse of my birth city Genoa, it is a little bit older :) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lighthouse_of_Genoa

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        Thank you IslandBites!

      • IslandBites profile image

        IslandBites 

        5 years ago from Puerto Rico

        Really nice hub. Very interesting.

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        You are most welcome light20! I'm glad you found this hub to be informative and as for the lighthouse of Alexandria, I'll have to look some more into it.;-)

      • light20 profile image

        Lanao G 

        5 years ago from Ozamiz City, Philippines

        beautiful hub! and your list of lighthouses....very informative...like this kind of stuff...honestly, i was expecting to see lighthouse of alexandria...but nevertheless...Great Hub!!!

        Thank you for sharing this!

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        Thank you Tastiger04! Glad you enjoyed it! And yes, lighthouses are awesome!

      • tastiger04 profile image

        tastiger04 

        5 years ago

        Awesome page, I love lighthouses!

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        Glad you enjoyed your visit iguide, and thanks for the comment! I couldn't agree more. It's nice to sit near a lighthouse, take in the sea, sun, and surf, and just relax for a little while. Or to visit one in the early hours of the morning when the sun is rising in the horizon and the day is just beginning.

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        Thanks for the feedback jdw! There are defnitely some amazing lighthouses around the Great Lakes that have lots of history surrounding them. And I couldn't agree more. It's always soothing to see the light of a lighthouse (or a river beacon, etc.) flashing in the near distance during the middle of the night. Especially a stormy or a foggy one....

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        That one is a very beautiful lighthouse, and one of the earliest concrete lighthouses that has stood the test of time well. Very fascinating. Thanks for recommending that!

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        I've always thought that lighthouses - and the history behind them - are fascinating too. Ever since I was a boy and made my first visit to the lighthouses of the Outer Banks in NC.

      • iguidenetwork profile image

        iguidenetwork 

        5 years ago from Austin, TX

        Very interesting hub. Whenever I visit a lighthouse, I just linger and relax, as well as to watch the blue sea... I like the peace there. Thanks for posting! :)

      • jdw7979 profile image

        John David 

        5 years ago from Middle America

        Lighthouses are some of the most beautiful land marks in this world. Not only serving a very important purpose, especially back in history, but also a settling reminder that you are near the peace and tranquility of a coastline. I admire the Great Lakes and their lighthouses the most. True gems..

        Great Hub!!

      • jamaicavacations profile image

        Jamaica Customised Vacation and Tours 

        5 years ago from Montego Bay, Jamaica

        Check out Negril Lighthouse in Jamaica.

      • creativeaqua profile image

        Yorja Rahmani 

        5 years ago from India

        Interesting. Since I live in plains, far from the ocean, lighthouses have always intrigued me.

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        5 years ago from USA

        @Mel: Thank you for the feedback! Lighthouses do have some fascinating history, and they can tell us tales of seafaring days gone by. I've heard a lot about the Point Loma lighthouse. It sounds like a fascinating lighthouse, and one that occupies a special place in CA history!

      • Mel Carriere profile image

        Mel Carriere 

        5 years ago from San Diego California

        Fascinating hub. Out here in San Diego we have a very picturesque lighthouse at the end of Point Loma at Cabrillo National Monument. Naturally because I live here I am partial to it, but I find all of your lighthouses fascinating. Interesting what they can tell us about history, isn't it?

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        6 years ago from USA

        Keep an eye on this hub novascotiamiss. I just might add Peggy's Cove at a later date!;-)

      • novascotiamiss profile image

        Novascotiamiss 

        6 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

        truefaith 7: Of course I understand that you can't mention every single lighthouse there is. Just thought I mention Peggy's Cove as it is far more famous than Sambro Island.

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        6 years ago from USA

        Thank you dhannyya!

      • dhannyya profile image

        dhannyya 

        6 years ago

        wonderful information..voted up

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        6 years ago from USA

        Thanks for the comment novascotiamiss, and for bringing Peggy's Cove to my attention. I read that Wikipedia entry and will see if I can fit it in somehow! There's a lot of lighthouses (esp. in the US and Canada) I didn't mention in the list and I wish I could mention as many as possible. It's a job easier said than done though!:-S

      • novascotiamiss profile image

        Novascotiamiss 

        6 years ago from Nova Scotia, Canada

        Awesome hub. I love lighthouses but am a bit disappointed that Peggy's Cove was not mentioned. It's one of the most photographed spots in the whole of North America and until recently even served as a location for a tiny post office. Check it out:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggys_Cove,_Nova_Sco...

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        6 years ago from USA

        Thank you Ruth! Glad you enjoyed the hub and hope your daughter enjoys it too!

      • ruthclark3 profile image

        Ruth Clark 

        6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

        Awesome hub! Very interesting and engaging. My daughter collects figurines of lighthouses and books about them. I'll have to show her this hub. Well written.

      • truefaith7 profile imageAUTHOR

        truefaith7 

        6 years ago from USA

        Thank for the feedback Debbie, and glad you enjoyed the hub! Lighthouse collecting is a fun hobby and I wouldn't mind figurines of some of the lighthouses in this hub that's for sure!

      • Deborah Brooks profile image

        Deborah Brooks Langford 

        6 years ago from Brownsville,TX

        wow love this.. I collect lighthouses. I have them all over the house.. thanks for sharing

        Debbie

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