Why are the Olympic Peninsula Lighthouses So Special?
Long before boats were equipped with modern technology, captains navigating unfamiliar waters had no choice but to rely on maps, landmarks, and lighthouses to make it safely into a harbor. More than 18 lighthouses dot the Washington coastline, 8 of which are right here on the Olympic Peninsula. Today, these historic structures, built by hand and once staffed by men who kept the light burning no matter the weather, are still useful as well as intriguing buildings to explore. (They are also the subject of many striking photographs.)
Each lighthouse, Point Wilson, Marrowstone Point, New Dungeness, Ediz Hook, Slip Point, Cape Flattery, Destruction Island, and finally Grays Harbor, has its own unique history, purpose, and majesty as it helps guide mariners to various destinations along the coast. Find out more about Olympic Peninsula lighthouses and decide which ones you’d like to visit during your stay at the George Washington Inn.
New Dungeness Lighthouse
The New Dungeness Lighthouse is just a few miles from the George Washington Inn. Located at the tip of the 5.5-mile-long Dungeness Spit, this lighthouse is known as the first U.S. beacon completed on the Strait of Juan de Fuca and one of the oldest in the Northwest. It has operated continuously since Dec. 14, 1857, when a lard oil lamp was lit for the first time. The only way to reach the lighthouse is either by boat or by hiking the 5.5-mile sand spit, which is also a national wildlife refuge and home to 250 species of birds, 41 species of land mammals and eight species of marine mammals. Be sure to have your camera ready to capture incredible views of the harbor and the wildlife.
Ediz Hook Lighthouse
The Ediz Hook Lighthouse overlooks Port Angeles Harbor, the Northwest’s deepest harbor. Records going back to the mid-1800s report that the first “light” in that location was actually driftwood that burned on a tripod. Since then, two lighthouses have been constructed on that point including one ordered by President Lincoln in 1865. In 1908, the lighthouse was sold, moved and turned into a private residence. Currently, a modern beacon located on the control tower at a Coast Guard Air Station established near the end of Ediz Hook, acts as the navigational light. There is an effort to build a replica lighthouse at the old location.
Port Wilson Lighthouse
Point Wilson Lighthouse is located in Port Townsend and is about an hour’s drive from the George Washington Inn in Port Angeles. Built in 1913, this lighthouse, with its octagonal tower, was only recently opened to the public for tours. The existing stone structure with a red roof took the place of the first light that was established on this point in 1879 (which was a simple light on top of the light keeper’s house.). Point Wilson is an active lighthouse, guiding vessels that enter Admiralty Inlet, a body of water that connects the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Puget Sound. Like the Olympic Peninsula lighthouses, most lights throughout the U.S. have been transformed into electric or solar-powered beacons. This allows them to continue to guide mariners as they have for generations even though most are no longer staffed. Regardless, they evoke nostalgia among many visitors, wonder in children, and are an important part of our history. For more information on these and other Olympic Peninsula lighthouses, visit Lighthouse Friends’ website.
Start Planning Your Visit
The George Washington Inn looks forward to welcoming you to the Pacific Northwest. Innkeepers Dan and Janet Abbott are happy to assist you in planning out a day trip to explore the region’s lighthouses, as well as the Olympic National Park, and other exciting attractions. Feel free to download our complimentary Vacation Guide to view other things to do and see in the region as well as get details on accommodations and amenities offered at our inn. Photo Credit: twphotos / Thinkstock