For this post, I wanted to focus on my four favorite family friendly, and not to mention photographic, lighthouses in Washington.
Lime Kiln; San Juan Island, WA.
Built in 1919 by the US Coast Guard, Lime Kiln Lighthouse is on the northwest point of San Juan Island, WA. The lighthouse gets its name from the lime kilns located nearby, where the stone was fired into lime, and can still be explored by trail. If you feel adventurous, from the park you can hike about a quarter mile above the lighthouse to see the once active kilns. The park has several areas to picnic and whale watch from, either in the trees or on the rocks. The volunteers at the lighthouse can fill you in on all the latest sightings of the orca families. The park even has limited WiFi where, armed with a smartphone, you can tune into the live broadcast of the sounds of the sea and the pods of orcas that commute the waters. There is a lot to love about this lighthouse, but for me what I love is how it looks at dusk. As a photographer, if you are looking to capture that beam of streaking light out of the lens of a lighthouse; Lime Kiln doesn’t disappoint.
Cattle Point; San Juan Island, WA.
On the southern tip of the island is Cattle Point Lighthouse, built by the US Navy in 1921. It is not the most picturesque of light houses, as it is simply a concrete octaval light beacon, but the view you have from its bluff is fantastic. Access to the lighthouse is only available by foot through the sandy beach trail. I love this lighthouse because it isn’t a typical picturesque, destination lighthouse. It is more of an off-the-beaten-path kind of adventure. There is a small, and easily walkable, path with golden waist-high straw grass that lines the sandy trail up to the lighthouse’s bluff. Once up there, seagulls will greet your arrival along with a warm summer’s windy sea air. A large flat area at the top allows for a great picnicking spot, with a remarkable view point to watch for whales.
Admiralty Head Lighthouse; Whidbey Island, WA.
If you are like me, and cross Whidbey Island often to hop the Coupville ferry, then you have probably gone by Fort Casey State Park more times than you can count. Often overlooked by ferry commuters, within the park is a bright white and stout looking Admiralty Head Lighthouse. Fort Casey instantly will gain ‘cool-points’ by kiddos; not because of the the lighthouse alone, but because of the WWII bunkers and gun emplacements that will call for adventuring. Overlooking Admiralty Inlet, this stout looking version of the Admiralty Head Lighthouse was opened in 1903 with extra thick walls to take the abuse from the concussion of the gun emplacements. Beyond all of its history, and its instant photo qualities, the thing I love most about this lighthouse is its epic view of the sound. It practically points due west. Any family looking to catch a killer sunset, say after a day of exploring historic sites, can wait for dusk from the front of the lighthouse. As a photographer, I love watching the sun set across the arches and its turn of the century architectural features. It is as if this lighthouse salutes the last rays of light from the day, before it starts its watch at dusk for the ships and sailors still at sea.
North Head Lighthouse (Cape Disappointment); Illwaco, WA.
Growing up, I always called this “my lighthouse.” My family would camp almost every summer at Cape Disappointment; formerly known as Fort Canby, which is how I still remember it. The North Head Lighthouse is a short drive up from the campsites of Cape Disappointment State Park. The view from that bluff, with that lighthouse, is perhaps one of the most memorable I have from my childhood. This once red and white lighthouse is easily accessed; families young and old can park near the keeper’s housing area to walk the small, mostly flat trail to the bluff. Once there, a 180* sweeping view awaits, where you can see miles of coast on either side. What I love about this lighthouse is its instant iconic and photographic nature; but most of all I love its character. I always saw this lighthouse as an old salty sailor, with a red Jacques Cousteau cap, who sits diligently every day and every night with his eyes on the horizon. It sits on one of the windiest points in the United States. Pushing 118 years old, it has stood firm agains 100mph winds. Although, weather has taken its toll on this old man. It has been in repair for the last several years, and as I write this, it’s due to reopen with a new coat of black and white paint.
Along all the Washington coastline, this was one of my favorite places to camp as a kid. Hiking paths from the lighthouse’s bluff to the beaches below, make just about any kid feel like an adventurer, exploring uncharted trails. Miles of beach lends itself well for family beachcombing or catching winds for sailing a kite.