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“The first lighthouse built by the United States”

Cape Henry Lighthouse
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Owner description: Preservation Virginia acquired the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1930 when Congress deeded the house and 1.77 Acres of land to the organization in order to preserve it and make it accessible to the public. Over the years lighthouse and its surroundings have been restored including repairing the lantern after damage from Hurricane Barbara in 1953, repairing the damaged original Aquia sandstone and restoring the surrounding dunes. Today, visitors to the Cape Henry Lighthouse can climb to the top of the tower to enjoy spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.
Useful Information: Activities for young children, Activities for older children, Stairs / elevator
Florence, Kentucky
Level Contributor
77 reviews
32 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 38 helpful votes
“The first lighthouse built by the United States”
Reviewed July 3, 2013

We see them in so many movies, and have always wondered what they are like inside...Well, now we know...If you get a chance to tour this lighthouse, you should take it...This lighthouse was commissioned by George Washington!...Be sure to have all of your identification in order, because this lighthouse is located on a military base...They did a quick but thorough search of our vehicle, then they let us in...The paper they give you after the inspection is a terrific souvenir. :)

Visited November 2012
Thank Kat H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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940 reviews from our community

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Chesterfield, Virginia
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
“stephanie m”
Reviewed July 1, 2013

we walk the 191 steps to the top. got great pictures from the top. before u get there the army search your car. i probally won't go back. thats one of them one time thing

Visited June 2013
Thank stephanie m
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pittsburgh, PA
Level Contributor
85 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 68 helpful votes
“Worth the visit to learn the history of the area and our country”
Reviewed July 1, 2013

I took my adult daughter and 7 yr. old grandson to Virginia Beach for their first visit to this area. The purpose of our visit to the Cape Henry Lighthouse was to include a little bit of culture and learning into our vacation visit. The visit was a big hit, both with Mom and Grandson. Actually, more than I would have thought!

Part of the "thrill" for the 7 yr. old was being stopped at the entrance checkpoint by Military Police. We already knew we were going to be subject to this stop, so both adults over 18 had their "official government issued picture ID" (Driver's licenses) in hand. Plus the registration and insurance card for the vehicle.

We were asked to get out of the vehicle, leaving all four doors open, to flip down the sun visors, open the glove compartment and leave it open, and to pop the trunk and the hood.

We complied and stood by and watched as 3 officers inspected under the hood, in the trunk, and under the hood. Grandson was wide-eyed during this, as I explained this is a military base that protects all the people of the United States, that these are special policemen, doing their job to make sure no "bad guys" get onto the military base. I explained to him that it is a privilege for us to be able to visit this special place. It made quite an impression on him!

And you know what? It IS a privilege to visit this place. The original lighthouse was one of the first structures ordered to be built by the newly formed United States of America after the Revolution from Britain. Think about that - it was a brand new country, they did not have a lot of money in the Federal coffers, but they felt it was very, very important to build this Lighthouse at the entrance to the Chesapeake Bay.

After our inspection we proceeded on to the Lighthouses. There are two of them. The "old" lighthouse, which is the original, made of brick and constructed in the late 1700s. This is the one you can go into and walk up 190-some steps to the top. It is a fantastic view of the area from up there.

Located very close to the old lighthouse is the "new" Cape Henry Lighthouse, made of cast iron (of all things) and built in the late 1800s. This lighthouse is still in use, operated by the Coast Guard, and is NOT open to the public.
The lighthouse is painted in a unique black and white design - a huge replica of which can be seen on Atlantic Ave. up around 33rd. street.

So daughter and grandson went to climb those steps to the top of the lighthouse, of course. Despite the fact that it was 95 degrees outside. (I had read cautions that on extremely hot days, access to the top may be closed due to temperatures reaching 110 degrees inside the lighthouse.)

Grandma, having already done this years before, chose to wait in the small but air-conditioned gift shop/entrance ticket building. This is a lovely little shop with a WONDERFUL selection of books about the area, lighthouses in general, and many other related topics.

I bought a book about the history of the Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area ($26.95) and a "Travel Journal" for children where they can fill in the pages about their vacation adventures ($16.95). Please remember when you are in these gift shops that you are supporting the ability to keep the facility open to the public. So your purchase actually contributes to the availability for the public to visit these historic places.

Very fit daughter and grandson returned from their trek to the top of the lighthouse looking flushed and happy, and sooner than I would have expected. I asked "What, did you run up those steps?" They said "No!" I asked "Did you go the whole way to the top, where you have to climb up the ladder to see where the light was lit?" They said, "Yes!" I asked "Was it hot up there?" and they both, in unison, said "YES!"

So they cooled down in the air-conditioned gift shop, and grandson spotted a shark's tooth necklace with the shark's tooth encased in acrylic that he wanted and daughter found a book about lighthouses that she wanted. Then we departed.

Grandson wrote in the journal about George Washington "building the lighthouse" and drew a good rendering of both lighthouses. Daughter complained a bit about her thighs hurting the next morning!

Visited July 2013
1 Thank BellaPittsburgh94
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Norwood, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
13 reviews
9 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Informative Staff & Well-Maintained Facilities”
Reviewed June 29, 2013

Hubby went to the lighthouse on his own one afternoon. He notes that it is on a military base, so you need to be prepared to stop at a check point; provide dr. license, car registration, proof of insurance, or if a rental car, the rental agreement. You'll also have to open all car doors, hood, and trunk before being allowed admittance. Lighthouse, itself was very cool with great views, kid-friendly items and activities, and actually 2 lighthouses--the old one you can go up, and the new one that is still actively in service and not accessible. Staff and military personnel were very helpful and accommodating.

Visited June 2013
Thank Holly B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Williamsburg, Virginia
Level Contributor
190 reviews
30 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
“Awesome view of both Atlantic Ocean & Chesapeake Bay”
Reviewed June 24, 2013

This was a great decision to visit. WARNING! It is on Ft. Story, a military base. You WILL need picture ID for 16 and over, current registration, & proof of insurance -- no exceptions. Your car will be searched also. If you are military or ex-military, it is easier, especially if you have ID (Virginia issues a 'Veteran's ID that is very handy & gets you discounts everywhere). There is also a military discount for access to the lighthouse. Total of 191 steps to the top, but worth it. Go early in the day. The lighthouse is shutdown if the inside temperature reaches 110 F. This was the first lighthouse built in the US. There is also a little gift shop at the base.

Visited June 2013
1 Thank Chuck F
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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