Lighthouses of Lake Erie | 10 Best

cleveland east lighthouse
cleveland east lighthouse

What Makes Lake Erie’s Lighthouses so Special?

The lighthouses of Lake Erie are icons of the region, standing tall and proud as beacons of safety for ships navigating the lake’s waters. Built-in the 19th and early 20th centuries, these lighthouses have weathered countless storms and guided mariners for generations. What makes them so special?

Each lighthouse has its own unique story and design. From their remote island locations to their striking architecture, these historic landmarks are a sight to see. Many still use their original Fresnel lenses to cast a brilliant glow visible for miles. And they offer unbeatable views of one of the world’s most amazing freshwater resources. A lot of the lighthouses across Lake Erie are now historical monuments. Some are even owned by the State Parks.

Beyond their maritime heritage, Lake Erie’s lighthouses have become cherished landmarks for locals and tourists alike. They’re perfect destinations for day trips, hiking, sightseeing, and disconnecting from the hustle of modern life. Let’s explore 10 of the most incredible lighthouses gracing the shores and islands of Lake Erie.

Top 10 Lighthouses of Lake Erie

1. Marblehead Lighthouse

marblehead lighthouse
  • Oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes (since 1822)
  • Scenic location on the Marblehead Peninsula in northern Ohio
  • 65 feet tall with a striking stone tower and dwelling
  • Original Fresnel lens still used, visible up to 19 miles away

2. South Bass Island Lighthouse

south bass island lighthouse
  • Sits on South Bass Island in the Lake Erie Islands chain
  • 60 feet tall with a black iron tower and white dwelling
  • Built-in 1897, automated in 1962
  • Surrounded by beautiful parks and vineyards

3. West Sister Island Lighthouse

west sister island lighthouse
  • A remote location on tiny West Sister Island, only accessible by boat
  • 53 feet tall with a tapered square tower made of limestone
  • Originally built in 1848, the current tower dates to 1858
  • Scenic hiking trails and wildlife viewing on the island

4. Presque Isle Lighthouse

presque isle lighthouse
  • In operation since 1873 at Presque Isle State Park in Erie, PA
  • 57 feet tall with a hexagonal wooden tower
  • Original 3rd order Fresnel lens still in use
  • Climb up for panoramic views of Lake Erie

5. Ashtabula Harbor Lighthouse

ashtabula lighthouse
  • Located at the entrance to the Ashtabula River in northeast Ohio
  • Twin 48-foot towers built in 1905 of steel and cast iron
  • Recently renovated with all-new masonry and metalwork
  • See it on a hike through Walnut Beach Park

6. Port Clinton Lighthouse

port clinton lighthouse
  • Decommissioned lighthouse located in Port Clinton, Ohio
  • 60 feet tall with octagonal sandstone tower
  • Operating between 1833-1952, now a museum
  • Sweeping lake views and nearby beaches

7. Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse

fairport harbor lighthouse
  • Historic lighthouse marking the entrance to Ohio’s Fairport Harbor
  • 42-foot tower with a unique pyramidal shape
  • Built-in 1925, constructed of steel plates and cast iron
  • Take a stroll along lakefront walkways to see it up close

8. Gibraltar Island Lighthouse

gibralter lighthouse
  • Sits on remote Gibraltar Island, part of the Put-in-Bay island chain
  • Square limestone tower dating back to 1833
  • Recently restored and open for tours during summer
  • Peaceful nature trails and sandy beaches on the island

9. Cleveland East Pierhead Lighthouse

cleveland east lighthouse
  • One of Cleveland’s iconic lakefront landmarks
  • Twin square towers built in 1911 of reinforced concrete
  • Eye-catching green color with unique arched windows
  • Best seen on a drive or walk along Lakeshore Blvd

10. Buffalo Main Lighthouse

buffalo harbor lighthouse
  • Historic lighthouse still in operation guarding Buffalo Harbor
  • Stone Tower was constructed in 1833 and still uses the original lens
  • 67 feet tall with a dwelling attached
  • Picturesque lakefront location with city skyline views

Tips for Visiting the Lighthouses of Lake Erie

Planning is key for touring and photographing Lake Erie’s incredible collection of historic lighthouses. Some lighthouses cannot be accessed from land. You will need a boat to view some of the lighthouses up close. Some fishing guides on Lake Erie offer boat tours. These boat tours often frequent the lighthouses mentioned above.

  • Many lighthouses are only open for tours on summer weekends, so check schedules
  • Pack a picnic or snacks to enjoy the views during your lighthouse visit
  • Use bug spray, as islands can have swarms of biting flies in warm months
  • Bring binoculars to better spot wildlife like birds and deer
  • Wear sturdy shoes if planning any hiking around lighthouses
  • Check weather and lake conditions before boating to island lighthouses
  • Snap plenty of photos to commemorate your Great Lakes lighthouse adventure!

Nothing beats the experience of seeing these majestic beacons in person. Put some of Lake Erie’s top lighthouses on your summer travels bucket list!