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Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach

Categories: Historic Sites, Landmarks, Tourist Spots
Inspirock Rating:
4.2/5 based on 850+ reviews on the web
The Cape Henry Lighthouse is a lighthouse at Cape Henry, the landform marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay. The location has long been important for the large amount of ocean-going shipping traffic for the harbors, its rivers, and shipping headed to ports on the bay. The original lighthouse was the first authorized by the U.S. government, dating from 1792. It was also the first federal construction project under the Constitution, for an original contract amount of $15,200 (an additional $2,500 was required to finish the lighthouse). A second lighthouse was built and completed in 1881 a short distance away after concern arose about the stability of the first. Both towers of the light station were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970.HistoryThe first work of the new U.S. Federal government, the first Cape Henry lighthouse was built of Aquia and Rappahannock sandstone by John McComb, Jr. and was completed in October, 1792. McComb was one of the architects involved in the construction of New York City Hall and would design other lighthouses. The lighthouse's design was based on the 1767 Cape Henlopen Light. The lighthouse was damaged by Confederate forces during the American Civil War, but was repaired by Union forces in 1863, who depended on the light for navigation. In the 1870s, concerns about the condition and safety of the old Lighthouse at Cape Henry following a lightning strike that caused large cracks in the structure led to the construction of a new, taller, lighthouse at Cape Henry (pictured to the right) in 1881, which stands 350 feet to the northeast of the original tower. The old tower remained standing, used as a daymark and as a basis for triangulation. The lighthouse was fully automated in 1983 and remains in use today.
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  • If you donate $5 toward the restoration of the old lighthouse you get to fill your bucket with sand and apply to the foundation. The visit was an nice addition to our vacation experience. 
  • Took a ride to do something different than the tourist beach. It is in a military base so bring your ID and car insurance certificate if you have a rental. Nice view from the top. drove to State park ...  read more »
  • My husband and I visited during a recent vacation to Virginia Beach. First of all, we were unaware that the lighthouse is on the site of a military base, so we had to get out of our vehicle, have our ...  read more »
  • This is a great lighthouse to climb, especially when it is overcast so as to not be blistering hot. This visit for me was actually my second visit, I climbed it about 4 years ago, and I was happy to climb again.
  • Interesting site to visit with a great historic value. The biggest hassle is getting through base security though, so no guns or other contraband in your car. My kid really enjoyed walking to the top and the view. The visitor center staff is super helpful and there was a surprising amount of items available for reasonable prices. Just remember to be ready for the inspection on your way onto the base.
  • Great people running the lighthouse. Great views and a cool lighthouse. The newer lighthouse is undergoing renovations currently. Everyone should note that the lighthouses are on the grounds of Fort Story. You will need to go through a military checkpoint and search to get on base. Plan extra time for the security process. Well worth the wait though.
  • We biked here from our hotel, which was about a 6.5 mile ride. Thankfully you can avoid most of the busy roads by staying on side streets. When we got to Fort Story, they checked our IDs as we were expecting. However, if you bike there, you must have a helmet to ride your bike on the base, otherwise, you have to walk it. It was a cooler, rainy morning so we thought we'd be okay (we knew the lighthouse closed when the heat index was high) but when we got there, it was closed. They told us we could still go up and in the first floor for $5. We paid and climbed the stairs to the base of the lighthouse, but I have to say after riding there and paying, it was pretty disappointing without being able to go up.
  • Completely AWESOME! Staff was nice and getting the history from the girls at the lighthouse was great. I loves hearing the history and facts. The views were great and the climb was not too bad. 190 steps from the shop to the top!!
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