Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach

The Cape Henry Lighthouse is a lighthouse at Cape Henry, the landform marking the southern entrance to Chesapeake Bay in the U.S. state of Virginia. 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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Cape Henry Lighthouse Reviews
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  • 8.00 per person to climb the lighthouse, but so worth it! Great views. Like how the old and new lighthouse can be captured in one picture.  more »
  • I visited the Cape Henry Lighthouse and was surprised by the enormous amount of history. The gift shop has all sorts of items relating to the Lighthouse and the historical markers and placards are eas...  more »
  • Visited on my last day in Virginia Beach. Glad I did. Really cool spot and the views from the top of the lighthouse are worth the climb! Be advised this is a naval base. Be prepared with vehicle regis...  more »
  • It is a bit expensive, $9 for AAA members, but they need it to restore the dunes. And I almost didn't get on base because my insurance card expired 13 days ago. Thank God for smart phones, got the card sent to me. Very nice and respectful Marine, though. He was doing his job well.
  • The website will fail to tell you it's on an active military base, which I have zero problem with as I support our military 100%. The reason I give it a 1 star is because of them simply failing to tell you important information when purchasing tickets online. We drove 30 minutes from our hotel to see the lighthouse after buying tickets online and being denied because Pennsylvania takes forever to send you an updated registration card. Our current registration card was out 4 days, yet every other document was spot on as asked for and we were still denied. Again I don't knock the military for doing their job as I'm happy for that it's the lack of information given upon purchasing tickets. We did not expect any of this and it's lucky we had any of the info asked for as many people on vacation tend to leave stuff securely in their room.
  • A nice Virginia piece of history to experience. And a narrow old spiral stair well lol. Yeah I got a little dizzy.
  • So not worth it. This visit cost us $40.00 for our family of six and took us all of ten minutes. It's basically climb an enclosed spiral staircase (191 steps) to the top, take a look, come back down. The lighthouse is on a small bluff encircled by trees, so there really aren't even any grounds to walk to extend your visit. There are a few benches circling the lighthouse and a very limited view of the water if you try hard enough to see it. There's also a guy set up outside the lighthouse with a table of "artifacts" (basically a few rocks, a fossil shell, and some photos). It took us longer to get on base (upwards of thirty minutes due to security checks) than to see the lighthouse. The beach is closed to civilians. Basically, this trip was a bummer.
  • DON'T FORGET YOUR PROOF OF INSURANCE! They will not let you on the base without it, as well as license and registration. I was pretty surprised by this, because to get on base where I live, I've only needed my license.

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With over 10,000 hotel rooms, Virginia Beach offers comfortable and affordable accommodations for every type of traveler. Even with that many places to choose from, this popular resort area does get quite crowded during the height of the tourist season, so it is essential to reserve your lodgings well in advance. You can stay just steps from the Atlantic by booking your room at one of the city's luxury resort hotels. To stay near the water for less, consider a budget-friendly inn with an ocean view.
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