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Cape Henry Lighthouse, Virginia Beach
(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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Reviews
TripAdvisor
  • Took our 10 and 15 year old boys to see the lighthouse. They walked all the way up and saw the beach from the top of the lighthouse. The history was informative and the gift shop had some nice souveni...  more »
  • Wonderful visit once you cleared security. The lighthouse is on a active military base. The military staff are professional and courteous. The lighthouse claim to be the first built in the US. Very en...  more »
  • Inside a Military base had to have car searched and our IDENTITY checked I rather enjoyed it. Lighthouse was awesome easy walk up and history great views. 
Google
  • Even though this is on a military base civilians are still welcomed on after a car search to view lighthouse. The grounds are beautiful. There are at least 102 steps in the lighthouse and several to get up to the entrance. The staff is friendly and helpful. They even have a person on site to share cool historical facts. Great for all ages.
  • 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.
  • This is a very cool place not many people visit when they are in Virginia Beach. You should be aware that it is located in a military base and for that reason there are two checkpoints to enter this area. You will be required to provide your driver's license, registration and proof of insurance of your car. There is a fee to climb the lighthouse. Fort Story lighthouse is apparently not operational. Access to this Lighthouse is not allowed. I am not sure if this is a pet friendly area but I doubt it taking into consideration the security points and all the restrictions to visit this area. Overall the place is fantastic and it is completely recommended when you are in Virginia Beach.
  • 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.
  • 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.