There's something about lighthouses. Maybe it's the hypnotic effect of the ocean, but the beaconed towers seem to capture people's fancy and sense of romance. A number of lighthouses open their doors to travelers; accommodations range from upscale bed and breakfasts with gourmet meals to super-cheap hostel bunk beds. For travelers who want to try this unique type of lodging, planning ahead is key. There is always a heavy demand for vacancies. Most locations take reservations up to a year in advance, and sometimes last-minute planners can take advantage of cancellations.
East Brother Light Station
Located less than an hour from San Francisco, the East Brother Light Station feels a world away. The Light Station, which operates as a four-room bed and breakfast, is accessible only by boat. Guests dine on multi-course gourmet dinners complemented by wine and breakfasts that often feature the Lighthouse French Toast Souffl. The day can be spent strolling around the island and observing wildlife in the surrounding waters or learning more about the history of the lighthouse. Guests are welcome Thursday through Sunday nights.
Heceta Head Lighthouse
The Victorian-style lightkeeper's house at Heceta Head dates back to 1894. Perched on a cliff with spectacular views of the Pacific, the lighthouse offers three guestrooms with period furnishings. Guests reach their quarters by climbing a wooden hand-crafted, spiral staircase. Paths from the house lead to the beach and the lighthouse, which is said to be one of the most beautiful in the world. For fans of the paranormal, a night at Haceta Head might put you in contact with "Rue and John," who some say haunt the lighthouse.
Rose Island Lighthouse
Become a "Keeper for a Week" at Rose Island Lighthouse. Up to 4 adults can rent the second-floor apartment if they agree to do about an hour's worth of daily record-keeping and maintenance chores. The apartment comes furnished with linens, cookware and dishes. Interested parties need to complete a 2-hour orientation before taking over as "keeper." Staying at the lighthouse is a popular pursuit - plan your trip well in advance.
Point Arena Light Station
Travelers who check into the Point Arena Lighthouse in California between the months of December and April are treated to the sight of California gray whales passing by as they migrate to and from the warm lagoons of Mexico. Other activities include fishing on the Mendocino Coast, hiking and birdwatching. Three lightkeeper's houses are available for rent; each has 3 bedrooms, 2 full baths and fully-equipped kitchen. Guests need to provide their own sheets and towels. The homes also offer a wood-burning stove and satellite TV.
Big Bay Point Lighthouse
Retreat for the weekend to the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The lighthouse has 7 bedrooms, each equipped with private bath. Guests also have access to a living room with fireplace, library and sauna. Outdoor pursuits in the area include hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and rock climbing. Winter brings skiing and snowmobiling.
Isle Au Haut Lighthouse
Travel back in time with a stay at the Isle Au Haut Lighthouse in Maine. Located in the wilderness area of Acadia National Park, the Keeper's House is without telephones and electricity; guests use kerosene lanterns and gaslights for light. The only way to reach the lighthouse is by mail boat from Stonington. Bikes are provided to guests for transport around the island. The six bedrooms are furnished with painted antiques, island crafts and coastal memorabilia.
Tibbetts Point Lighthouse Hostel
Stay in this Victorian-era lightkeeper's quarters operated by Hostelling International - American Youth Hostels (HI-AYA), the hostel is open to visitors from May 15 to October 24. With the super-low price and limited space, reservations are essential. Travelers can use Tibbetts Point as a home base to explore Kingston, Ontario, or nearby Wolf Island, which can be reached by ferry from Cape Vincent. Membership in HI-AYA is free to those 18 or younger; more for adults and seniors.