One of the best parts of the New England region, is the amount and variety of interesting places to visit, all within a couple of hours of each other. For locals, it can be a little too easy to forget all there is to see and do. I am lucky enough to live in Massachusetts, and living only a couple of minutes from border, New Hampshire is like my second home state. But in spite of living in the region for most of my life, I must say that I had never been to a New Hampshire lighthouse. The state only has about 18 miles of coastline, which explains why there are only 2 lighthouses in the state, and being so rare and interesting it hard for me to understand why it took me so many years to visit one. The one I wanted to see that day was the Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, which is actually in New Castle Island, NH right next door from Portsmouth. The lighthouse is on the grounds of Fort Constitution, and walking through the impressive entrance was like getting a view of a different time.
The site is currently the home to the U.S. Coast Guard offices, and the old Lighthouse keeper’s house is now an office. The area however, is off limits. Nonetheless, visitors can get tour the lighthouse and even go up to the top during one of The Lighthouse Preservation Society’s open houses during the summer.
One of the most interesting features of the site, is the way the walls of the once strong fort, have crumbled over time, revealing a rather wide gap that offers access to the rocks and the sea below.
The man made wall, designed as a form of protection in time of war, almost crumbling into the natural landscape of the ocean is an interesting contrast to the Cast Iron Lighthouse, which is designed to help boats avoid meeting that very fate.
The Cast Iron Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse was built in 1877, although Fort Constitution has been around since the British first fortified it before 1632. The lighthouse, with its Blue Light, still aids in navigation.
After wandering around the grounds, ducking into the old passageways and enjoying the cloudy day, we developed quite an appetite. Luckily there was a great little spot called Henry’s Market, right on New Castle Island, where we went to refuel with some delicious sandwiches before continuing on our short road trip up the coast. New Castle Island also has some fantastic views, and if you’re in the mood for even more history you can visit Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, which is about 10 minutes from the lighthouse.
Do you like visiting lighthouses or historic forts? Which is your favorite lighthouse in New England or anywhere for that matter?