Lighthouses are tagged with zero to four stars on the basis of their accessibility and their facilities for casual visitors, especially families.
For these ratings, a lighthouse is "accessible" if you can get to it by car or by a regularly scheduled passenger ferry. (In some cases, you may have to walk some distance from the parking area or ferry slip.) Lighthouses which are not accessible have no stars.
* One star means you can get close enough to the lighthouse to take good photographs and enjoy the surroundings. Visitor facilities are minimal or absent, and the lighthouse and other buildings are generally not open to visitors. If any of them are ever open, it is less often than once a week, even during the main tourist season for the area. Taking advantage of open house days or tours usually means you have to make a special trip to the area, unless you live nearby. Many one-star sites are not regular tourist attractions, so you may need local directions to find the lighthouse. Some one-star sites are privately owned, so respect the owner's privacy and property rights.
** Two stars indicate that a lighthouse is accessible and one or more light station buildings is open to visitors at least once a week during the main tourist season for the area. These are recommended sites, but having a good visit requires some planning. Some two-star sites are only open one or two days a week, so you will need to find out the schedule. Others are located in remote or exposed locations, so you may need to make ferry reservations, pack a lunch, or bring your jacket or hiking shoes.
*** Three-star lighthouses are readily accessible and have one or more light station buildings open to visitors at least five days a week during the main tourist season for the area. Don't miss such a site if you're in the area. Most three-star sites have historical exhibits; many offer tours or special programs.
**** A four-star lighthouse is like a three-star lighthouse, only better. Four-star sites are reasonably intact historic light stations with all or nearly all of the buildings open to visitors. They offer significant historical exhibits, gift shops, tours, and special programs. Be sure to allow enough time to explore these sites thoroughly.
These ratings are unofficial in every possible way; they represent my effort to interpret the available information about the sites. If you think the rating of a particular lighthouse is incorrect, please let me know why.
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October 24, 2000. Site copyright 2000 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.