You may not think of Pennsylvania as a lighthouse destination, but if you’re visiting Erie, there are three scenic lighthouses worth exploring! Whether you’re a lighthouse enthusiast or simply looking for a unique slice of history, the lighthouses in Erie, PA, offer some spectacular waterfront views and a fascinating glimpse into maritime heritage.
Keep reading to discover what makes each Erie lighthouse unique and what to expect when visiting.
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Presque Isle Lighthouse
The Presque Isle Lighthouse is the most well-known of all three lighthouses in Erie, PA, and offers the most breathtaking views of Lake Erie and its beaches, so don’t skip this one. It sits on the northern shore of Lake Erie’s Presque Isle peninsula, serving as a crucial guidepost for water vessels since construction was completed in 1873.
Though it appears square from the outside, it’s circular inside. The tower originally stood 40 feet high and later increased by 17 feet, 4 inches, to allow the light to project further. It was also painted white to serve as a visual landmark for travelers.
At first, the lighthouse was lit with an oil lamp inside a Fresnel Lens and was often referred to as the ‘Flash Light.’ Oil was stored in an oil shed on the grounds, and the lighthouse keeper made sure the light shone brightly throughout the night, safely guiding ships along Erie’s shore until 1944 when Coast Guard personnel took over.
Admission allows visitors to tour the lighthouse keeper’s home and the tower on guided or self-guided tours. There are 78 steps in the narrow circular staircase to the top with stunning panoramic views.
Location: Presque Isle State Park, 301 Peninsula Dr, Erie, PA (Parking lot across the street from the lighthouse.)
Hours: (Memorial Day – Labor Day) 10 am – 3 pm Friday-Monday.
Climbing Allowed? Yes. 78 steps.
Fee: $8 self-guided, $15 guided.
North Pier Light
The North Pier Lighthouse is located at the eastern end of Presque Isle State Park and serves as a beacon, guiding ships into Presque Isle Bay. What makes the North Pier Lighthouse so unique is its square-pyramidal design, the last of its kind still standing in the United States.
The current cast iron design replaced the original wooden lighthouse that was destroyed when a schooner crashed into it during a violent storm in 1858. Over the years, the pier has been extended, and the lighthouse moved a few times. The light has gone from a 4th order Fresnel lens to a fixed red light and finally to a flashing red light under the Coast Guard’s operation.
Visitors can walk down the pier for a closer look at the lighthouse, and it’s also visible from the water if you take the Lady Kate boat tour.
Location: East Fisher Drive, Erie, PA (Parking available at the pier.)
Hours: Viewable during Presque Isle State Park hours – 5 am to sunset
Climbing Allowed? No.
Erie Land Light
The Erie Land Lighthouse was the first commissioned lighthouse on the Great Lakes, but the current structure is the third iteration. The first 20-foot square wooden lighthouse was built in 1818 on a cliff overlooking the bay, but the sandy foundation became unstable. A new 56-foot round brick tower was constructed in 1857. Unfortunately, that also became unstable.
Finally, in 1867, the current 49-foot round Berea sandstone tower was constructed on a solidly reinforced foundation just east of the original site. After it was decommissioned in 1899, the lantern and lens room were removed and transferred to a Sandusky, Ohio lighthouse. The current lantern and lens room are replicas of the originals.
Even if you aren’t able to visit during climbing hours, it’s still worth a stop. There are a number of interesting historical signs surrounding the lighthouse well worth reading.
Location: 2 Lighthouse Street, Erie, PA (Parking lot on grounds.)
Hours: (Memorial Day – Labor Day) 10 am – 3 pm Sat-Sun. (Tower Tuesdays – FREE every first Tuesday of the month Apr-Nov.)
Climbing Allowed? Yes. 69 steps.
Fee: $6 self-guided.