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Climb to the Top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse

Virginia Beach, Virginia

based on 6 reviews


Added by Alex E

Enjoy two historic lighthouses in one location. Climb to the top of Cape Henry Lighthouse and enjoy beautiful views of the Chesapeake Bay area.

Visit not one, but two of the most historic and important lighthouses to our great nation. The original Cape Henry Lighthouse was the U.S. Governments first construction project authorized under the constitution. President George Washington himself authorized the project and Alexander Hamilton oversaw the construction. The first of the two lighthouses was built in 1792 in order to guide ships safely into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic ocean. 

In 1881 concern arose about the stability of the aging original brick Cape Henry Lighthouse and a second lighthouse was built only a few hundred feet away. The newer black and white checkered board patterned cast iron lighthouse, provides unique photo opportunities. It is rare to see two lighthouses in such close proximity. The newer cast iron lighthouse is still in use today and operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Both lighthouses are on the National Historic Landmark registry. You can only access the original lighthouse.

The climb starts in the Cape Henry museum at the base of the original lighthouse. From there you can climb the stairs up the sand dune at the base of the lighthouse. Grab a bucket of sand and hike it to the base of the lighthouse. The sand around the base of the lighthouse is constantly eroding from coastal storms, so help conserve this beautiful piece of history. Once at the base of the lighthouse you get an unobstructed view of the Chesapeake Bay and Virginia Beach area. 

Continue your climb up the old iron spiral staircase for an even more amazing view and photo opportunity. Once at the top you have a 360 degree view of the entire Virginia Beach area. You can see downtown Norfolk to your west, the Virginia Beach ocean front to the south and a unique view of the newer Cape Henry lighthouse. During our visit you could see a pod of dolphins in the distance and a U.S. Navy submarine surfaced just off the coast.

The Cape Henry Lighthouse is located on an active military base, (Ft Story) so you will need to enter at the correct gate and I would have at least two forms of I.D. By entering the gate, your car can be subject to search based on force protection issues. You must have proof of insurance and registration in order to drive your vehicle on base. You can bike onto the base if you don't have a vehicle. It's a very normal and quick search that doesn't take longer than 5 minutes. With that being said, don't have any guns in your vehicle. 

The guard at the gate will grant you a pass to display in your vehicle as well as a map to the lighthouse. You will be able to access the lighthouse and the beach. There are two gates on Ft. Story Military Base, make sure you go through the eastern most gate. The gate is located near the intersection of Shore Dr. and Atlantic avenue. Continue north on Atlantic Ave towards the gate. The lighthouse is open from 10am-5pm during the summer months and closes at 4pm during the winter. Its 8 dollars for adults to climb to the top of the lighthouse and 5 dollars for kids.

After you spend the day exploring a part of our nations early history, head down to Taste, a local sandwich and craft beer restaurant on the Virginia Beach ocean front. They are by far the best sandwiches in town, who specialize in local farms, wines and beers. It is a must stop for any vacation in the Virginia Beach area.  

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Climb to the Top of the Cape Henry Lighthouse Reviews

Hi all! Wanted to update some information on how to visit these lighthouses because some things have changed in the past few years. The lighthouses are located on an active military base and an active ID is required to get on. If you do not have an active ID, you MUST take the tour shuttle that is offered. In addition to this, all climbers now must be at least 42” tall. Adults are not permitted to carry children. General Admission prices have increased to $14 for a combination ticket of both lighthouses (climb included). The lighthouses are well worth the trip, this just now requires a little more planning. For additional information on the shuttle and other regulations please visit: https://preservationvirginia.org/historic-sites/cape-henry-lighthouse/#plan-your-visit before your journey. Happy exploring!

This is a good place to spend the day in order to break up all the beach going. Good to spend a few hours at and take pics!

Where else can you visit two lighthouses at the same time! If you are a lighthouse person, make the stop, it a nice area to explore around.

Rich with history and beautifully maintained, the Cape Henry Lighthouses are a wonderful place to stop during a visit to Virginia Beach.

If you're looking for something to do with the family, stop through. If you'd rather not pay a fee, skip this one.

This is a great stop in Virginia Beach. There are two lighthouses, and can be explored for a small fee. There are also a couple of paths that lead to sites of battle nearby. A cool beach the military sometimes use for drills.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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