Lighthouse Festivals

James Brey/
By AAA Travel Editor Stephanie Simpson
July 09, 2018
The United States has more lighthouses than any other country, and many of them are celebrated for their beauty and history as well as their usefulness. A variety of festivals salute these landmark navigational aids. Check out these fun places to go and explore.
Fort Gratiot Light Station in Port Huron Michigan
Blue Water SandFest
Port Huron, Michigan
(810) 982-0891 Ext 118
Built in 1829 to guard the St. Clair River and Lake Huron, Fort Gratiot Light Station is still a working lighthouse and also the site of the 3-day Blue Water SandFest in early July. Take a lighthouse tour, and witness the Michigan Master Sandsculpting State Championships, amateur sculpting contests and the Quick Sand Speed Sculpting Show. If festival food isn’t your cup of tea, then try nearby Freighters Eatery & Taproom, a AAA Two Diamond® restaurant overlooking the Blue Water Bridge. Enjoy the view of the St. Clair River and locally-sourced menu items. The signature mac and cheese dishes include one with lobster and another with wild mushrooms and truffle oil.
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Door County Lighthouse in Sturgeon Bay Wisconsin
James Brey/
Door County Lighthouse Festival
Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin
(920) 743-5958
The Door County Lighthouse Festival, which takes place in early June, offers festivalgoers the opportunity to explore lighthouses usually closed to the public. You can climb to the top of some and visit the lighthouse keepers’ quarters. Photo opportunities abound on guided land tours and boat excursions. If you plan to stay overnight, the AAA Three Diamond® White Lace Inn in Sturgeon Bay features a complex of historic homes decked out in Victorian finery.
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Hereford Inlet Lighthouse in North Wildwood New Jersey
flickr/David Slack
Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival
North Wildwood, New Jersey
(609) 522-4520
Celebrate New Jersey’s maritime history at the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse Maritime Festival in mid-June. Held on the grounds of the historic Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, this fun and educational weekend offers lighthouse tours, the Anglesea Fine Art & Craft Show, antique boats, musical entertainment and a living-history pirate encampment the kids will love. Nostalgia awaits at the nearby Summer Nites bed & breakfast, a AAA Three Diamond historic lodging. This 1950s throwback has such period décor as neon lights and a boxcar diner, where you can play your favorite rock ‘n’ roll tune for a mere two bits on the 1953 Seeburg jukebox.
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St. Augustine Lighthouse in Florida
Luminary Night
St. Augustine, Florida
(904) 829-0745
The St. Augustine Lighthouse and Museum is a sight to behold on the first Wednesday in December. Delight in the Christmas decorations, light displays, yuletide refreshments, visits with Santa Claus and a string quartet playing seasonal music. Guests can climb 219 steps to the top of the lighthouse tower for a spectacular view of St. Augustine.
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Mukilteo Lighthouse in Washington
Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival
Mukilteo, Washington
(425) 353-5516
The Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival, also known as MukFest, is an early September tradition held in Lighthouse Park. Saturday starts out with a kids’ fishing derby, followed by a children’s parade and the grand parade. An array of ethnic food, craft beer and wine awaits festivalgoers on the avenue of food and in the evening the beer garden comes alive with folk, jazz and rock music. Pacific Northwest arts and crafts fill nearly 60 booths at the outdoor marketplace and don’t miss out on the lighthouse tours. Fireworks light up the night sky on Friday and Saturday. Less than a 5-minute walk from the festival, The Silver Cloud Inn Mukilteo, a AAA Three Diamond, is located at the water’s edge and offers beautiful views of Elliott Bay.
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Point Cabrillo Light Station in Mendocino California
Point Cabrillo Light Station Whale Festival
Mendocino, California
(707) 961-6300
On the first and third weekends in March, visitors flock to Point Cabrillo Light Station State Historic Park to witness an enthralling event, the gray whale migration. The Point Cabrillo Light Station offers optimum viewing as the whales continue their yearly trek from the Baja Peninsula to their Arctic feeding grounds. Docents are on hand to enhance your experience with light station history and tours of a restored lighthouse keeper’s home.
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Sandcastle on beach
Toledo Lighthouse Waterfront Festival
Oregon, Ohio
(419) 691-3788
Maumee Bay State Park offers a scenic panorama of this historic lighthouse 4 miles off the shore of Lake Erie. Its Romanesque-style architecture of buff-colored brick and a rolled-edge steel roof resembles a gingerbread house. Boat rides out to the lighthouse, a sand castle contest, musical entertainment and the Nautical Arts & Crafts Village are highlights of this festival held in early July. Show up with a big appetite to savor perch and shrimp wraps and ears of roasted corn.
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