Design New England

Lighthouse getaways


Rose Island Light in Newport, Rhode Island, was originally built in 1871 and restored for overnight visitors in the 1980s.

With summer right around the corner, you, like us, are probably thinking about getting away. For some that means exploring an exotic locale, for others, it is discovering — or rediscovering — the many beautiful spots and/or cultural offerings found right here in New England. A restful retreat on a New Hampshire lake, or a little cottage just steps from an ocean beach can provide the needed change of pace. But for those looking for something more adventurous, an overnight stay in a historic lighthouse in New England holds some allure. As Design New England contributing editor Bruce Irving wrote in his “Icon” column “The Resolute Lighthouse” in our May/June 2013 issue, these maritime beacons are “always signaling — no matter how dark the night or strong the gale.” That’s a message of hope and steadfast loyalty that inspires.

Some of the region’s lighthouses, Rose Island Light in Newport, Rhode Island, in particular, allow guests to stay overnight for a night, a week, or even a month, offering a chance to explore and imagine how life might have been for the hardy keepers of the light.

Built as a wooden structure with an octagonal light in 1871, Rose Island Light operated until 1970 when, after the construction of the nearby Clairborne Pell Newport Bridge, it was abandoned and suffered from vandalism. In 1984, Charlotte Johnson formed the Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation and over the next five years she and other advocates restored the building. Now visitors can stay up to a week in the rooms on the building’s first and second floors.
The historically accurate (to circa 1912) keepers’ quarters are on the first floor, which also has a library, living room, and kitchen, and are available to overnight guests. More modern rooms are on the second floor and are usually reserved for week-long visitors.


The library (pictured below) has a collection of books, maps, and vintage accessories including a typewriter and lanterns.


The kitchen is charming and historically accurate with a cast iron stove, a pitcher pump at the pantry’s sink, and dainty dinnerware. A slender doorway leads to one of the first floor bedrooms.


Another bedroom on the first floor is lovely in its simplicity.


The lighthouse is located on an 18½-acre island west of Newport Harbor and south of the Claiborne Pell Newport Bridge.


In the summer months, public access is via the Jamestown Ferry, which operates daily. From September to June, the Lighthouse Foundation’s boat takes overnight visitors to the lighthouse. For ultimate seclusion and off-season beauty, a night from November to March is suggested.
Curious what other lighthouses offer overnight accommodations? Jeremy D’Entremont operates, and provides information on places such as Gurnet Light in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine.

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