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.  

Pack List

  • Form of I.D. for adults over 16
  • Vehicle Insurance and registration
  • Swimsuit
  • Sunscreen
  • Rain jacket
  • Down jacket in winter
  • Water
  • Camera
  • Cash
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Activities Chillin, Photography
Skill Level Beginner
Season Year Round
Features
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic
Wildlife

Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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