The Barnegat Lighthouse has reopened to visitors after a $1.3 million maintenance and renovation project.
On Ocean County’s southern barrier island, the icon of the Jersey Shore opened its doors – and its 217 steps – this past weekend to visitors hoping to climb to the top of the historic structure. The lighthouse will be open daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., weather permitting, through Labor Day.
The video embedded at the top of this story was shot several months ago when the scaffolding was first removed from the lighthouse and its fresh coat of paint was brand new. At the time, the lighthouse itself remained closed to visitors, but state officials were hopeful its doors could reopen by summer. Indeed, they have.
“Barnegat Lighthouse is once again ready to welcome visitors who want to climb it and enjoy some of the most breathtaking views of the Jersey shore,” Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said. “And, for the first time in its history, the lighthouse’s views will be inclusive for all, thanks to a new video feed system, continuing Barnegat Light’s storied tradition as a community beacon.”
LaTourette was referring to new cameras installed at the top of the lighthouse that are now connected to a monitor in the park’s interpretive center, providing an ADA-accessible view that previously could only be seen by climbing the lighthouse. In the coming weeks, this live feed will also be viewable on the New Jersey Park Service’s website.
The crux of the larger project, however, was have to the structure undergo a complete exterior restoration, masonry recoating and repairs to the brick facade. There were also repairs made to the interior lantern steel platform, roof repairs, interior painting and the installation of new windows.
The local organization Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse also donated a new beacon light for the lighthouse, as well as new security fencing and security cameras. The new beacon light can be seen for 26.5 miles and was lighted during an Oct. 29, 2022 ceremony. On a clear night, it is easily visible from high elevations locally on the northern barrier island, and passengers in cars crossing the Route 37 bridge can sometimes see its beam shooting out over the bay.
After being decommissioned in 1927, Barnegat Lighthouse remained dark until 2009, when the Friends of Barnegat Lighthouse donated the previous light, which was activated on Jan. 1, 2009 (at midnight) – exactly 150 years after the structure’s original lighting in 1859. Friends of Barnegat Light raised their own funds to purchase a new light beacon, made in Australia, that is timed to shine at an interval unique to Barnegat – keeping the light in its role as a semi-official aid to navigation which is still published on nautical charts.
The new light at the top of 52-meter (172 foot) tall structure was built in Estonia and can be seen as far away as 21 miles at sea.
Located on the northern tip of Long Beach Island in Ocean County, the location was regarded as one of the most crucial “change of course” points for coastal vessels. Ships bound to and from New York along the New Jersey’s Atlantic coastline depended on Barnegat Lighthouse to avoid the shoals extending from the shoreline. The swift currents, shifting sandbars and offshore shoals challenged the skills of even the most experienced sailors.
Barnegat Lighthouse is the second-tallest lighthouse in the United States, being barely eclipsed by Cape Hatteras Light in North Carolina.
“The State Park Service looks forward to the complete reopening of the lighthouse, which has been a guiding light for sailors, visitors and families for much of its 166-year history,” said John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner for State Parks, Forests & Historic Sites. “Visitors can now add a lighthouse climb or viewing to the many other activities available at Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, including fishing, hiking, birding and picnicking.”