Before the days of modern technology, sailors relied on lighthouses to help them navigate to the shore. Nowadays, many of these Ohio lighthouses serve as beautiful structures featuring a unique architectural style.
Believe it or not, Ohio is home to some of the most beautiful lighthouses in the United States, situated along the American side of Lake Erie.
You can take tours of some of the best lighthouses in Ohio, whereas others can only be seen from afar. Even if you can’t take a tour of the lighthouse, they serve as stunning features of the coastal shoreline.
In this article, we’ve compiled a list of the best Ohio lighthouses for those who want to learn more about the state’s nautical history.
Best Ohio Lighthouses
South Bass Island Lighthouse
Your bucket list of Ohio lighthouses should definitely include the South Bass Island Lighthouse, which provides a beautiful, expansive view of Put-in-Bay.
In the late 1800s, the increase in tourist traffic to the island caused the Lighthouse Board to approve the construction of a lighthouse, thus the South Bass Island Lighthouse was built.
Interestingly, this lighthouse is the only lighthouse in the United States to be owned by a university (Ohio State). It is home to university scholars and personnel and has been occasionally open to the public for excursions since the summer of 2007.
If you take a tour of the lighthouse itself, you can learn about the area’s history and Lake Erie. If you choose to just check out the grounds, it’s definitely worth reading up on some local information to learn more about the area.
Also, there are a few tragic stories about the keepers of the lighthouse who died here, so be ready to feel a bit of a spooky spirit!
Address: 2368 Langram Rd, Put-in-Bay, OH 43456
Cleveland West Pierhead Lighthouse
The Cleveland West Pierhead Lighthouse was built in 1911, and until 1976, it served as a US Coast Guard station.
The West Pierhead Lighthouse in Cleveland Harbor is not open to the public, but it’s visible from afar.
If you take a tour boat or explore lakefront areas like Wendy Park and Cleveland Metroparks Lakefront, you are sure to get a great view of the lighthouse.
Recently, a picture of this lighthouse made both national and international news when extremely strong, freezing winds whipped waves over the lighthouse, covering it with a thick layer of ice.
But unbeknownst to most people, this isn’t a one-time occurrence – it actually happens each year, making the lighthouse appear as an iced castle.
Address: 2800 Whiskey Island Dr, Cleveland, OH 44102
Turtle Island Lighthouse
Turtle Island Lighthouse is an abandoned lighthouse located on Turtle Island on Lake Erie.
The small island is divided between Michigan and Ohio.
Turtle Island is primarily made up of clay and gravel deposits, which are prone to erosion, causing the government to regularly take action to prevent further erosion and possible destruction of the lighthouse.
At the time it was in use, it was known as one of the most beautiful lighthouses on the Great Lakes, with its light being visible up to 14 miles away.
Green Island Lighthouse
Having a place on the Lighthouse Digest’s Doomsday List, this island and the Green Island Lighthouse is part of Ohio’s history and couldn’t be left off of our lighthouse list!
Green Island Lighthouse has been abandoned since 1939, but until then, it was a working lighthouse for 85 years.
The area became popular starting in the 1820s, when celestite, a source of strontium, was discovered here.
By 1900, the building had been reconstructed twice, but once the mines gradually shut down, the lighthouse ended up being abandoned.
Today only remains of this historic lighthouse still exist – just the tower and the shell of the house.
Address: Middle Bass, OH 43446
Perry Memorial Lighthouse
Perry Memorial Lighthouse commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie and celebrates the lasting peace between Britain, Canada, and the United States.
The monument is a unique international peace memorial in the US and stands 47 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty.
Interestingly enough, though the monument is named after Oliver Hazard Perry, the bodies of three other American officers and three British officers are buried beneath the monument’s stone floor, while Perry is buried in Newport, Rhode Island.
The names of soldiers and sailors killed or injured in the Battle of Lake Erie, as well as the text of the Rush-Bagot Treaty, are carved into the rotunda’s walls.
To get to the observation deck at the top of the monument, visitors take an elevator up to the top, with a ranger providing some historical information about the monument and area.
The admission fee is $10 for adults and free for children 15 years and under.
Address: 93 Delaware Ave, Put-In-Bay, OH 43456
Considered to be one of Ohio’s most photographed landmarks, a visit to the Marblehead Lighthouse is a must. Here, you will be able to enjoy gorgeous views of Lake Erie, Cedar Point, Sandusky Bay, and Kelley’s Island.
You can also plan a nice picnic as there are plenty of picnic areas nearby. Although the grounds of the lighthouse are open all year round, tours are only available in the summer and fall.
Currently, the lighthouse, lifesaving station, keeper’s house, and gift shop are open every day from 12 PM to 4 PM.
If you want to climb 77 steps to the top, you can get tickets for $3 paid in cash. The last of the tours begin at 3:40 PM.
Address: 110 Lighthouse Dr, Marblehead, OH 43440
Toledo Harbor Lighthouse
Toledo Harbor Lighthouse is located on Lake Erie and serves as an entrance to Maumee Bay. It is a replacement for the 1837 lighthouse on Turtle Island and is still used as a navigational aid for the area.
This lighthouse is located 8.4 miles from the mouth of the Maumee River and around 7 miles north of Maumee Bay State Park.
As traffic on Lake Erie increased, it became clear a lighthouse was needed in the area, thus construction on the Toledo Harbor lighthouse began in 1901.
This construction even included the creation of an artificial island.
The Toledo Lighthouse is a four-story steel structure with a one-story fog signal annex building attached, made of Romanesque arches and buff brick.
An interesting artifact from the lighthouse is its 1904 Fresnel lens, which was relocated to the Maumee Bay State Park Lodge’s reception area for visitors to examine up close.
Address: 1750 Park Rd #2 Oregon, OH 43616
Home to the Vermilion Lighthouse, the city of Vermilion was known as the “city of sea captains.”
Vermilion’s lighthouse was built by the government in 1847. Over the years, with additional funding, the lighthouse was renovated a few times.
However, it was discovered to be leaning too much and ended up being replaced with a steel tower instead. Currently, there is a lighthouse that is a replica of the original one.
If you want to see the Vermilion Lighthouse, keep in mind that you cannot enter it, but there is a nice area to walk around it.
Address: 480 Main St, Vermilion, OH 44089
Lorain Breakwater Lighthouse
The Lorain Breakwater Lighthouse was constructed on Lake Erie in 1917. In 1965, it was removed and replaced by an automated light tower on a nearby breakwater.
These days, the lighthouse does not serve its original purpose, but it’s still a silent but strong reminder of the relationship between the town of Lorain and Lake Erie shipping.
When the lighthouse was renovated and the new automated light was put in place, the need for US coast guards was no longer required.
As there was no personnel present any longer, the lighthouse saw increased levels of vandalism. To prevent more damage, the lighthouse closed and now, you can only admire the beauty of this historical structure from afar.
Address: 1 West Breakwater, Lorain, OH 44052
Cleveland East Pierhead Lighthouse
There are two adjacent lighthouses in Cleveland: the Cleveland Harbor Main Entrance Lighthouse and the East Breakwater Lighthouse.
They were built on a pair of spurs that were extended into Lake Erie from the existing breakwaters in 1911.
A few interesting stories connected to this lighthouse exist.
One of these stories is the legendary life-saving operation of a schooner-rigged barge, the John T. Johnson, called “one of the most thrilling episodes in the annals of the life-saving service at Cleveland, Ohio.”
Boats approaching Cleveland today pass through the east breakwater pierhead, where the white tower with the black lantern room has stood since 1911.
Although the Cleveland East Pierhead Lighthouse has been dwarfed by the city’s high-rise structures, it still shows off the spirit of the city’s naval history.
Address: 2800 Whiskey Island Dr, Cleveland, OH 44102
West Sister Island Lighthouse
One of the oldest lighthouses of the Great Lakes, West Sister Island Lighthouse is still operating to this day, performing its navigational duties.
The limestone and brick tower, which stands on a stone foundation, rises to a height of 55 feet. Built in 1848 to mark the western end of the South Passage, the lighthouse is located on West Sister Island’s westernmost point.
Until 1937, the lighthouse required keepers to maintain and operate the lights, but as technology advanced, automated lights were eventually installed.
The lighthouse and its surroundings are currently part of the designated Wilderness of West Sister Island National Wildlife Refuge.
With the goal to protect wildlife, the island is now closed to public access or use.
Address: Jerusalem Township, OH
Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse
Sitting near the end of the west breakwater, the Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse is located adjacent to the harbor of Fairport.
It was built in 1925 and replaced the original Fairport Harbor Lighthouse, which currently stands as a marine museum.
Speaking of the original lighthouse, Grand River Light, it’s worth mentioning that before falling into disrepair, the old Fairport Harbor lighthouse defended the shore and directed ships for over 100 years.
Nowadays, though you can walk near the breakwater to see the building, visiting is not possible as the lighthouse is closed to the public.
Address: 1 Coast Guard Road Painesville, OH 44077
Old Port Clinton Lighthouse
Although there were doubts about whether the Old Port Clinton Lighthouse was worth building, it was eventually constructed in 1896 and remained active for more than 55 years until it was decommissioned in 1952.
Port Clinton Lighthouse is located near the northern end of Waterworks Park in Port Clinton.
Over the years two different versions of this lighthouse were built, using different materials for each. Now, only one building remains. It was relocated to a marina in 1952 and replaced by a skeleton tower.
Later, when the marina sold the lighthouse to the city, it was renovated and placed in the park.
Near the lighthouse, a replica of the Lightkeeper’s Boathouse houses historical exhibitions and memorabilia, as well as a keeper’s rowboat and a gift store.
Address: W State Rte 163, Port Clinton, OH 43452
Old Fairport Harbor Main Lighthouse
Located 45 minutes east of downtown Cleveland, you’ll find Old Fairport Harbor Main Lighthouse, which is now known as the Fairport Harbor Marine Museum.
The original lighthouse was built in 1825, standing at 30 feet tall, and included a two-story keeper’s house. During the early years, the lighthouse functioned as a guide for fugitive slaves, marking a stop on the Underground Railroad to Canada.
Over the years, the condition of the lighthouse worsened until it was necessary to be rebuilt.
The renovated lighthouse was constructed in 1871 to a height of 60 feet, with a 69-step spiral staircase leading to an observation platform.
The museum, established in 1945, has a number of antiquities and maritime displays related to life on the Great Lakes. This museum is the first Great Lakes lighthouse museum in the country and definitely worth a visit!
Address: 129 2nd St, Fairport Harbor, OH 44077
Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse
In the 19th century, the town of Conneaut, situated in the northeast corner of Ohio, was growing significantly due to the increased number of settlers who were looking for prosperity and fortune on the western frontier.
As the port grew in importance as a shipping hub, the Conneaut West Breakwater Lighthouse was built in 1829.
In 1936, the light from the Conneaut Lighthouse could be seen 17 miles out into Lake Erie. It was controlled and maintained by a keeper and two assistants.
In the 2000s, the ownership of the lighthouse was auctioned online, and it remains privately owned to this day.
Address: Limestone Dr, Conneaut, OH 44030
Did we miss any amazing lighthouses in Ohio? Let us know the best Ohio lighthouses youʻve visited in the comments. Thanks!
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