Did you know NJ has these many lighthouses? Fun event lets you visit them all
🔵 The 24th Annual Lighthouse Challenge of NJ is the third weekend of October
🔵 The challenge is to visit 15 dedicated sites over the two-day weekend
🔵 A small registration fee enables you to collect a souvenir from each site
The 24th Annual Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey, the longest-running challenge in the country that draws thousands each year, will take place on Oct. 21 and 22.
The challenge is to visit 10 land-based lighthouses, three lifesaving stations, one museum, and one virtual site over the two-day weekend, said Pary Tell, chairwoman of The Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey.
The New Jersey sites on the lighthouse challenge this year
The 15 sites go from Sandy Hook all the way down the Atlantic Coast to Cape May and up the Delaware Bay and River from Cape May to Tinicum Light in Paulsboro.
Sandy Hook Lighthouse
Sea Girt Lighthouse
Squan Beach Lifesaving Station
Barnegat Light Museum
Tuckers Lighthouse at Tuckerton Seaport
U.S. Lifesaving Station 30 in Ocean City
Tatham Lifesaving Station in Stone Harbor
Cape May Lighthouse
East Point Lighthouse
The Delaware Bay Lighthouses
Finns Point Light
Tinicum Light in Paulsboro
How does the challenge work?
Start at any challenge site. It’s your choice where to begin and where to end. But the challenge is to finish visiting all 15 sites by Sunday afternoon.
The hours for the Lighthouse Challenge on both days are from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Registration is only $5. That gets you a souvenir.
“This year the souvenir is a log book. When you get that, there will be a page in it from every one of the lighthouses and lifesaving stations that tells you a story associated with that lighthouse or lifesaving station,” Tell said.
At some of the lighthouses, the logbook is no longer accessible, so some of the stories came from contemporary newspaper accounts. But every one of them tells a story from that site, Tell said. Some stories are funny. Some are sad, and some are scary. For example, there is a story about The Jersey Devil landing on top of the Absecon Lighthouse.
Each of the 15 sites on the challenge will then stamp their page in your logbook. If you finish the challenge and get every site’s stamp, then you’ll be entered to win one of three prize baskets.
What are the prizes?
Each of the 15 sites has donated things for the baskets. For example, Tuckerton Seaport may give a book about the history of the Tuckers Lighthouse. The Absecon Lighthouse may give a T-shirt that has a picture of the lighthouse on it. The man who runs the U.S. Lifesaving Station 30 in Ocean City also owns a bed-and-breakfast in Ocean City. He donates an overnight stay at his B&B every year.
“If you like lighthouses, it’s just a wonderful grab bag of everything in those baskets,” Tell said.
How many people does the Lighthouse Challenge of NJ draw?
Tell said between 1,500 and 2,000 people participate in the Lighthouse Challenge of NJ every year. But during the 20th annual challenge, about 2,200 people took part. That’s been the most participants to date.
In 2022, 1,700 people participated and 800 of those participants finished the two-day, 15-site challenge.
Tell said it's not just locals who come to take part in the challenge. People from states as far away as Michigan, Oregon, and Washington where lighthouses exist, also take part because they tend to be lighthouse aficionados who enjoy a good lighthouse challenge.
Two years ago, she said people came from as far away as Argentina just to take part in the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey.
What has returned this year?
While many people choose to complete the Lighthouse Challenge during the operating hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days, there are night climbs available.
Tuckerton Seaport, Cape May Lighthouse, and Tinicum Light in Paulsboro will be open on just the Saturday night of the challenge from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Some people plan their challenge routes so they wind up at one of those night climbs to get an extra visit in on Saturday night, Tell said.
What is new this year?
The National Lighthouse Society issues a passport so that people who visit lighthouses anywhere in the country, can get that passport book stamped by the lighthouse.
“So, we took that idea and we have four stamps that will only be available the two days of the challenge and they are dated 2023 on them. They will be at Squan Beach Lifesaving Station, Barnegat Light Museum, Tatham Lifesaving Station in Stone Harbor, and East Point Lighthouse,” Tell said.
When people visit these four places, they can also get an additional stamp beside the one they’ll get in the logbook souvenir with this year’s logo and date on it, she said.
In addition, there are two rubber stamps that will have the general lighthouse logo on them. However, those two locations will be a secret.
“We’re not telling anyone where they are. So, if you collect those rubber stamps, as you go around and do the challenge, you’re going to have to ask at every site if they’re one of the ones that have the secret stamp to get your book stamped with that one, as well,” Tell said.
Also new is a Google map on the website, which will show lighthouse challengers where all the sites are located and all the highways leading up to them so it’s a bit easier to plan your route.
It’s a wonderful, fun, and educational way to spend a fall weekend in New Jersey, Tell said.
Are you up for the challenge?
Get to know the lighthouses of NJ: Photos
Gallery Credit: Mike Brant