The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the United States. It is located at the northern end of the Sandy Hook Unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in Highlands. Amazingly well-preserved, this unique octagonal tower dates back to the 18th century and has been in service since 1764. Except for being darkened during the Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I and II, the beacon has been operating ever since.
The light was built to aid mariners entering the southern end of the New York Harbor. It was originally called New York Lighthouse because it was funded through a New York Assembly lottery and a tax on all ships entering the Port of New York. The lighthouse has endured an attempt to destroy it as an aid to British navigation by Benjamin Tupper, and a subsequent occupancy of British soldiers during the Revolutionary War.
Almost two years after the State of New York ratified the U.S. Constitution, the lighthouse was transferred to federal authority. George Washington wrote to the Senate on April 5, 1790, “I have directed my private secretary to lay before you copies of three acts of the legislature of New York … An act for vesting in the United States of America the light-house and the lands thereunto belonging at Sandy Hook”.
The National Park Service owns the tower and the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the light.
The lighthouse is on the grounds of Fort Hancock and is just one of the unbeatable tourist attractions at Sandy Hook. The peninsula also boasts a spectacular holly forest, excellent surf fishing, hiking, beaches, trails, salt marshes, more than 300 species of birds and other historical sites.