Sandy Hook Lighthouse

The lantern room of the oldest operating lighthouse in America offers a panoramic view of Sandy Hook at sunset.
View from the lens house

Quick Facts

Bicycle - Rack, Information

The Sandy Hook Lighthouse is the oldest operating lighthouse in the nation. The lighthouse was completed on June 11, 1764 due to the efforts of 43 prominent New York merchants. The merchants petitioned the Colonial Assembly of New York to request that a lighthouse be erected on Sandy Hook to guide ships safely into New York Harbor. The New York Assembly supported the proposal and passed an act to raise money through a lottery. The funds raised from the lottery were used to purchase the land and build the lighthouse. 

Sandy Hook Lighthouse Newspaper Article - June 18, 1764

The June 18, 1764 edition of the New York Mercury Newspaper reported that: "On Monday Evening last (June 11, 1764), the NEW- YORK LIGHT HOUSE erected at Sandy Hook was lighted for the first Time. The House is of an Octagonal Figure, having eight equal Sides; the diameter at the Base, 29 Feet; and at the Top of the Wall, 15 Feet. The Lanthorn (lantern house) is 7 Feet high; the Circumference 33 feet. The whole Construction of the Lanthorn is Iron; the Top covered with Copper. There are 48 Oil Blazes. The Building from the Surface is Nine Stories; the whole from Bottom to top, 103 Feet".

Sandy Hook Lighthouse Tours

Tours of the Sandy Hook Lighthouse should resume in late spring.

Third Order Fresnel Lens

In 1822, Augustin Fresnel introduced a glass lens that revolutionized the lighting of lighthouses. The Fresnel lens resembled a giant old-fashioned beehive, inside of which was a single lamp. The lens' thick prisms bent the lamp's light to the center of the lens, greatly magnifying the light into a powerful beam that could be seen for miles at night. Fresnel made his lenses in six different sizes, or "orders." The 1st, 2nd, and 3rd order lenses were usually installed in seacoast lighthouses to warn ships that they were approaching land. The 4th, 5th, and 6th order lenses were used in harbor and sound lighthouses. A Fresnel lens was shipped to America in 1840, destined for the Sandy Hook Lighthouse, but it was slightly too large to fit inside the lens house. That lens and a second one were transferred over to the Twin Lights in Navesink, NJ, making them the first American lighthouses to uses Fresnel lenses. The Sandy Hook Lighthouse was refitted with its present 3rd order Fresnel lens in 1857 when the iron lens house (lanthorn) was added to the tower.

National Historic Landmark

On June 11, 1964, the Sandy Hook Lighthouse was declared a National Historic Landmark on the 200th anniversary of its first lighting. This faithful sentinel still continues its original function. The light is currently an automated 3rd order Fresnel lens, fixed white light, visible for nineteen miles on a clear night. The light is maintained by the United States Coast Guard and is kept on 24 hours a day.

Gateway National Recreation Area

Last updated: March 20, 2024