Assateague Lighthouse

Chincoteague, Virginia

  • Site Established: 1833
  • Current Bldg. Erected: 1867
  • Height of Light Structure: 142 ft.
  • Focal Plane of Light: 154 ft.
  • Active: Yes
  • Lens: DCB-224
  • Beacon Visibility: 19 miles

Historic Significance Score: 3

In 1833, the original Assateague Lighthouse was established on Assateague Island at a cost near $55,000 to warn ships and vessels of the shallow waters off the island.

In 1867, a new lighthouse was built on a land bluff that was twenty-two feet above sea level to replace the original lighthouse whose tower’s height proved not sufficient enough to aid in navigation.

In 1933, electricity was established at the lighthouse and used on the beacon.

The Assateague Lighthouse is registered in the National Register of Historic Places.

Majesty Score: 5

This category is definitely one of Assateague Lighthouse’s strengths! The lighthouse has awe inspiring majesty!

At 142 feet high and featuring bright red and white stripes the Assateague Lighthouse is an incredible site!

The base and girth of the lighthouse tower almost seem thicker than a normal lighthouse as the horizontal candy cane stripes give it an impression of being wider than it actually is.

Water View Score: 1

Unfortunately, there is no water view in the vicinity of the lighthouse. Small ponds can be found in few places within a short walking distance of the light.

Assateague Lighthouse actually enjoys an opposite conditions that threatens many of our greatest lighthouses today. Where most lighthouses today are threatened by beach and cliff erosion, the land mass around Assateague Lighthouse has been filling in at a significant rate. Actually, it has been estimated that since the 1850’s, the waterline of the inlet has been “pushed back” close to 5 miles away from the light due to the constant, natural deposits of land.

Preservation Score: 3

The lighthouse is preserved to a moderate degree. The paint on the light tower is chipping in several places and relays the tower’s age to visitors in person. Being located in the The National Wildlife Refuge at Assateague, the priority might be toward preserving the surrounding nature and ecology area by leaving it undisturbed, and less emphasis on the preservation of man made structures.

Surrounding Area Score: 4

The surrounding area of the lighthouse is very beautiful!

You begin your drive to the light by taking Route 175 east to Chincoteague Island, and drive through some really beautiful marsh lands that are wide and open. Unfortunately, some of the view is cluttered with large advertising billboards along the route.

To see the lighthouse you must drive through the quaint town of Chincoteague and proceed to Assateague Island. As mentioned, the lighthouse itself is in the very beautiful The National Wildlife Refuge on Assateague Island and features a beautiful setting with great, bountiful tree landscapes. It is a great place to go hiking, or ride a bicycle as many people do. Bird watching and trout fishing are also very popular in the refuge. Insects are a problem so bring insect repellent.

The area around the Assateague Lighthouse is known for wild ponies and Chincoteague Island is home of the famous “Chincoteague Wild Pony Swim” every year that is slated for the last week in July.

This tradition, started in the 1920’s, involves ponies swimming across the small channel between Assateague Island and Chincoteague Island when the water is very calm thus protecting the newly born ponies in their pack and ensuring safe passage to the island. The event draws tens of thousands of people and was well publicized in the children.s book “Misty of Chincoteague” by Marguerite Henry.

Accessibility Score: 5

There is a small entry fee to the Wild Life and Nature Refuge area ($5.00) in which the lighthouse is located. To reach the lighthouse, you must park in a designated spot and walk down some short trails ( about .25 of a mile) through a wooded area. The lighthouse is in close proximity to the main entrance of the refuge.

Visitors can climb the tower for a great view of Chincoteague Island, but the lighthouse is only open 1 weekend a month during the tourist season so plan carefully. During these weekends, the light is open 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.

Beacon Score: 3

What makes this lighthouse very unique, is that it has two areobeacon lights in its tower, stacked up together. These flash a double white flash every five seconds.

The original 1st order Fresnel lens is currently being stored in the Chincoteague Oyster and Maritime Museum right next to the entrance of the preserve.

Overall Score and Overview: 24

The beauty of the Wild Life and Nature Refuge and the majesty of the Assateague Lighthouse make this a worthwhile trip!

Ocean lovers might be a tad disappointed that there is no water view with this beacon. However, you can add a few points to this lighthouse’s score if you are a photographer or nature lover.

As you can see, the red and white colors of the lighthouse team up with the rich greens in the vegetation to set up some really beautiful shots.

Nature lovers will love this preserve as you can actually smell the “scents of the forest” as you make your way on the small, wooded paths to the beacon.

These nature lovers will also appreciate the time afterwards on the many trails the refuge offers.

There was somewhat a feeling that the Nature Preserve really didn’t realize or focus on the jewel they have in this great lighthouse. At the visitor center, there were very few items or postcards dedicated to the lighthouse. The main focus there was the nature preserve as this was seen everywhere by souvenirs and informative displays that catered to the refuge.

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