Maritime industries have always been important to the life and economy of Erie in Pennsylvania’s northwestern corner. However, the waters of Lake Erie are quite treacherous and they have claimed many ships over the years.
Because of the amount of shipping that passed by the city and the dangerousness of the waters, the Presque Isle Lighthouse was built starting in 1872. It was first lit on July 12, 1873, and has been aiding ships navigating the lake ever since.
After undergoing some major restoration work in recent years, the Presque Isle Lighthouse once again looks great and is open for visitors to tour during the summer months.
Visits to the lighthouse start in the gift shop where you can buy tickets to tour the home and climb to the top of the tower. While tickets are available to only tour the home, I would highly recommend also paying to climb to the top if you are able as that’s what makes this spot so special.
While the second floor is closed the first floor of the lighthouse keeper’s home is open and offers a wealth of information about the history of the lighthouse, the men that were responsible for it, and shipping in the region.
This story is told primarily through photos and text on the wall and there are only a few artifacts on display. Nevertheless, there really is a lot of fascinating information to be found in these displays.
Because of the nature of the stairwell and top viewing area, only a small number of people are allowed to go to the top at one time.
Before going to the top, a guide offers a bit of an overview of the site and its history. While much of the information presented can be found in the panels around the home, it’s still neat to hear that information from someone as well.
As you’ll find in most lighthouses, the trip to the top is along a narrow, winding staircase. All told, there are 78 stairs that will take you to the top of the lighthouse, which is 68 feet above the beach below.
At the top, a hatchway leads into the small room where the light is located. While there are handles to help you through, getting in and out of the hatch might prove difficult for some visitors. Furthermore, to get to the outside viewing area, you have to squeeze through a doorway that is about three feet tall.
For those that make it to the top, however, the views are incredible.
While 68 feet doesn’t sound like much height, it puts you above many of the trees of Presque Isle State Park, giving you a roughly 180-degree view of the beach, lake, and park. While you can’t see all the way to Canada, as you can at the nearby Bicentennial Tower, the views are really quite magnificent.
All told, each group is allowed to spend about 10 minutes at the top of the tower (15 minutes or so counting climbing time). This is enough time to not only soak in the view but also to hear the guide give a bit of information about how the light works. If you want, you can even turn on the light and watch it flash.
Overall, touring and climbing the Presque Isle Lighthouse is a fun way to spend a bit of time while visiting Erie and Presque Isle State Park. It gives you the chance to not only see a great view of the area but also to learn more about the history of the region.
Note: My visit to the Presque Isle Lighthouse was hosted by the site. However, the opinions expressed are my own.
Presque Isle Lighthouse
Hours: Daily: 10a-5p
Cost: Tour and Climb: $6
Coordinates: 42.165761, -80.115367