Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse

Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse
4.5
About
Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, located next to Fort Constitution in New Castle, New Hampshire, is open for guided tours every Sunday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., late May through mid-October. For a small suggested donation, visitors can climb to the top and see the Fresnel lens as well as a breathtaking view of Portsmouth Harbor. Visit our website for more information on open houses and special events.
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4.5
4.5 of 5 bubbles101 reviews
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53
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36
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9
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Maurene_K
Dover, NH12,099 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Jun 2023 • Solo
Before COVID and storm damage during the winter of 2022 – 2023 that destroyed the walkway out to Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse, I visited and took the tour several times.

Now, it must be admired from a distance. There are two best places to get excellent views of it. The first is from Great Island Common over by the fishing pier. The view from there allows one to see the lighthouse, oil house, part of the keeper’s house, and part of the stone wall rampart of Fort Constitution. The second best view is from Fort Constitution. It’s closer to the lighthouse, but one doesn’t see as much of it, and part of the USCG Station at New Castle blocks the view of the oil house.

The Dept. of the Interior of the US Government owns the lighthouse and the keeper’s house which is used for USCG offices. The USCG maintains the navigational aid as the entrance to Portsmouth Harbor can be treacherous for larger vessels. In fact, freighters and tankers must wait offshore for Moran Towing tugs and a pilot from Moran Towing to board and steer the vessels in while the tugs help guide them into the harbor.

The Friends of Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouses maintain the lighthouse tower, oil house, and walkway.

Since one cannot get a tour of the lighthouse due to the missing walkway, one can get some tour information from my review. I remember a lot from my previous visits for tours.

The docent stationed at the base of the lighthouse will talk about the lighthouses that stood on the grounds before as well as this one. Some of the facts one will hear are as follows.

The original lighthouse was built in 1771. It was the first lighthouse north of Boston. It was built inside Fort William and Mary which became known as Fort Constitution after the American Revolution. There is no evidence of exactly where it was near the middle of the inside the fort because even the foundation was removed when it was torn down. What is known about it is that it was a wooden tower that had a lantern powered by three oil lamps.

The second structure was built where today’s lighthouse stands. It was built in 1804 with an 80-foot tower. Nearby Whaleback Lighthouse was built in 1831. It was shorter. That caused confusion for ships entering the harbor as they would head for the taller structure. That caused the risk of running aground. So, Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse was shortened by 55 feet in 1851.

In 1854, the lantern room was fitted with a Fourth Order Fresnel lens.

The story about construction of the lighthouse we see today is interesting. To maintain the navigational aid while the new one was being built in 1878, the new one was built inside the 1804 structure. The 1878 lighthouse is made of cast iron in sections that were brought to Portsmouth by ship from Maine. It was lined with brick. It was made 48 feet high and built in a conical shape. When completed, the 1804 structure was removed.

The lighthouse is done in the Late Victorian style of architecture. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The oil house was built in 1903 and restored in 2004.

When one climbs up to the Watch Room, one gets a brief talk about how the light keeper would spend more time there keeping watch for approaching ships during periods of fog or storms and during the night to make sure that the light was kept burning.

Then, one climbs up a vertical metal rung ladder to the Lantern Room. Because the rungs of the ladder are so narrow it is required of climbers to that level not to be wearing flimsy shoes, such as flip-flops. Due to cramped space up there, only about six people and the docent stationed there can fit in the room at once. Everyone gathers around the lantern. Some of the facts one will learn there include the following.

The 1854 fourth order Fresnel lens was moved into this lighthouse. It is still operational. The light’s range is 12 nautical miles. Its characteristic is fixed green. A green plastic shield surrounds the lantern. Every lighthouse has a different characteristic so mariners can be sure of exactly where they are. The lantern was automated in 1960.

The views from all angles in the Lantern Room are very scenic.

For how things are when the lighthouse is open, the historic value, the knowledgeable staff, and the scenic views, I rate Portsmouth Harbor Lighthouse at 5.0 and highly recommend at least viewing it from Great Island Common and watching for news of its re-opening when the walkway is replaced.

The reason for the delay in submitting this review was due to a months-long loss of my ability to post photos with my reviews and some health issues.

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Written 9 October 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

S J
Houston, Texas, United States30 contributions
2.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2021 • Couples
By the time we got there the area was closed. We found many things closed during our October visit. They were either closed for the season, or early in the day.
Written 10 October 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Honorcode
Philadelphia, PA6 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2021 • Couples
While a bit out of the way, we found there's a lot of fascinating history about the lighthouse and the surrounding park.
Written 2 October 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MaineMountainOwl
Maine282 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2021
This 48-foot (15 m) tall, stately, black and white conical lighthouse (built 1878) was visible from Fort Constitution and other points around Portsmouth Harbor. It stood on two acres (0.8 ha) on New Castle Island at the mouth of the Piscataqua River. Access was off US 1B at the US Coast Guard Station. Parking was in a dirt lot. We appreciated all that we could see of it from a distance; we disliked nothing.
Written 27 September 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Solutions123
Austin, TX175 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2020 • Couples
The lighthouse park was closed but we drove to another park where we were able to see it as well as the other lighthouse in the middle of the water. Beautiful landscape.
Written 18 October 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

tloco1979
Oklahoma City, OK88 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2020
Beautiful lighthouse even at a distance..... COVID has tours shut down. Go to the Great Island Common for good views.
Written 7 October 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

EFW2014
Woolwich, ME1,453 contributions
3.0 of 5 bubbles
Aug 2020 • Couples
Because of the Covid 19 “ pandemic” the tours to the light house are cancelled until further notice.

There’s a sign that says to go to the commons (3min down the road) for pictures. However there is NO parking!! Pedestrian traffic only!
Written 16 August 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Colleen C
Troy, NY2,470 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Jul 2020
This review is done during Covid-19 and with that being said ~ Many lighthouses are Not allowing people to tour them. So the only view you can get of this lighthouse is from a (free) parking lot on the side of this military fort and it's obstructed from 2 buildings on the base.
Written 31 July 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Holli M
Boaz, AL32 contributions
4.0 of 5 bubbles
Sept 2019
This was a beautiful area, but we never could find the exact spot of the lighthouse. We went further down the street and went into a nice little park area where we saw another small lighthouse and some sail boats, but we couldn't get to that one, :(
Written 21 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

The Sure Woulds
Fishers, IN3 contributions
5.0 of 5 bubbles
Oct 2019
Nice little stop as we drove along the coast. Great views of the lighthouse and the ocean. Great spot for pictures.
Written 12 October 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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PORTSMOUTH HARBOR LIGHTHOUSE (2024) All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go (with Photos)

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