Lighthouses, whose bright beams guide ships around hard–to–see rock formations and illuminate the way during storms, are anything but new. In fact, one of the world’s oldest lighthouses was built outside of Alexandria, Egypt in 300 B.C.
Much closer to home, passengers on Amtrak’s Empire Service along the majestic Hudson River can see seven historic lighthouses from the train, most of which were built to guide mariners on their round–trip journey from New York City to the Erie Canal, the 363–mile waterway across New York State that connected the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The Erie Canal was completed in 1825, and the first lighthouse operated the following year.
A total of 14 lighthouses once graced the Hudson River, though only seven remain today, each with its own personality. Some are open to visitors, and one is now a quaint bed and breakfast. Even with radar and GPS, ships still rely on these navigational beacons to guide them. Here’s what you can see from your seat on the train:
Although Amtrak riders often do not notice this small, 40-foot lighthouse in Fort Washington Park as their train speeds by the George Washington Bridge, they might remember it from their childhood in the book, The Little Red Lighthouse and the Great Gray Bridge.
See It from the Train: Between New York City (NYP) and Yonkers (YNY) as you pass the George Washington Bridge
Location: Fort Washington Park, 178th Street, New York, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Yonkers (YNY)
Status: Open to the public one day per year, in October, during Open House New York, otherwise only occasional tours. You can walk to the exterior, year-round. 212-360-8163
Sometimes called the Tarrytown Lighthouse or Kingsland Point Lighthouse, this five-story lighthouse was once a half-mile offshore, warning ships of dangerous shoals that lay on the east side of the Hudson River. Over the years, landfill changed the coastline, thus changing the location of the lighthouse which is now on the shoreline. The light was automated in the mid 1950s, but by the 1960s was no longer needed because of navigational lights on the Tappan Zee Bridge (now the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge).
See It from the Train: Between Yonkers (YNY) and Croton-on-Hudson (CRT), on the east side of the Hudson River, just past the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge.
Location: 299 Palmer Avenue, Sleepy Hollow, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Croton-Harmon (CRT)
Status: Tours are offered by the Village of Sleepy Hollow, 914-366-5109
Part of the Stony Point Battlefield State Historic Site, this 30-foot, octagonal lighthouse was the first operational lighthouse on the Hudson River. It was built in 1826, the year after the opening of the Erie Canal, to mark the southern entrance to the Hudson Highlands. It was restored in 1995.
See It from the Train: Between Croton-on-Hudson (CRT) and Poughkeepsie (POU), about five miles north of CRT on the west side of the Hudson River.
Location: 44 Battlefield Road, Stony Point, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Croton-on-Hudson (CRT)
Status: Open to the public when the historic site is open. Tours are on a regular basis on weekends. 845–786–2521
The last wooden lighthouse on the Hudson River, Esopus Lighthouse is sometimes called the Maid of the Meadow. Completed in 1871, it replaced an earlier lighthouse built in 1839. Its beacon warned boats of mud flats known as the Esopus Meadows, which were located near the western shore of the river. The lighthouse fell into decay over the years but has been restored by preservation groups and is now listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.
See It from the Train: Between Poughkeepsie (POU) and Rhinecliff (RHI). In the middle of the Hudson River, about 12 miles north of POU.
Location: Port Ewen, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Poughkeepsie (POU)
Status: Only accessible by boat. Occasional tours offered in conjunction with Rondout Lighthouse. No regular tours. 845-848-3669
This fully operational lighthouse is the last of three lighthouses marking the entrance to Rondout Creek. Completed in 1915, it’s owned by the City of Kingston and operated by the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
See It from the Train: At Rhinecliff (RHI). In the middle of the Hudson River at the entrance to Rondout Creek.
Location: 50 Rondout Landing, Kingston, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Rhinecliff (RHI)
Status: Accessible only by boat. Tours are available every Thursday through Sunday from June until October. 845-338-0583
Deactivated as a lighthouse in 1954, it was restored in the late 1990s. Today, it serves as a charming bed and breakfast, complete with river view rooms and a deck to watch the ships sailing on the Hudson River. The lighthouse is on the west side of the Hudson River, accessible by a half-mile nature trail.
See It from the Train: Between Rhinecliff (RHI) and Hudson (HUD). About 10 miles north of RHI, on the west side of the Hudson River, at the entrance to Esopus Creek.
Location: 168 Lighthouse Drive, Saugerties, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Rhinecliff (RHI)
Status: You can sleep in it! 845-247-0656
This brick lighthouse, also called the Hudson City Light, was built in 1874. It marks a sandy ridge known as Middle Ground Flats. Still operational, it also acts as a general navigational marker on the Hudson River. Its unique shape protects it from ice and debris.
See It from the Train: At Hudson (HUD), in the Hudson River, but closer to the HUD side.
Location: 2 1st St, Water St and 2nd St, Athens, NY
Nearest Amtrak Station: Hudson (HUD)
Status: Accessible only by boat. Tours conducted by a former lighthouse keeper available via the 15-passenger boat, “Little Spirit.” Walk from HUD to the dock. 518-828-5294
Take Amtrak to Any of These Locations
Experience these destinations via Amtrak when the time is right —Don’t forget to use Amtrak’s See New York and Save 15% discount!
Rent a car with Enterprise! Pick up your reserved NYTRAIN Enterprise Rent-a-Car right at several of the Amtrak stations. Use discount code NYTRAIN.