Sightseeing In The Sound

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Lighthouse cruise
The New London Ledge Lighthouse is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a former keeper. (Photos by Kimberly Dijkstra)

The waters surrounding Long Island are home to a whopping 25 lighthouses, a notably high concentration of lighthouses in a single area. Each one has a fascinating history all its own, often dating back to the Revolutionary War. While many of these beacons are reachable by land—Fire Island, Eaton’s Neck (Northport), Old Field (Setauket), Horton Point (Southold), Montauk Point—the majority are best reached by boat.

For more information about Long Island’s lighthouses, see: Long Island’s Nautical Beacons

Cross Sound Ferry, based in New London, CT, offers lighthouse cruises seven days a week through Labor Day and continues to operate through October. The Classic Lighthouse Cruise travels to nine lighthouses between Long Island and Connecticut, plus a few noteworthy monuments. From aboard the high-speed SEA JET, passengers view the scenery while a knowledgeable narrator shares details about each point of interest on the itinerary.

Whether inside the air-conditioned cabin or up on the windy outdoor deck, every passenger has the opportunity to see each lighthouse and snap photos. The captain slows down and does a 360-degree turn in front of each destination whenever possible.

Map via Google Maps

On the two-hour circuit, you can expect to see the 1 New London Harbor Light, 2 Avery Point Lighthouse, 3 New London Ledge Lighthouse, 4 North Dumpling Light, 5 Race Rock Light, 6 Little Gull Light, 7 Plum Island Lighthouse, 8 Orient Point Lighthouse, 9 Bug Light, as well as a few other notable places—Fort Griswold, General Dynamic’s Electric Boat Division and Fort Trumbull.

A view of Fort Griswold Battlefield Park from the ferry (Photos by Kimberly Dijkstra)
New London Harbor is filled with many different types of boats at any given moment.
New London Harbor Light is the oldest lighthouse in Connecticut.
New London’s Ledge Lighthouse welcomes you to the harbor. (Photo by Christy Hinko)
North Dumpling Island was once used by liquor smugglers during Prohibition. Since 1986, North Dumpling Island has been owned by the inventor of the Segway Human Transporter, Dean Kamen.
Kamen refers to the island as Kingdom of North Dumpling and established a constitution, flag, currency, national anthem and a “navy,” aka one amphibious vehicle. He appointed Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield the Ministers of Ice Cream and refers to himself as Lord Dumpling. (Photo by Christy Hinko)
Race Rock Light was built in a particularly rough area of the sea. The foundations alone took seven years to build.
Little Gull Island Lighthouse was involved in the War of 1812, destroyed by a hurricane in 1815 and, in its current form, has been standing since 1868.
Bug Light, officially known as the Long Beach Bar Lighthouse, was built in 1870, burned down by arsonists in 1963 and restored by the East End Seaport Museum in 1990.
Orient Point Lighthouse is affectionately known as the Coffee Pot by locals, who saved the cast-iron and brick lined structure from demolition in 1970.
Plum Island Lighthouse, also known as Plum Gut Light, was decommissioned in 1978. (Photo by Christy Hinko)
The SEA JET travels at speeds of 30 knots (35 miles per hour) and is equipped with a snack bar, souvenir shop and full cocktail service.
The John H. can carry 100 vehicles and 1000 passengers.
After the tour, enjoy the relaxing ride back to Orient Point.

The Classic Lighthouse Cruise costs $30 for adults ($15 for children ages 2-11) and departs on select days at 12:30 p.m. from New London, CT. However, traveling from Long Island is made especially convenient with the complimentary round-trip ferry tickets provided to cruise ticket holders. Take the 10, 10:15 or 10:30 a.m. ferry from Orient Point and return on the 3 p.m. ferry or another one later the same day.

Be sure to book your reservation in advance because the tours do sell out.

For all of the sightseeing packed into two captivating hours, the cruise is a bargain, and a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

More Lighthouse Tours and Cruises

If you can’t get enough lighthouse cruising, Cross Sound Ferry also offers the Lights and Sights Cruise which visits eight lighthouses and various mansions on Fishers Island and the historic New London waterfront.

While you’re in New London, you may also choose to take a ferry to Block Island, which is home to two lighthouses, gorgeous beaches, hiking trails and many shops and restaurants. For more information, visit www.goblockisland.com.

In addition, the East End Seaport in Greenport offers several different lighthouse tours. See www.eastendseaport.org for more details.

On the other end of our island, the National Lighthouse Museum operates lighthouse boat tours departing from the World Financial Center Pier in Manhattan. For more information, visit lighthousemuseum.org.

Execution Rocks Lighthouse, located off the coast of Sands Point, is possible to visit on select days and even stay in overnight with special arrangements. To learn more, visit www.lighthouserestorations.org.

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Have you taken any of these or other lighthouse cruises around Long Island? Share your experience in the comments below.

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