Travel tips — November 22, 2016 at 10:07 pm

Getting Away: Vacation in a Historic Lighthouse

Next in our new “Getting Away” series, a collection of vacation ideas that go beyond the norm. This month, we visit a historic New England lighthouse. Wait what? Yup, you heard us right. You can stay in a lighthouse!


If you’ve ever dreamed of spending time in a secluded lighthouse, then consider taking on the position of temporary keeper of Rose Island Lighthouse on a craggy cliff on Narragansett Bay in Newport, Rhode Island. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Rose Island Lighthouse museum is open to the public daily. However, the magic happens once it closes. That’s when the two museum bedrooms on the first floor become available for overnight “keepers” who want to step back in time to experience a turn-of-the-century lighthouse. Note that overnight visitors actually participate with chores of lighthouse keeping, sleeping in the same rooms occupied by keeper families for over a hundred years. Guests also can stay for a week in the second floor weekly keepers quarters. The lighthouse only is accessible by ferry or by the local lobster fishing boat.

Historic Newport provides plenty of activities to keep you busy once you’ve ended your tenure as lighthouse keeper. Newport Cliff Walk is a 3.5-mile trek that takes visitors along the back of the famous summer cottages — think 70-room mansions modeled after European palaces — that were built by the likes of Cornelius Vanderbilt II during Newport’s gilded age. Challenging in some spots, the hike allows visitors views of the dramatic rocky coastline.

Tours of the grand homes also are available. In fact, a few of the homes in Newport now house boutique hotels. So, after the spartan digs of the lighthouse, a stay at Vanderbilt Grace, a vintage hotel that was once was the lavish home of Alfred Vanderbilt, might make for a nice change of pace. And history buffs will appreciate that Newport is home to the oldest lending library, synagogue and continuously operating tavern while it boasts the largest collection of colonial era structures in the country. Newport also is home to the Coastal Wine Trail, a couple of breweries and the only operating rum distillery in the state.

Rose Island Lighthouse Foundation, 365 Thames Street, 2nd Floor, Newport, Rhode Island, 401-847-4242,, Vanderbilt Grace Boutique Hotel, 41 Mary Street, Newport, RI, 401-846-6200,