JUST AS MEDIEVAL CASTLES are monuments indicative of a particular cultural-historical period, lighthouses are monuments to our long-lived relationship to the oceans. While the technology is still in use, new lighthouses are modern, functional, and unappealing towers in comparison to the structures built in centuries past. Many of these icons face demolition or neglect, but passionate people all around the globe have formed groups to restore and save their history.

I was fortunate to visit two of the remaining staffed lighthouses in Canada, to see the beauty of the buildings and get an understanding of what it’s like to live as a lightkeeper. I was backpacking for a week on the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, a remote trail originally laid to aid in the rescue of shipwreck survivors. Just when I thought I was completely removed from the world, slogging through forests, bogs, and beaches, I walked right into the immaculately cut lawn of a lightkeeper’s home. It was a welcome spot to rest up, and the residents were happy to visit and tell us the history of their lighthouse.


Porthcawl Point lighthouse

This was the last coal- and gas-powered lighthouse in the UK. It was built in 1860 and is still in use as a navigational aid on the south coast of Wales. Photo: Capt' Gorgeous


Kullens lighthouse

One of the most prominent landmarks and most powerful lighthouses in Scandinavia. Kullens light is located on the southwest coast of Sweden, in the province of Scania. Photo: Dirigentens


Akranes lighthouse

This old lighthouse is set in the volcanic landscape of Iceland near Akranes, the country's 9th most populous town. Almost all inhabitants of Iceland live on the coast, due the mountainous lava desert and glacial terrain of the interior. Photo: Atli Haroarson


Wind Point lighthouse

Shining in the harbor of Racine, Wisconsin, this lighthouse is home to a conference center, meeting hall, and part-time village police department. Photo: James Jordan


Umpqua River lighthouse

This lighthouse on the Oregon coast has the classic red and white beam pattern. Now run by Douglas County instead of the National Coast Guard, it is still in use as a private aid to navigation. Photo: puliarf


Peggy's Point lighthouse

Located at Peggy's Cove, this is one of the busiest tourist attractions in Nova Scotia and one of the most recognizable lighthouses in the world. There are currently decisions being made about the protection of the lighthouse under the Heritage Lighthouse Protection Act. Photo: archer10


Schiermonnikoog lighthouse

This lighthouse, built over 150 years ago, is located on an island in the northern Netherlands, which is home to a small village and a national park. Over 300,000 tourists visit every year. Photo: Bert Kaufmann


Kovalam lighthouse

The tall stone lighthouse at Kovalam has a lantern and gallery at the top with a view of the ocean and tourist beach. Photo: mehul.antani


Arisaig lighthouse

According to the photographer, this "is a replica of the original Arisaig Point lighthouse, which burned in the early 1930s" when its lamp caught fire. It's located in Antigonish County, Nova Scotia. Photo: archer10


Pointe-a-la-Renommee lighthouse

Guided visits to the top of the lighthouse are possible, and the reconstructed lightkeeper's house has displays of artifacts from over the century. Once decommissioned, the lighthouse was dismantled and set up in the Old Port in Quebec City for 20 years until it was decided that it would be better back in its original location. Photo: archer10


Whitby Harbour lighthouse

This structure sits solidly on a concrete dock northeast of Toronto and throws its light across Lake Ontario. Photo: Rick Harris


Rhue lighthouse

There are over 70 lighthouses along the coasts on Scotland. This one is located in the small town of Ullapool, in the Highlands. Photo: geezaweezer


Split Rock lighthouse

This lighthouse in Minnesota was constructed in 1910 after a number of shipwrecks nearby on Lake Superior. It was decommissioned in the 1960s and now serves as a historic site. Photo: chefranden


Point Betsie lighthouse

Overlooking Lake Michigan, this is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the US. There's a group of volunteers that raise money, clean the site, and hire professionals to restore the buildings. Photo: jkdevleer04


Cape Byron lighthouse

Australia's most easterly lighthouse is supported by the Cape Byron Reserve Trust, which acquired and has maintained the buildings since 1998. The facility is currently being used as a base for whale watching. Photo: paul bica


Wittenbergen lighthouse

Built in 1900, this is one of the oldest examples of steel construction when it comes to lighthouses. It's still active on the north bank of the Elbe in Wittenbergen, north Germany. Photo: elbfoto


Lorain lighthouse

The Port of Lorain Foundation owns and operates this light over Lake Erie, on the coast of Ohio. Photo: ronnie44052


Cape Florida lighthouse

This lighthouse at Key Biscayne, FL was established in 1825 in order to guide ships away from the Florida Reef. Guided tours of the lighthouse and the keepers cottage are given twice daily. Photo: sporadic


Cape Santa Maria lighthouse

Located in Uruguay, this lighthouse was built in 1881 to reduce the large number of shipwrecks in the area. There are 150 steps to the summit, and the building is open to tourists. Photo: Libertinus


Pigeon Point lighthouse

You can find this tower near San Francisco Bay, but the lighthouse has been closed to tours since 2001 due to its state of disrepair. The renovated lightkeeper's house has served as a youth hostel since the mid-1960s. Photo: The Wandering Angel


Portland Head lighthouse

The original lighthouse here was built in 1790. The current structure is managed by the town on Cape Elizabeth, Maine, and is a tourist attraction with a museum, gift shop, and acres of parks and trails surrounding it. Photo: James Jordan


Walton Harbour lighthouse

This lighthouse in Nova Scotia was deactivated in 1986 and is now used as an interpretation centre. Photo: archer10


Holland Harbor lighthouse

The first lighthouse on this spot in Ottawa County, MI was a small, square wooden structure built in 1872. The present building, known as "Big Red," was built in 1907, and citizens had to petition in order to rescue it from demolition in the 1970s. It's now being preserved and restored by the Holland Harbor Lighthouse Historical Commission. Photo: jkdevleer04