Looking for a fun-filled, yet educational event you can do with the whole family and friends this fall in New Jersey?

For the 23rd year, New Jersey will host The Lighthouse Challenge the weekend of Oct. 15 and 16, said Pary Tell, chairman of the Lighthouse Keepers of New Jersey, which sponsors the event.

The challenge is to visit all 14 different stops which include 16 different sites of lighthouses, lifesaving stations, one virtual site, the Lighthouse Society of NJ, and one lighthouse-related museum along the Atlantic and Delaware Bay Coast within two days.

Tell said there is no pre-registration required. Just visit www.lighthousechallengenj.com to see what lighthouses are participating in the challenge.

Cape May Lighthouse (Photo Credit: Cape May Lighthouse)
Cape May Lighthouse (Photo Credit: Cape May Lighthouse)

Pick where ever you want to start, go to that lighthouse, and tell the volunteers you want to participate in the challenge. Participants will pay a $4 fee to get a holder for souvenirs. As you visit each of the sites on the challenge, you’ll receive a souvenir to put in the holder, Tell said.

Once participants visit all the sites and complete the challenge, they’ll receive a special completion sticker. Plus they’ll be entered into a raffle drawing for a gift tote full of goodies from every one of the sites on the challenge. It’s always worth between $500 and $1,000, she added.

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The oldest lighthouse in the United States that is part of the challenge is Sandy Hook which is within the National Recreation area. That’s the northernmost lighthouse, she said.

Other challenge sites include Cape May lighthouse, Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse on the Delaware Bay side, Sea Girt Lighthouse, Tuckers Island Lighthouse, Absecon Lighthouse, Barnegat Lighthouse, East Point Lighthouse, Finns Point Range Lights, Navesink Twin Lights, Barnegat Light Museum, Squan Beach Lifesaving Station, Tatham Lifesaving Station, U.S. Lifesaving Station 30, NJ Lighthouse Society and the Lighthouse Keepers of New Jersey.

Four of the lighthouses offer a night climb on the Saturday night only from 6 pm to 8 pm. These include Tuckerton, Cape May, Absecon, and Tinicum lighthouses. It is not required to do a night climb but they do offer participants a completely different view.

“Tinicum, for example, you can see the whole skyline of Philadelphia lit up at night. Cape May lets you see all of Cape May and the Wildwoods. Absecon, you see Atlantic City. Tuckerton, you see Long Beach Island,” Tell said.

Twin Lights (Photo Credit: Navesink Twin Lights)
Twin Lights (Photo Credit: Navesink Twin Lights)

On the challenge, it is also not a requirement to climb any of the lighthouses. Some adventurous people may choose to do so but most do not, as it is exhausting. Cape May Lighthouse has 199 steps and Absecon Lighthouse has over 200 steps.

Tell said the goal of the weekend Lighthouse Challenge is two-fold. Many people don’t think about lighthouses as places to visit when they visit the Jersey Shore. So the challenge lets people know that these lighthouses exist and every one of them is historic. Many of them are on the National Register of Historic Places.

Second, each lighthouse will sell its own merchandise such as Lighthouse Challenge t-shirts. Tell said all the money from merch sales will go to those lighthouses to help preserve and maintain them.

“So, it’s a two-fold preservation and education kind of weekend,” Tell said.

Around 2,000 people take part in the two-day challenge each year, Tell said. While many participants come from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, others come from across the country from Oregon and California. Tell said last year, they had people from Canada, Peru and Germany take part.

It’s a fantastic family event filled with fun and education. Tell said she remembers a couple even got engaged on the challenge! They return every year for their anniversary to take part.

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