One of the Garden State’s most popular autumn events is returning this year: The Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey. Every year, hundreds travel to New Jersey’s coastline to visit its 14 lighthouses and life-saving stations from Sandy Hook Bay in the North, to Cape May in the South, to the Delaware Bay in the Southwest.
The goal is to stop at every spot up and down the coastline and reach the top of the lighthouse before time expires.
Bright Lights, Big Foodie
For the first time in the event’s history, the challenge, which is jointly organized by all of the lighthouses involved, will feature food trucks at select spots. Challenge hours are from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, Saturday, Oct. 21 to Sunday, Oct. 22.
Most lighthouses are free to climb, while others require a small fee. Donations are encouraged to help fund the operation and upkeep of the historic sites.
Nanci Coughlin, Director of Tour Operations and Manager of the Cape May Lighthouse and the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), explains that there is no one best way to see all of the lighthouses.
Creating a route “is really dependent upon where someone lives, where they wish to start; do they wish to do an overnight and is going on a night climb important to them,” Coughlin said. “It is all really just personal choice. There is no wrong or right way, but the important thing is that they enjoy the event; and hopefully help raise awareness of these wonderful sites, some of which are not normally open to the public.”
Meanwhile, Carol Winkie of the New Jersey Lighthouse Society, which ran the then 11-lighthouse event from 2000 to 2009, said she continues to support the Lighthouse Challenge and the larger mission of lighthouse preservation.
The Start of Something New
Of course, the New Jersey challenge inspires spin-offs in other states, she says.
“After we started the Challenge, other lighthouse organizations started challenges; such as the Maryland Challenge, Long Island Challenge, and Martha’s Vineyard Challenge,” Winkie adds.
“Today, the Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey consists of 11 land-based lighthouses; Barnegat Lighthouse Museum; two life-saving stations (in Ocean City and in Stone Harbor); a virtual tour of the Delaware Bay lighthouses, and the New Jersey Lighthouse Society,” she says.
For more info, including historical details about each location and directions, visit the challenge website.