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One quiet afternoon my husband and I decided it would be nice to drive down and see the Cape Henry Lighthouses, we drove to Virginia Beach and followed the signs for Fort Story.
Fort Story is a small Army base on the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Fort Story has two lighthouses. The oldest of the two was built in 1772, for over 100 years it acted as a guide for the boats making their way into the Chesapeake bay and onwards to the busy ports of Norfolk, Baltimore, and Washington.
In 1878 the original Cape Henry Lighthouse was found to be unsafe by an Inspector, cracks had formed in the walls and the wooden staircase became soaked in oil from the lantern. The Spiral Staircase It was decided a new lighthouse should be built.
The new Cape Henry Lighthouse was completed in 1881, the new lighthouse is built of cast iron instead of the brick that was originally used. The lighthouse is currently operated by the Coast Guard and is not open to the public.
The old Cape Henry Lighthouse is open to the public, to get on the Army base you must have current US government issued identification, or if you’re visiting from another country your passport is sufficient, make sure you have your car registration details or rental agreement to hand as the Security Officers will ask to see these too. I always find entering any military base a little intimidating, the guards were friendly enough and were quite used to seeing tourists like us.
Once on Fort Story you can follow the signs or just follow the tall lighthouses protruding from the ground. You will soon come across the parking lot and small building at the base of the Old Cape Henry Lighthouse, in the building is a tiny gift shop which is crammed full of lighthouse and beach nick-nacks, perfect for souvenirs and gifts for family back home. The man behind the counter took our admission fee and gave us a small pamphlet with information about the lighthouses.
Before you get to the lighthouse you have to climb a small amount of steps up the mound that the lighthouse is built upon, from there you can enter the lighthouse and walk up the steps to the area that used to hold the lamp. There is no longer a lamp that burns in the old Cape Henry Lighthouse, so you can walk around the small space where it once would have been.
Through the glass windows you have a perfect view of the new Cape Henry Lighthouse and the surrounding buildings, you get a great view of the army base and the forestry land it’s built upon. Looking out towards the ocean you can see for miles, there were several container ships on their way towards the Chesapeake Bay. Although the trek up the spiral staircase was tiring, it was worth it just to be able to look out the windows and admire the view.