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Cape Henry Lighthouse

ca. 1792
583 Atlantic Ave., Fort Story, VA 23459

Cape Henry Lighthouse Front

Cape Henry Lighthouse:

  • The first federally funded lighthouse, was built to guide maritime commerce at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay

  • Standing near the “First Landing” site where English settlers arrived in 1607

  • Stood sentinel since it was completed in 1792

  • Authorized by George Washington and overseen by Alexander Hamilton

  • Designed by New York architect John McComb  

  • In active use for nearly a century before being replaced by a new cast iron lighthouse still standing nearby 

  • It is one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in the United States

Preservation Virginia acquired the Cape Henry Lighthouse in 1930 when Congress deeded the house and 1.77 acres of land to the organization in order to preserve it and make it accessible to the public. Over the years lighthouse and its surroundings have been restored including repairing the lantern after damage from Hurricane Barbara in 1953, repairing the damaged original Aquia sandstone and restoring the surrounding dunes.

Today, visitors to the Cape Henry Lighthouse can climb to the top of the tower to enjoy spectacular views of the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. 

Directions for Visitors coming from the Virginia Beach Ocean Front:

Our Address is 583 Atlantic Ave. Fort Story, VA 23459 (Please note that this zipcode should be entered into your GPS or you may be directed to an incorrect address for the Cape Henry Lighthouse)

  • Head north on Pacific Ave.

  • Stay right to merge onto Atlantic Ave.

  • Continue forward until you reach the Gate Access point on Ft. Story Joint Forces Expeditionary Base

During the summer months, the temperature at the top of the tower can reach extreme levels. Cape Henry Lighthouse will close the tower when the heat index inside reaches 125°. We also close the tower during thunderstorms and when lightning has been spotted. Visitors will still be able to walk to the top of the dune and shop in the museum store. Winter weather advisories also may effect the opening of the lighthouse. If you have questions about closings call 757-422-9421

Visitor Information


January 3 - March 15: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

March 16 - October 31: 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

November 1 - December 30: 10:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Please note that tours stop 30 minutes prior to closing. 

Closed on Sunday, March 19, 2017 for the Shamrock Marathon, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Day and New Years Eve, New Years Day and January 2. 


Preservation Virginia Members: Free (Become a Member)
Adults (13 & over): $8
Military, AAA and Seniors (60+): $7
Students (must be 42 inches tall):  $6 
Adult Group: $6 (call for info)
Youth Group $5 (must be 42 inches tall, call for info)


Group Tours:

Friday through Sunday groups of ten or more are charged at a rate of $5.00 per person. Group tours are available at any time by arrangements made no less than one week in advance of the visit.


Special Event Rental:

Dune, Tower and Field Area:  $100 per hour including set up and take down time. Max capacity for special events: 10 people in tower, 20 people on top of dune, and 200 people in field. The non-member fee is $75 (Annual individual membership fee is $50). All special events must take place outside of regular operating hours. A $300 deposit is required to secure the event date and will be returned within 60 days after the event.

Cancellation policy: Reservations may be cancelled up to 30 days prior to event date for a full refund of deposit. Any cancellations closer than 30 days prior to the event will result in forfeiture of the $300 deposit.

Additional Information

The Cape Henry Lighthouse is located within the fence line of the Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story military base. To visit the lighthouse, you must pass through the security gates of Joint Expeditionary Base Fort Story at 89th Street and Atlantic Avenue.

Upon arrival to Gate 8, please inform the Security Guard of your intent to visit the Cape Henry Lighthouse. You will be directed to the Vehicle Inspection Station and asked to provide picture identification for all vehicle occupants over the age of 16, proof of vehicle registration (or rental agreement) and proof of insurance.

At the Vehicle Inspection Station, all guest vehicles are required to consent to a vehicle inspection in order to visit the lighthouse. You will also be asked to declare any contraband (i.e., weapons or illegal drugs). NO FIREARMS, WEAPONS OR ILLEGIAL DRUGS ARE PERMITTED ON BASE. Failure to consent to a vehicle inspection or the possession of unauthorized contraband is cause for immediate denial for access to the installation.

While your vehicle is being inspected, you will be asked to exit the vehicle and the rules for accessing the Lighthouse and Cape Henry Memorial will be explained to you. Upon completion of the vehicle inspection, you will be issued a Visitor Pass and your picture ID will remain in the possession of the security guard while you are onboard the installation.

When you have completed your tour of the Lighthouse and Cape Henry Memorial, please return to the Vehicle Inspection Station to retrieve your ID and return your Visitor Pass.

Visitors from the following states must present a passport if they do not have the updated ID which is compliant with the Real ID ACT:​

- Minnesota
- Illinois
- Missouri
- New Mexico
- Washington
- American Samoa

For your safety and comfort, please observe the following rules for climbing the Cape Henry Lighthouse:

  • You must be at least 42 inches tall to climb the lighthouse.
  • Children may not be carried up the steps.
  • Backpacks and frontpacks are not allowed on the staircase.
  • We strongly discourage flip-flops


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