Burlington Breakwater North Light

Burlington, Vermont
Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse, a picturesque 35-foot tower, stands as a sentinel of safety at the entrance of Burlington Harbor.
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Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse: Guiding Ships to Vermont’s Harbor

Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse, a picturesque 35-foot tower, stands as a sentinel of safety and a symbol of maritime history at the entrance of Burlington Harbor in Vermont. Since its inception in 1857, this lighthouse has played an essential role in guiding mariners safely to the bustling harbor.

Navigational Challenges of Burlington Harbor

In the early 1800s, Burlington Harbor faced significant challenges. As marine traffic increased, so did the difficulties of navigating these waters. The harbor, with its southern-facing position and the unbridled force of northwest winds, lacked adequate protection for vessels. Recognizing the need for change, federal funding was secured in 1837 for the construction of a breakwater.

The V-shaped breakwater, built at a cost of $28,727 in 1854, initially spanned 1,000 feet. However, as docks were added along Burlington’s waterfront due to the rising use of the harbor, the breakwater had to be expanded. In 1867, it was extended northward by 1,500 feet, and in 1890, an additional 360-foot section was constructed north of the enlarged breakwater, creating a 200-foot gap between the two sections.

Guiding Light on the Breakwater

In 1857, wooden lighthouses were constructed at either end of the breakwater to mark the harbor entrances. However, these early structures proved insufficient for the task and were soon replaced. In 1890, two robust lighthouses were erected at each end of the detached breakwater, standing tall and proud for over a century until their replacement in 2003.

The Present-Day Beacon

The current northern lighthouse on the breakwater, now known as Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse, stands at a focal plane height of 35 feet. Its distinctive square pyramid shape adds a unique charm to the harbor entrance. It is made of wood, but also has some metal stilts at its base to allow large storm waves to go under it. To aid mariners, it emits a flashing light every 2.5 seconds, with a visibility range of 7 nautical miles.

A Scenic Viewpoint

For those seeking the best views of Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse, the Burlington Fishing Pier offers an ideal vantage point. The closest parking lot, conveniently located off Penny Lane, provides access to this scenic location. While a small fee is charged for parking, the sight of this historic and enduring beacon against the backdrop of Vermont’s picturesque harbor is worth every penny.


Address: Penny Lane, Burlington, Vermont
Place GPS Coordinates: 44.480538, -73.229774
Parking GPS Coordinates: 44.480538, -73.229774
Parking Notes: Some of the best views of Burlington Breakwater North Lighthouse can be seen from Burlington Fishing Pier. The closest parking lot is off Penny Lane and it charges a small fee.

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