Rose Erickson’s week at the beach was fun and enlightening.
She stayed in a lighthouse.
Erickson and five other women were modern-day lighthouse keepers at the New Dungeness Light Station, which sits at the end of a 5-mile sand spit near Sequim. They climbed the spiral steps to the cupola multiple times to guide visitors, not to steer ships from crashing onshore.
The lodging offered an amazing view.
“The first night when I shut off the light and I looked out my bedroom window, the whole window was filled with the lights from a cruise ship,” Erickson, 76, recalled of her stay last September. “One day the [Navy] submarine was out there, with the tenders around it. One of the gals was out on the beach and we heard her yelling, ‘Submarine!’”
New Dungeness Light Station is one of five vacation rental lighthouses not too far from Snohomish County. Unlike the others, it requires honorary lighthouse keeping duties beyond raising the flag. Of course, it also offers plenty of R&R.
Booking a lighthouse is similar to any vacation rental, but these are sponsored by U.S. Lighthouse Society, an educational organization that uses the income to help preserve the iconic structures.
Reserve early to get your desired date. New Dungeness is mostly booked until 2018. Guests can rent a room or the entire lighthouse. Cost is $375 per adult ($195 for youth) for the week. A one-week stay is required.
“We ebb and flow with normal tourism in the Puget Sound region,” said Jeff Gales, U.S. Lighthouse Society director. “In the off-season you have a completely different experience altogether. It’s a private place. You don’t have all the summer traffic.”
Each lighthouse has its own charm and identity. All have furnished living quarters with amenities. Some even have pizza delivery available. “People need their pizza,” Gales joked. “Nothing goes better with watching orcas swim by a lighthouse than having a slice of pizza in your hand.”
He should know. Delivery is available at the society’s headquarters, where Gales is based, on one side of the Point No Point Lighthouse on the Kitsap Peninsula. The other side is a rental with two bedrooms, a living room, a dining room, a reading area and a kitchen. Cost to stay is $225 per night (pizza not included).
“Of all the lighthouses open for rentals, New Dungeness Light Station is a little different,” Gales said. “The caveat is, it is a keeper experience.”
That was fine with Erickson. If anything, it enhanced the experience.
Transport to the lighthouse is usually Saturday at low tide, which sometimes occurs in the middle of the night. The women got a ride in. Everybody else has to walk out there.
“It’s a very popular hike,” Erickson said. “Five miles each way. It’s flat. Walking in sand, you need to be in pretty good shape. Some of the people who walked in, we needed to get out the first aid kit. They had blisters. And they really needed to rest a while before heading back. There’s water and picnic tables and restrooms.”
One time, they had to get out the tweezers. “A guy had a giant sliver from a piece of driftwood. He was in so much pain,” she said.
“Every morning at 8 o’clock you put the flag up,” she said.
“From 9 to 5 the lighthouse is open and you conduct tours of that. On Saturday we had 26 people there. Most of the other days we had about 10. I guess in the summer they have over 100 people a day. You have to escort each one up.”
The lighthouse slept all six comfortably (the capacity is eight). Erickson was invited by a friend of the person who organized the trip and didn’t know any of the other women. It didn’t matter. They soon became fast friends with the shared goal of lighthouse keeping.
“The house was nicely restored. It was warm and cozy,” Erickson said. “It was simply, but nicely, furnished. Nice quilts on the beds. A modern kitchen with a microwave and an island in the middle.”
The women took turns cooking dinner.
“I made lettuce wraps, cornbread and tomato soup,” she said. “One night we had pork roast with all the trimmings, and another night a really good lentil soup. Somebody made meatloaf. We ate well.”
They didn’t need pizza.
For fun, they played Scrabble and did jigsaw puzzles.
“I thought maybe the time would hang heavy, but it never once did. If nothing else, you just go walk on the beach,” Erickson said. “I think there was a TV. We didn’t ever turn it on. By the time dinner was over, we went to bed. We were all really tired.”
Erickson moved to Everett from Eastern Washington 45 years ago with her husband, Daryl, and their two young sons. Daryl owned a dental lab and she was a dental office manager. He died seven years ago.
“I’m not a big traveler,” she said. “I go once a year to Maui. I have a 95-year-old auntie who has gone to Maui every year since about 1960. Us nieces go with her.”
The lighthouse was a totally different waterfront vacation. “Out there, whatever direction you go, it’s just quiet and beautiful,” she said. “You hear the waves flapping. If you hear a noise, it’s probably a big ship engine. When they go by you can hear them roar. It’s not a loud roar. You hear the hum.”
After the trip, she joined the U.S. Lighthouse Society, which costs $40 a year and includes the quarterly magazine, The Keeper’s Log, a newsletter and an official membership card.
“You don’t have to join,” Gales said. “Usually people will after staying. They become more aware of lighthouse preservation. By supporting the society you are taking a role in preserving lighthouses. When people stay with us, they realize there is a much bigger picture here.”
Andrea Brown: 425-339-3443; email@example.com. Twitter: @reporterbrown.
More lighthouse rentals
Browns Point Lighthouse
On Puget Sound, 11 miles from Tacoma
The cottage, built in 1903, was named “One of Ten Best Lighthouses to Sleep in” by Smartertravel.com. It has three bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room and a music parlor.
North Head Lighthouse
Cape Disappointment State Park
There are two keeper houses, each with three bedrooms. The lighthouse was built because of the dangerous coastline with so many shipwrecks and deaths. Today, a huge state park surrounds the property’s lots of beachfront, hiking and the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center.
Point No Point Lighthouse
At the tip of the Kitsap Peninsula near Hansville
Good for boat watching. You see ships of every kind: cruise chips, cargo ships, submarines, military vessels, anything that floats on the water. The setting has panoramic views of islands, the Seattle skyline, Mount Baker and Mount Rainier.
One side is the national office of the U.S. Lighthouse Society. The rental side has two bedrooms, living room, dining room, kitchen and reading area.
Point Robinson Lighthouse
On Maury Island, southeast of Vashon Island
There are two houses on a driftwood-lined beach with walking trails. It’s a short drive to Vashon town center with a movie theater and cafes.
Quarters A has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, kitchen, dining room and living room with a picture window looking out at Puget Sound and Mount Rainier.
Quarters B has two bedrooms and one bathroom. It is restored to resemble its 1919 historical condition, complete with a sitting parlor.