Lighthouse lovers must check out the simple little Admiralty Head Lighthouse. It’s located on Whidbey Island inside Fort Casey property. The original lighthouse was built in 1861, 36 years before construction began on Ft. Casey! When the land was needed for gun batteries, the wooden lighthouse was moved near where the current lighthouse is. Then a new stucco lighthouse was built in 1903 and has 18-inch-thick walls! The old wooden lighthouse was eventually torn down but the wood was reused in a home on the island.
These lighthouses helped guide numerous ships into Whidbey Island safely. Long-ago mariners used the winds blowing through the area to sail into the island. The light that was used until 1922 was called a “Fresnel Lens” which was lit with a whale oil lamp. According to a sign in the lighthouse:
“Fresnel Fourth Order Lens. The Fresnel Lens, developed in France by Augustine Fresnel in 1822 has been used worldwide to aid navigation. Handcrafted of brass and glass, these lenses are of such high quality that their light is just as effective as that produced by the most modern system. Many are still in use today.”
On the bottom floor there are rooms that include interpretive signs detailing the story of the area, the fort, and the lighthouse, as well as historical items such as a replica light (the whereabouts of the original Fresnel lens is unknown.) Artifacts of life during the early years are also displayed, along with a scale model of the fort. A small gift-shop is also open on the bottom floor where you can purchase souvenirs and information. Climb the spiral staircase (who doesn’t love spiral staircases?!) and go up to the top where you can look out and see the Olympics, Admiralty Inlet and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Careful, though, it is a small area and you may have to wait your turn going up or down.
The property is now owned by Washington State Parks and is operated in partnership with the Washington State University Extension, which provides the volunteers. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have.
It’s not a huge lighthouse, but it is well-kept and the location and scenery are spectacular. The fort and its structures are often a pleasant surprise to many visitors who thought they were just coming to see the lighthouse but find themselves running through the batteries with flashlights just like the kids. No food concessionaires are on site, so a picnic lunch would be thoroughly enjoyed along with the expansive views.
Hours are 11am-5pm. Note that it is scheduled to be closed during January and February. Admission is free, donations are accepted.
Getting there: Whidbey Island can be accessed by land over the Deception Pass Bridge, or by ferry from Port Townsend or Mukilteo-Clinton. Take Highway 20 to Coupeville, then take Engle Road to Fort Casey.