Lighthouses are a popular subject for photographers, and there are many picturesque lighthouses throughout the New England states. Rhode Island is home to several noteworthy lighthouses, but possibly the most beautiful one is the Castle Hill Lighthouse in Newport.
The Castle Hill Lighthouse is fairly small, but it sits on a rugged, beautiful section of the coast that is perfect for your photos. The lighthouse is on the west side of Newport, along the East Passage of the Narragansett Bay and is fairly easy to reach if you know where you’re going.
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Getting to the Castle Hill Lighthouse
Although the Castle Hill Lighthouse is one of the more iconic spots in Newport, it’s not marked extremely well. It is located near the Castle Hill Inn on Ocean Avenue, but it is not visible from the road or from the inn. To reach the lighthouse you’ll need to take a short trail.
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The lighthouse itself is government owned, but much of the land around it is privately-owned, including land owned by the Castle Hill Inn. Public access is allowed to the land, but the inside of the lighthouse is not accessible.
If you follow Ocean Avenue it will lead you to the Castle Hill Inn at the end of the road. The inn has a parking lot and a short trail next to the parking lot leads through the woods and to the lighthouse. However, parking is restricted and only for guests of the inn and restaurant.
If you are just visiting to photograph the lighthouse the best place to park is in the parking lot for the marina. As you are driving on Ocean Avenue heading towards the inn the marina parking will be on your right. From what I have read there are no restrictions on parking in this lot, and when I visited there were no signs saying anything about restricted parking. So from what I understand it is ok to park in this lot if you are visiting the lighthouse.
Across the street from the marina parking lot is a short trail that will lead you right to the lighthouse in a matter of just a few minutes. Just before you reach the lighthouse there is a clearing. From there you can head straight towards the lighthouse, which will lead you to the stairs. If you want to photograph from the south side of the lighthouse, like the photo below, head to the left in the clearing and you’ll see another trail that will take you out to the rocks.
Once you’re on the rocks, either on the north or south side of the lighthouse, you can walk around and find the best angles and perspectives for your photos. Be careful on the rocks as they are uneven and can be slippery or loose.
If you are shooting from the south looking north, it’s possible to get the Claiborne Pell Bridge in the background of your photos.
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I visited the lighthouse a few different times on a recent trip to the Newport area. My favorite time of day was just after sunset. It was still light enough to easily take the trail to the lighthouse and back, but the light was on, which makes for a more interesting lighthouse photo.
When you take the trail from the marina parking lot be sure you pay attention to where the trail enters the clearing. There are several trails here and you’ll want to know which one will get you back. It’s pretty hard to get too lost because any of the trails will eventually lead you back to the road, but some of the trails lead to houses and private property.
Also in the Area
While you are in the Newport area there are plenty of other things to photograph as well. As far as lighthouses go, the Point Judith Lighthouse is just over a 30-minute drive from Castle Hill, and the Beavertail Lighthouse is less than 30 minutes away.
Aside from lighthouses, Brenton Point State Park is probably about a mile or two from Castle Hill. If you enjoy enjoy coastal photography you won’t want to miss Brenton Point. Heading across the Claiborne Pell Bridge to Jamestown will lead you to Beavertail State Park and Fort Wetherill State Park. Beavertail in particular is a great location for photography. Black Point in Narragansett is another noteworthy location, and it is very close to Point Judith.