Paddling to New Point Comfort Lighthouse offers a chance to see dolphins and pelicans while listening to the rap of the currents smacking your boat or kayak. But this beacon in the Chesapeake Bay (part of the Middle Peninsula region) is also historically relevant, dating back to its construction in the early 1800s.
Kayak or canoe there yourself but only if you’re an experienced paddler. Winds can make the half mile from the launch at the Observation Walkway at New Point Comfort Preserve a challenge. It’s best to make the excursion early in the morning when winds and tides are generally calmer.
Another option is to join Capt. Trey Sowers aboard his classic Chesapeake Deadrise work boat for a tour that leaves from the Inn at Tabbs Creek in Port Haywood. It’s roughly three hours to and from and also includes a stop near Wolf Trap Lighthouse, about 7 ½ miles northeast of New Point Comfort Lighthouse.
“The current can be challenging for people who are not physically fit,” Sowers said.
Elzy Burroughs built the 55-foot high sandstone lighthouse that is New Point Comfort, finishing it in 1805 and agreeing to be its inaugural keeper. His home on five acres once stood next to the lighthouse, but erosion has leveled the former peninsula into today’s rocky island. The difficulty of securing a boat and navigating the climb to the actual lighthouse make viewing from a close distance preferable to navigating the rocks on shore. Years ago, Sowers was inside the structure, which has since been restored and preserved.
“The view was amazing, but there were no railings on the stairs at the time,” Sowers said. “I did it before it was restored. Beautiful views from up there.”
Visitors are no longer allowed inside, but there’s plenty to enjoy by being close to the storied structure that is the third oldest lighthouse still standing in the Chesapeake Bay and the 10th oldest in the United States. You can get as close as 25 feet to the lighthouse, which marks the entrance to Mobjack Bay. Today a solar light turns on at dusk.
History tells us that the lighthouse was a beacon for more than 150 years minus the time it was extinguished by the Brits during the War of 1812 and during the Civil War, when it was damaged.
At least 21 official keepers manned the New Point Comfort Light Station until the Coast Guard retired it in 1963. Interestingly, two were African American, including preacher J. McHenry Farley, who pled for an assistant due to the isolation of the post. He was denied.
A hurricane in 1933 separated the lighthouse from the mainland, and in the decades since, erosion continued. Today it’s a stopover for neo-tropical and other migratory birds. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In addition to birds, look for dolphins and puppy drum. Bring your camera to capture a selfie of you with the lighthouse as the backdrop. While you’ll want to reach shore before dark, it’s also special to see the Mathews County treasure illuminated at night.