A tour of the Gibbs’ Hill Lighthouse on Bermuda

Looking up at the Gibbs’ Hill Lighthouse

There aren’t very many land-based attractions in Bermuda other than the rather beautiful beaches. Sure, there is the kitschy artists’ market up near the dockyards (right across from the cruise ship port – what a surprise) and there are a couple museums in Hamilton. But there isn’t much more to see beyond that. One significant attraction is the 160 year old lighthouse atop Gibbs’ Hill, the high point of the islands. There are dozens of wrecks scattered in the shoals around the islands, but many fewer incidents since the lighthouse went into operation.

The lighthouse itself is something of a modern marvel. It was the second ever built from cast iron. You can actually see the rust showing through the paint job in a few places. It was cast in about 150 huge sections, each approximately 6’ x 8’ large. These were then bolted together in sequence (they are all numbered) in a staggered pattern, allowing each level to rise above the one beneath it with the appropriate structural support. It is a pretty ingenious construction method actually, though the iron certainly does not wear well in the ocean breezes, so that isn’t particularly good.

There were also some impressive developments made with respect to the lenses used to project the light out from the tower. Diffraction is one of those things that mostly made sense when I needed it to because I wanted to pass the physics class but I really never did understand what the hell was going on there. Turns out I don’t really need to because the people who do need to actually understand it quite well. Anyways, the beveled edges on the lens allow the light to be magnified and directed quite effectively. Combined with the elevation of the lamp on top of the hill and the building, the light is visible 25+ miles from shore. That definitely helps keep the ships off the rocks.

The beveled edges are a key to the projection of the light onto the sea.
Only 185 to the top!

Climbing the lighthouse isn’t too horrible. It is 185 tiny spiral steps to the top but there are several landings along the way, most with informative displays and details on the history of the building. And at only $2.50 for admission (buy tickets in the attached gift shop) it is a pretty affordable destination in an otherwise ridiculously expensive destination.

The view from the top is also ridiculously impressive. It was very windy up on top, but that didn’t take away from the beauty of seeing the entirety of the country laid out before me. Really quite nice.

Getting to the Gibbs’ Hill Lighthouse isn’t the easiest thing in the world. There is a bus that gets pretty close and there are always taxis available, though they aren’t particularly cheap. Or you can rent a moped (no rental cars available on the island) and scoot your way over to the hill. That’s how I ended up getting there and it wasn’t too bad.

More photos from the trip here

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.