St. Mary's Lighthouse and Visitor Centre, Whitley Bay

#1 of 32 in Things to do in Whitley Bay
Must see · Lighthouse · Visitor Center
St. Mary's Lighthouse is on the tiny St Mary's (or Bait) Island, just north of Whitley Bay on the coast of North East England. The small rocky tidal island is linked to the mainland by a short concrete causeway which is submerged at high tide.
The lighthouse and adjacent keepers' cottages were built in 1898 by the John Miller company of Tynemouth, using 645 blocks of stone and 750,000 bricks. It was built on the site of an 11th-century monastic chapel, whose monks maintained a lantern on the tower to warn passing ships of the danger of the rocks. The lamp was powered by paraffin, and was not electrified until 1977, St Mary's was by then the last Trinity House lighthouse lit by oil.
The lighthouse was decommissioned in 1984 . At the time, its fine first-order fresnel lens was removed by Trinity House and put on display in their museum in Penzance. A few years later, St Mary's was opened as a visitor attraction by the local council. In place of the original, Trinity House offered a smaller optic from their decommissioned lighthouse at Withernsea, and this can still be seen at the top of the tower. Following closure of the Penzance lighthouse museum, the original lens was returned to St Mary's in 2011 to be put on display.
Since 2012 St Mary's lighthouse has been grade II listed. While it no longer functions as a working lighthouse, it is easily accessible (when the tide is out) and regularly open to visitors; in addition to the lighthouse itself there is a small museum, a visitor's centre, and a cafe.
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St. Mary's Lighthouse and Visitor Centre reviews

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836 reviews
  • Because of Covid-19, you have to book if you want to go inside the lighthouse. So, you will have it to yourself for half an hour. Bit of a climb, but not too bad. Steep narrow stairs at top which...  more »
  • Great place with high police patrols and great open easterly views for the sunrise. Complete with lighthouse this mini-island making great for silhouette shots, parking is free after hours i think...  more »
  • I have been to Whitby Bay many many times but never paid a visit to the Lighthouse.😕. I had to check out their website to find out the Tide times as this determines the opening times of the attraction. As the attraction is on a small Island there is no car park attached to it. Pay and display car parķs available on the main land. A short walk along the causeway will bring you to a ramp leading to the Attraction. Wheelchair users can view from the top of the structure without having to climb the 130 stairs to the top, I counted them 😣, via live cameras which you can view at ground level. Good shop which sells sovineers, drinks and snacks etc and the Toilet facilities are good. The Visitor Centre located in the former Lighthouse Keeper's cottage is well worth a visit. Admission charges for adults is £3.30 with children and senior citizens charged £1.70p. Good family day out weather permitting and the base of the island is worth a look at. Several stories of people who have found fossils there BUT keep an eye on the incoming tide.
  • Great day out, especially with young children. Favourite thing to do is go rock pooling and clambering around the rocks at low tide. The lighthouse itself is a good place to go, but in itself does not constitute a day out and is quite expensive to climb and see the little museum they have.
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