New Point Comfort Lighthouse –
Here in Virginia’s second smallest county we’re proud to say we’re home to more lighthouses than traffic lights. The score, for those keeping track: two lighthouses, no traffic lights. Given Mathews County’s 214 miles of scenic shoreline, this fact isn’t so surprising. With busier waterways than roads, this little county has all the traffic signals it needs. And besides, who goes out of their way to see a stoplight? Our historic Chesapeake Bay lighthouses, on the other hand, are worth the visit. And for guests of The Inn at Tabbs Creek, one of them is only a few miles away.
History enthusiasts, there can be no better destination: New Point Comfort Lighthouse has served as the beacon at Mathews County’s southernmost tip since its lamps’ lighting on January 17, 1805. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, New Point Comfort is the tenth oldest lighthouse in the United States and the third oldest surviving lighthouse in the Chesapeake Bay. Stonemason Elzy Burroughs designed and built the 63-foot sandstone tower on the point of a sandy peninsula at the mouth of Mobjack Bay. Upon the lighthouse’s completion in 1804, President Thomas Jefferson personally appointed Elzy its first keeper. For 157 years, New Point Comfort Lighthouse lit the way for tall ships, steamers, deadrise workboats, and cargo vessels traveling to and from ports of call in Hampton Roads, Baltimore, and Annapolis, as well as the busy (if slightly smaller) wharves of Mathews County. Ransacked by the British in 1812, seized and extinguished by the Confederacy in 1861, and severed from the mainland by the hurricane of 1933, the lighthouse endured. It wasn’t until 1963, after its replacement by an offshore beacon, it went dark for good.
As it Stands Today – An island of riprap a half-mile offshore is all that remains of New Point Comfort peninsula, but New Point Comfort Lighthouse still stands tall, a symbol of Mathews County’s rich maritime history and a testament to the Mathews citizens who have campaigned tirelessly for its preservation and restoration. Not to mention proof of its first keeper’s building prowess—well done, Elzy!
Get a Closer Look
These days, visitors to the 146-acre New Point Comfort Preserve enjoy beautiful views of this historic lighthouse, Mobjack bay, and the surrounding wetlands from a Nature Conservancy-maintained observation deck, located only a short, stoplight-less drive or bike ride from The Inn at Tabbs Creek. If a closer look at a centuries old lighthouse is what you desire, the public ramp adjacent the observation deck makes launching your kayak or canoe a snap. Boat tours from the Inn will get you there as well. Though New Point Comfort Lighthouse remains closed to the public as its restoration continues, the view from the water is nothing if not breathtaking. Paddle the Mathews Blueways Water Trail (maps and guides to Mathews County’s 90 miles of blueway trails available at the Mathews County Visitor & Information Center in historic downtown Mathews) and enjoy exploring the waterways of Mobjack Bay and East River. Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins, a frequent guest to the waters of the Middle Peninsula, as well as snowy egrets, herons, and bald eagles. Take a picnic break in the dunes of the preserve’s pristine beaches and watch the sailboats, pleasure craft, and Chesapeake workboats slide past New Point Comfort Lighthouse. For over two hundred years, the only kind of traffic light Mathews County wants or needs.