It was a bucket-list dream come true. My Christmas present was an annual membership to the New Dungeness Light Station Association, and a reservation to spend the last week of 2020 in the lighthouse keeper’s house at New Dungeness Lighthouse — five miles “out to sea,” at the tip of the famous Dungeness Spit near Sequim.
I’d hiked out to the lighthouse a dozen times, usually to visit my parents Bill and Ann when they were staying at the keeper’s house on their annual spring trip with the same three couples. But I’d never freed up a week and tackled the logistics of staying out there myself.
The true gift was my parents jumping on a last-minute cancellation and inviting me and my 12-year-old son Soren to join them. This was Bill and Ann’s 15th stay at the lighthouse over as many years, and they knew exactly what to pack and what was involved.
So you want to be a lighthouse keeper?
First, you have to commit to a full week. There are other keepers houses in Washington you can rent for the weekend, but New Dungeness keepers switch off every weekend, on a schedule governed by the low tides suitable for driving on hard sand. Keepers and their gear are transported in two 4-wheel-drive pick-up trucks. (No, you don’t have to hike out there, and there’s no landing for a big boat.)
The New Dungeness house (c. 1904) is beautifully furnished with Victorian-era inspiration, and high-quality linens are included. But you’re the cleaning crew, and you want to leave the house as clean as it was left for you. Your final day will likely be a flurry of sweeping, laundry, and remaking the beds.
You also have duties. My parents joke that they “pay to volunteer to work” — although only part of their day is occupied by the enjoyable lighthouse keeper duties. Normally this includes taking visitors on tours of the lighthouse (by donation), lawn care, seasonal maintenance tasks, and building safety checks.
Our Christmas at the lighthouse
Since we stayed in December and during COVID, there was no grass to mow, and the lighthouse was closed to visitors. But we still greeted everyone who made the trek, chatted them up, and asked them to sign the visitor’s log. My son and his grandpa checked the sump pump daily. At the end of the week, we took down the artificial Christmas tree in the parlor (per the seasonal to-do list) and polished the brass handrail we’d touched on our own visits up to the light, where we watched a submarine go by, birds wheel, and waves crash.
And the question on everyone’s minds: yes, there is WiFi! The bandwidth was good enough for my video conferences, so presumably you could bring your home office with you. However, I’m warning you, you won’t want to spend your days working. Being a lighthouse keeper at New Dungeness is the adventure of a lifetime. Make it yours!
Learn more about being a lighthouse keeper at: NewDungenessLighthouse.com/keeper-program/
About the Author
Shelly Rees Randall sailed into Port Townsend in her 20s and has stayed more than 20 years, writing hundreds of articles about the good life on the Olympic Peninsula and the good people who live here. She is a champion for living local, living lightly, and finding financial peace of mind. Find her coaching practice at ShellyRees.com
Photos by Shelly Rees Randall and Bill and Ann Testerman