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They were constructed to serve and protect but several of the Atlantic coastlines historic lighthouses are now hosting visitors for cozy getaways with unbeatable water views. Some properties only offer one or two rooms, while others utilize lighthouse keepers' cottages so are slightly larger. All offer an intimate and historic setting, more often than not, far from the bright lights of the city.

First Light Bed and Breakfast (tel. 207/374-5879; www.firstlightbandb.com) is located on the waterfront at McHeard's Cove in the small village of East Blue Hill, Maine. There are three guest rooms -- the Seaside Garden Room and Lighthouse Suite have spectacular views of McHeard's Cove and Blue Hill Bay and the Maine Room has views of McHeard Stream and a saltwater pond. A set of winding wooden stairs leads to the top of the lighthouse tower and from there, guests can watch the sunrise and experience the 360 degree panoramic views. Breakfast is served in the dining room, on the patio, or in your room with specialties like Finnish oven pancakes, blueberry-stuffed French toast and baked oatmeal. Room rates range from $85 to $150 per night based on double occupancy, and include the home-cooked breakfast.

If a few light housekeeping duties (as opposed to lighthouse keeping) don't put you off, then consider a stay at Rose Island Lighthouse (tel. 401/847-4242; www.roseislandlighthouse.org) in Newport, Rhode Island. The lighthouse operates by day as a museum and is on the National Register of Historic Places. After 4pm, the two museum bedrooms on the first floor become available for overnight "keepers." What this means is that you are responsible for changing and making your bed each morning before the museum reopens at 10am. No breakfast is provided, but there is a full kitchen for use (no fridge so you'll need to bring a cooler) and you'll be getting back to basics by bathing using a washbowl and pitcher. Rates are $165 per night on weekdays and $175 on weekends from November to June, $20 more from July to September and $10 in October. Stay for two consecutive nights or book both rooms between November and March (except holiday weekends) and receive a $20 discount. Now for "lighthouse keeping," Rose Island offers a program where you can stay for a week in an apartment on the second floor and take on one to two hours work a day actually maintaining the lighthouse. One week stays from November to March range in price fro $700 to $900 plus daily chores and projects. Stays from May to October range in price from $1,200 to $1,800.

The Swallowtail Inn (tel. 866/563-1100; www.swallowtailinn.com) is situated on Grand Manan Island, at the southern end of New Brunswick, Canada, just off the north east coast of Maine. It is accessible by car ferry from Blacks Harbour, New Brunswick. A fully operational wooden lighthouse, it offers six rooms with unbeatable ocean views and exceptional bird and whale watching. The property is only open from June to October and rates range from $85 to $125 per room per night based on double occupancy or $69 to $85 for a single room including a home-cooked breakfast.

If you are looking for complete peace and quiet, head north and into the colder Atlantic waters of Newfoundland, Canada to experience one of the most remote lighthouse lodgings. The Quirpon Island Lighthouse Inn (tel. 877/254 6586; www.linkumtours.com/site/inns_quirpon.htm) is located on a tiny island on the northernmost tip of Newfoundland and features eleven guest rooms in two houses at the base of an operating lighthouse. The island is one of Newfoundland's best locations for viewing icebergs as the Labrador Current carries them south and it offers the longest iceberg viewing season in the region. It is also ideal for whale watching with an indoor viewing area as well as outdoor platforms. Overnight accommodation at Quirpon (pronounced like "harpoon") is priced at $325 to $350 per night based on double occupancy, or $225 for a single room. The price includes a 45-minute boat tour through Iceberg Alley to and from island and all meals including Doris' homemade traditional suppers.

Not all lighthouses are located on the coast -- in fact one of the most quaint lighthouse properties is actually located on New York's Hudson River, just over 100 miles from New York City. The Saugerties Lighthouse Bed and Breakfast (tel. 845/247-0656; www.saugertieslighthouse.com) isn't your traditional white, tall and circular building but it is an historic red brick building built in 1869, with a working beacon that sits at the mouth of the Esopus Creek. It's an isolated spot, perfect for getting away from the hustle and bustle of city life. The lighthouse boasts panoramic views of the Hudson River with the Catskill Mountains to the west and Magdalen and Cruger Islands to the south. There are two second floor bedrooms -- the West Room has windows facing south down the Hudson River and west towards the Catskills and the East room, the larger of the two rooms, has windows looking east onto the river. Bathroom facilities are shared plus guests can use the kitchen if they like but breakfast is provided. Stays on Wednesday or Thursday nights are $160 and Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights are $175 (including breakfast).

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