Visiting New England
Discovering the Ultimate Hidden, Scenic Dining Spot at the Newburyport Lighthouse in Newburyport, Mass.
Why this special occasions destination is beacons above a typical dining experience
Article by Eric Hurwitz, @newenglandinfo. Story created on 11/12/2019.
Imagine climbing 55 winding stairs and a six-foot ladder through a narrow hatch, en route to an eight-foot in diameter room at the top of a lighthouse to experience an unforgettable romantic meal with a view.
The Rear Range Lighthouse — also known as Newburyport Lighthouse — in Newburyport, Mass. offers exactly that with its dining room affording spectacular 360 degree panoramic views of the ocean, quaint downtown Newburyport and the Merrimack River Valley. Initially started in 1999 as a fundraiser to support The Lighthouse Preservation Society, the dining room at the Newburyport Lighthouse is so popular that it is often booked for months in advance. It’s also the only lighthouse in the United States and possibly the world that offers a dining out experience at the top, according to Jay Hyland, president of The Lighthouse Preservation Society.
As lighthouses historically stand out as beacons of strength, security and solitude, so does the dining experience at the Rear Range Lighthouse. It’s just you and your significant other snugly situated in this tiny private glass-enclosed room most popular for proposals, anniversaries and birthday celebrations (there have also been some very small weddings here). Unless claustrophobic or acrophobic, the sweat equity built by arriving at the top of the lighthouse surely reveals one of the best milestone event destination investments in all of New England.
“It’s like a walk-in closet but with million dollar views,” said Hyland. “It is very relaxing up here. People are satisfied and have that Cheshire Cat grin.”
North Shore Magazine
reviews the Newburyport Lighthouse in an article entitled “Eating Light”
(Dining over Newburyport in an Historic Landmark)
by Carolyn Montalto
With over 30 restaurants, Newburyport is the North Shore’s mecca for fine dining. Yet the one eatery that receives more media attention and creates more lasting memories is not a restaurant at all, but a lighthouse. The Newburyport Rear Range Lighthouse is that one special find, that one place where if you ask veteran diners to name their most wonderful dining experience, this would be it.
How rare is it that a favorite eating spot is not about the food? And in fact, once you’ve dined there you’ll know that it is not really about the ambiance either. Where else would you be willing to climb 55 stairs, a 6 foot ladder, and go through a hatch to a small (8×8) somewhat claustrophobic space where the only bathrooms are five stories down?
And, by the way, as you’re climbing, you’re carrying your own beverages (it’s BYOB) and music (there’s a CD player). Clearly then, there’s something more to the Lighthouse dining experience or else it wouldn’t be at the top of nearly every New England Must-Do list.
Lisa Hiland of Nahant, VP and team leader of Regan Communications in Boston, thought her boyfriend Nate Bell was taking her on a boat ride last August when they pulled up to the Newburyport Harbor. They were met by James Hyland, president and founder of The Lighthouse Preservation Society, who escorted them up to their “cozy” table set for two. He got the couple situated, they placed their order for a 4-course menu to be provided by Mission Oak Grill, one of five local restaurants that cater to the Lighthouse.
At first, Lisa says, it seemed odd to be dining in such total privacy, but once Nate put on the CD he’d made for the occasion and the couple settled in, they became aware of the uniqueness of this experience. “The 360-degree views were spectacular,” Lisa recalls. “Beautiful Newburyport Harbor, the downtown, the sunset giving way to the moon – you can’t help but have a good time.” Between courses, the couple crawled (literally) out onto the deck where Nate popped the question.
The Lighthouse was opened to diners in an effort to raise money for lighthouse preservation. There is, in addition to the cost of the dinner, a $350 fee that goes to the Preservation Society. But what you’re paying for is more than dinner in a creative venue. It is dining in an historic landmark with the New England sea, its craggy coast, a quaint village, and an ever-changing sky as the backdrop.