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World's top five lighthouse hotels

updated 10:42 AM EDT, Thu May 9, 2013
Few buildings capture the public's imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past. Few buildings capture the public's imagination quite like lighthouses. But as an increasing number of these towers become automated, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.
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Water works
Light relief
Remote and romantic
High life
Top views
American dream
Picture perfect
Creature comforts
Mighty view
Island retreat
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lighthouses illuminate world's most dramatic coastlines, capture imaginations
  • Rise of automated lighthouses could see an end to lightkeeper
  • Many lightkeeper cottages now converted into overnight stays

Editor's note: MainSail is CNN's monthly sailing show, exploring the sport of sailing, luxury travel and the latest in design and technology.

(CNN) -- For centuries, lighthouses have illuminated the most treacherous coastlines in the world, offering a beacon of hope to sailors in the depths of darkness.

But as an increasing number of buildings become operated by automated lights, the live-in lighthouse keeper may soon be a thing of the past.

Many of these historic towers and adjacent cottages -- often perched on dramatic and remote shores -- are now being converted into unique overnight stays.

From the set of the 1980s TV show Fraggle Rock, to a 19th century guesthouse on the Hudson River, here are our top five lighthouse hotels.

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Child's play

If St Anthony's Lighthouse in south west England looks familiar, then it means you were probably a fan of 1980s Muppet Show spinoff, Fraggle Rock.

The British version of the children's TV program was set at the pretty lighthouse in Cornwall, home of the show's Captain and his faithful dog Sprocket.

Today, guests can stay in the adjacent two-bedroom Sally Port Cottage, featuring a sunlit observation room overlooking the swirling English Channel.

But be warned, the lighthouse is still fully operational, with an electronic fog signal kicking into action on really murky nights.

Dutch art deco

If you're after some impressive panoramic views, then Harlingen Lighthouse, located just 70 miles northeast of Amsterdam, is not to be missed.

The light went out in 1998, and today guests can stay in the renovated art deco building located in the heart of the historic Harlingen Habor.

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Walk up the spiral stairs to the top, and you'll find the giant light has been replaced with a table-for-two, offering sweeping views of the small fishing town.

"For centuries, sailors' eyes were fixed on this spot," said Piet Beuker, Harlingen Lighthouse keeper from 1970 to 1998. "Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed -- the beacon has become a lookout point."

Hudson hideout

It's hard to believe the secluded 19th century Saugerties Lighthouse is just two hours drive from bustling Manhattan.

The picturesque redbrick building sits on a spit of land around half-way up the Hudson River, surrounded by rolling hills and overlooking glassy water.

Built in 1869, the charming lighthouse became automated in 1954 and was largely left to decay until a campaign by local residents put it on the National Register of Historic places.

Now the roles have been wonderfully reversed -- the beacon has become a lookout point
Piet Beuker, former Harlingen Lighthouse keeper

It was finally restored to its former glory in 1990, with guests able to stay in the innkeeper's quarters, wander around the on-site museum, or stroll along the surrounding nature trails.

Down Under wonder

For many of the first European immigrants arriving in Australia in the 19th Century, the first glimpse of their new home would have been of the treacherous Cape Otway coast.

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After surviving the journey to the other side of the world, many ships were wrecked on the steep cliffs just outside Melbourne.

Overlooking the rumbling Southern Ocean, the Cape Otway Lightstation, built in 1848, is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country.

Today, guests can stay in the nearby lightkeeper's cottages. Located on the dramatic Great Ocean Road, the cottages are a 90-minute car journey to famous rock formations, the Twelve Apostles.

Island retreat

Nestled on a tiny land bank in San Francisco Bay, the East Brother Light Station is a bit like staying on your own personal island.

Guests can take a ten-minute boat ride from San Francisco to the historic lighthouse, which has been shining its light across the bay for more than 130 years.

The bed-and-breakfast guesthouse includes views over the glittering city skyline, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin coastline.

When not soaking up the ocean views, visitors can also enjoy fishing trips and wildlife walks.

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