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Lighthouses

"A lighthouse is such a potent image: practical, because lives depend on it, and at the same time, utterly romantic, this lonely building on the cusp of land and sea, sending out light into the darkness."
-Jeanette Winterson

Chatham Lighthouse at Sunset
Chatham Lighthouse at Sunset

Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard are home to 22 majestic lighthouses, one of the highest concentrations of lighthouses anywhere. The waters around the Cape and Islands are dangerous for ships due to quickly developing fog, rugged coastlines, the large number of sand bars, and fierce rip tides. These factors led to the construction of many lighthouses on the Cape and Islands during the mid 19th century. These towers of lights provided two main purposes - to provide navigational aid and to warn boats of dangerous areas. Today most lighthouses have lights that run automatically, but for many years lighthouse keepers manually lit the lighthouse lantern, rang a bell, and even shot a cannon.

Each lighthouse on the Cape and Islands has its own story and character. Here are a few fun facts about some of these beacons of light:

  • Great Point Lighthouse on Nantucket is accessible only by 4-wheel drive vehicle, unless you are up for walking the seven miles in deep sand.
  • In 1996, the Truro lighthouse was moved back 450 feet from its original location. Prior to that, it stood only about 100 feet from the edge of the eroding bluff.
  • Until 1988, when it was painted white, the East Chop Light on Martha’s Vineyard was called the “Chocolate Lighthouse” for its brown-red color.
  • Nauset Light in Eastham is the logo on the Cape Cod Potato Chip bag.
  • The oldest original lighthouse structure is the Bass River Light in Dennis. The lighthouse was built in 1855, and its tower still stands today.

Fall is a beautiful time to experience the dramatic views from the top of a lighthouse as well as learn about the fascinating history of the lighthouses and the keepers who manned them to keep ships, crews, and cargo safe. Below is some information about lighthouse tours in the fall. Admission is free unless otherwise noted.

  • Chatham Lighthouse - 1:00pm – 3:30pm May 4 & 18, June 1 & 15, July 16, 13, 20, & 27, August 3, 10, 17, 24, & 31, September 7 & 21 and October 5 & 19
  • Nauset Light, Eastham - Sundays; May – late October and Tue & Wed in July & Aug
  • Highland Light, Truro - Tours are offered every day, May 13-27; 12pm-4pm weekdays and 10am – 5:30pm on weekends and May 28 – Oct 10; 10am – 5:30pm, $4 admission
  • Race Point Light, Provincetown - June 4 & 18, July 2 & 16, Aug 6 & 20, Sept 3 & 17 and Oct 1, 10:00am - 2:00pm
  • Edgartown Light, Martha's Vineyard - Open weekends (Saturday & Sunday) May 28-June 19 & May 30 (Memorial Day), 10am-5pm; Open daily June 20-Sept 5 (Labor Day), 10am-5pm ; Open weekends Sept 10 – Oct 9 and Columbus Day Oct 10, 10am-5pm. Admission is $5.00 for adults. Museum members and children under 12 are free.
  • Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha's Vineyard - Open weekends May 28 – June 19 & Memorial Day, 11am-4pm. Open daily June 20 – Oct. 10, 11am-4pm. Admission is $5.00 for adults. Museum members and children under 12 are free.

Looking for the full lighthouse experience? Try an overnight at Race Point Light in Provincetown. Overnight accommodations through mid-October are available in both the Keeper's house and Whistle house. Accommodations are basic -- bring your own linens, towels, food and drinking water. You could also stay in a newly renovated US Coast Guard Lighthouse located in Pocasset. This beautiful and historic home offers 3 bedroom and 2.5 baths. Yarmouth is home to a unique vacation rental that has incorporated a lighthouse into the design. A cozy sitting room occupies the area where the light would be. Whether staying in a "lighthouse" vacation rental or not, the next time you stay on Cape Cod, Nantucket, or Martha’s Vineyard, see how many of these lighthouses you can visit. The * starred lighthouses are still operational.

Cape Cod

  • Nobska Point Lighthouse-Woods Hole
  • Lewis Bay Lighthouse-Hyannis
  • Sandy Neck Lighthouse-Barnstable
  • Wings Neck Lighthouse-Pocasset
  • Bass River Lighthouse-West Dennis
  • Stage Harbor Lighthouse-Chatham *
  • Chatham Lighthouse-Chatham *
  • Monomoy Lighthouse-Chatham *
  • Three Sisters Lighthouses-Eastham *
  • Nauset Lighthouse-Eastham *
  • Highland Lighthouse-Truro *
  • Race Point Lighthouse-Provincetown *
  • Wood End Lighthouse-Provincetown
  • Long Point Lighthouse-Provincetown
Great Point Lighthouse Nantucket
Great Point Lighthouse, Nantucket

Nantucket

  • Brant Point Light *
  • Great Point Light *
  • Sankaty Head Light *

Martha's Vineyard

  • East Chop Lighthouse *
  • The Cape Poge Lighthouse *
  • The West Chop Lighthouse *
  • Edgartown Lighthouse *
  • Gayhead Lighthouse *

Be sure to check out our Lighthouses of Cape Cod and the Islands on Pinterest.

About Elizabeth Weedon

About Elizabeth Weedon: I have worked for WeNeedaVacation.com since 2008, and I've been a loyal homeowner listed on the site since early 1998. An enthusiastic member of the Homeowner Support Team, I provide fellow Cape and Islands vacation rental homeowners with advice about online marketing and rental management techniques to ensure them a successful rental experience each season. In addition to phone and email support to our homeowners, I also create and edit much of the content on our website, as well as our Homeowner Blog and monthly newsletters. I am also the Press & PR Coordinator for the company, responsible for drafting our press releases and responding to press inquiries and interviews. I grew up summering on the Vineyard, where I have managed my family's rental home since the mid-1980's, and I'm passionately devoted to the Island. My husband and I live in Wellesley where we have raised our 2 grown kids and our Black Lab, Maisie.