“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.”
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.
- Nauset Light, Eastham - 1:00pm – 4:00pm May 13 & 20, 4:30pm – 7:30-pm May 27, and 4:30pm – 7:30-pm June 3, 10, 17 & 24
- Highland Light, Truro - 12:00pm – 4:00pm April 14 – May 24, and 10:00am – 5:00pm May 25 – October 13
- Race Point Light, Provincetown - May 19: Special tours for Mariner’s Day, 9:00am – 2:00pm, 10:00am – 2:00pm June 1 & 15, July 6 & 20, Aug 3 & 17, Sept 7 & 21 and Oct 5
- Edgartown Light, Martha’s Vineyard - 10:00am – 4:00pm weekends (Saturday & Sunday) May 25 – June 16 & Memorial Day, daily 10:00am – 4:00pm June 22 – Sept 2, 10:00am – 4:00pm weekends Sept 7 – Oct 13 and Columbus Day 10:00am – 4:00pm. Children’s Memorial Ceremony of Remembrance: Saturday, September 21 at 1:00pm, with a rain date of September 28. All hours are weather permitting.
- Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard - Runs daily from mid-June to mid-October. Closed when raining. 10am – 4pm Sunset viewing available Thursday and Friday nights from 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
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.
- 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
Sankaty Lighthouse on Nantucket.
- Brant Point Light *
- Great Point Light *
- Sankaty Head Light *
- 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.