Massachusetts lighthouses tell the story of seafaring life and dangers

Visitors to Massachusetts are entranced by the lighthouses that once served as an essential aid to navigation along the rocky coasts. Lighthouses function almost as small maritime museums, and some lighthouses, especially the keeper's quarters, do contain lighthouse museums and gift shops. Cape Cod, which juts 70 miles into the Atlantic, was called an ocean graveyard from the earliest years of sea exploration because of ilts shoals, treacherous waters, and frequent shipwrecks, The first lighthouse on Cape Cod was Highland Light in Truro, authorized by George Washington in 1796. See listings below for lighthouses that hosts museums, shops, tours, and life saving demonstrations.

Our thanks to the generous help of Jeremy D'Entremont. See more lighthouses at www.lighthouse.cc. Photos by Jeremy D'Entremont.

Scituate Light

Location: Cedar Point, Scituate Harbor

Accessibility: The grounds around the lighthouse are open all year. The tower is open only during occasional open houses. The facility: Active private aid to navigation, managed by Scituate Historical Society, Scituate, MA 02066; phone: 781-545-1083. Lighthouse built 1811. Light flashes white every 15 seconds.

Race Point Light, northern tip of Cape Cod

Race Point Road Provincetown, MA, 02657 Phone: 855-722-3959

Location: Northern tip of Cape Cod

Open: Public tours change from year to year, but generally they are held twice a month, June through September, and once in October. The grounds are open year-round. Accessibility: Visitors can reach the lighthouse by parking at Race Point Beach and walking to the lighthouse (about 45 minutes). Visitors can also use their own four-wheel drive vehicle or contact Provincetown dune tour operators.
The facility: Gift shop is open. The keeper's house is available for overnight stays from spring through fall. Oversand transportation to Race Point is offered to the public on Mariner’s Day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the entire Light Station is open to tours. Donations are warmly welcomed. (Last ride to the lighthouse is at 2 p.m.)
This lighthouse is an aid to navigation, maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. Race Point Light began operating in November 1816 and was one of the earliest revolving lights. A keeper’s house was built in 1840 and another was added in 1876; a fog bell was installed in 1852.
Information: www.racepointlighthouse.org/

Wing's Neck Light

Location: East side of Buzzards Bay

Accessibility: The lighthouse and grounds are not open to the public. It is best seen by boat. The facility: The lighthouse is available for rent. Contact Wing's Neck Lighthouse Trust at 508-460-0506. Lighthouse built 1890.

West Chop Light

Location: Entrance to Vineyard Haven Harbor, Martha's Vineyard

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public, but good views are possible from the road. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1891. Light is white, occulting every four seconds with red sector.

Butler Flats Light

Location: New Bedford Channel, mouth of Acushnet River

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. It can be seen from the shore along East Rodney French Boulevard, and from the ferries leaving New Bedford for Martha's Vineyard and Cuttyhunk. The facility: Active private aid to navigation. Maintained by City of New Bedford. Lighthouse built 1898. Light flashes white every four seconds.

Ten Pound Island Light

Location: Gloucester Harbor

Accessibility: The island is open to private boaters, but there is no landing facility except a small sandy beach. The lighthouse is not open to the public and is best seen by boat. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation; grounds managed by the City of Gloucester. Lighthouse built 1881. Light flashes three seconds red alternating with three seconds darkness; fog signal is two blasts every 20 seconds.

Nauset Light

Ocean View Drive Eastham, MA, 02642 Phone: 508-240-2612

Location: Ocean View Drive

Open: In 2010, open all Sundays from May 9 through October 31. Also open on Wednesdays in July and August. Tours held 1-4 p.m.
Directions: Take Route 6 to Bracket Road; turn right onto Bracket Road. Follow to end and turn left onto Nauset Road. Take first right onto Cable Road. At end of Cable Road, turn left onto Ocean View Drive.
The facility: The current beacon at Eastham was originally built in 1887 as one of the twin lights at Chatham. In 1923, it was moved from Chatham to replace the last of the Three Sisters Lighthouses. Erosion threatened the survival of the lighthouse, and in 1993 the Coast Guard proposed decommissioning it. The Nauset Light Preservation Society financed a project to move the lighthouse further inland. By 1996, the light was moved away to its present location. It is located in the Cape Cod National Seashore and managed by the preservation society.

Sankaty Head Light

Location: East coast of Nantucket

Accessibility: The grounds are open to the public but the lighthouse is not. Reaching the lighthouse from the ferry requires a car or bicycle. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1850. Light flashes white every 7.5 seconds.

Deer Island Light

Location: Near Deer Island, Boston Harbor

Accessibility: This lighthouse no longer exists (replaced by modern fiberglass structure). The modern tower can be seen from many sightseeing cruises leaving Boston and from a public trail around Deer Island. The facility: Lighthouse built 1982. Light flashes alternately white and red every 5 seconds.

Annisquam Light

Location: Wigwam Point, northern end of Annisquam River, Ipswich Bay

Accessibility: There is limited, short-term parking for visitors at the lighthouse. Directions: From Route 127 in Gloucester, turn onto Leonard Street. Turn right at the sign that says Norwood Heights and follow to the end. Annisquam Light may also be viewed from across the river, from Wingaersheek Beach in Gloucester. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation; keeper's dwelling serves as housing for a Coast Guard family. Lighthouse built in 1897. Light flashes white every 7.5 seconds; fog signal is two blasts every 60 seconds.

Sandy Neck Light

Location: Entrance to Barnstable Harbor, Cape Cod

Accessibility: The lighthouse is privately owned and is not open to the public. It is best seen by boat and can be seen from whale watches leaving Barnstable Harbor. The facility: The station was established in 1826; present tower was built in 1857 and deactivated in 1931. The keeper’s house, built in 1880, still stands.

Minot's Ledge Light

Location: Cohasset Rocks, outside Boston Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. It can be seen distantly from points along the shore of Cohasset and Scituate, but is best seen by boat. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1860. Light flashes white; fog signal is one blast every 10 seconds.

Long Point Light

Provincetown Harbor Provincetown, MA, 02657 Phone:

Location: Cape Cod Bay / Provincetown Harbor

Open: The grounds are open to the public, but the lighthouse is not. Accessibility: Long Point is accessible in summer from Provincetown via a boat shuttle run by Flyer's. The lighthouse can also be reached after a long strenuous hike across a breakwater to Wood End, then across sand to Long Point. The facility: This lighthouse is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Station established in 1826; current lighthouse tower built in 1875. The lighthouse operates a fixed green light; the foghorn sounds once every 15 seconds.

Ned's Point Light

Location: North side of entrance to Mattapoisett Harbor

Accessibility: The tower is open during July and August, Thursdays, 10 a.m. to noon. Contact Bert Theriault at nedspointlight@comcast.net for more information. The grounds are open to the public every day. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation; grounds are the property of the Town of Mattapoisett. Lighthouse built 1838. Light flashes three seconds of white alternating with three seconds darkness.

Highland Light on Cape Cod National Seashore

Highland Road North Truro, MA, 02652 Phone: 508-771-2144

Location: Cape Cod National Seashore, east side of Cape Cod

Open: The grounds are open year-round; the lighthouse is open from May 1 to late October. Directions: From the south, take State Route 6 and turn right east on Highland Road. Watch for signs to Highland (Cape Cod) Light. Follow the signs to the lighthouse.
The facility: The building houses an Interpretive Room where guests can watch a 10-minute video showing the history of the lighthouse. An observation deck is located at the edge of a cliff 120 feet above the Atlantic Ocean. Gift shop in the keeper’s house. Guided tours of the lighthouse tower are offered by the Truro Historical Society daily from 10 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. This lighthouse is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation, owned by Cape Cod National Seashore. Built in 1797 and reconstructed in 1857, Cape Cod Highland Lighthouse is the oldest and highest lighthouse on Cape Cod. Highland House (home of the Truro Historical Museum) is a short walk from the lighthouse.

Great Point Light (Nantucket Light)

Location: Northeast point of Nantucket Island

Accessibility: From May to October, the Trustees of Reservations present a daily natural history tour at Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge (phone: 508-228-5646). A naturalist guide leads participants on an over-sand vehicle tour through the salt marsh to learn about the geology, ecology, and history of the area and to climb the Great Point Lighthouse. The facility: U.S. Coast Guard active aid to navigation, leased to the Trustees of Reservations. Lighthouse built 1784. Light flashes white every five seconds.

Duxbury Pier Light (Bug Light)

Location: Duxbury Bay, main channel to Plymouth Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. It can be seen distantly from the Plymouth waterfront but is best seen by boat. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation maintained by Project Gurnet and Bug Lights, P.O. Box 2167, Duxbury, MA 02331. Lighthouse built 1871. Light is two red flashes every five seconds; fog signal is one blast every 15 seconds.

Thacher Island Twin Lights

Location: Thacher Island, off east coast of Cape Ann

Accessibility: Members of the public can visit using their own boat or kayak, but there is no dock on the island, only the ramp used by the Thacher Island Association's launch. Only small rowboats and kayaks are allowed to land on the ramp. Two guest moorings are available about 50 yards offshore. To use one of these moorings, call the caretaker in advance at 978-546-2326. Bring a dinghy to land on the ramp.
The facility: The south light is an active Coast Guard aid to navigation. The north light is managed by the Town of Rockport and the Thacher Island Association, P.O. Box 73, Rockport, MA 01966. A six-room apartment is available in the assistant keeper's dwelling; call 617-599-2590 for information and reservations. Those wishing to camp on the island may obtain a permit by calling 978-546-2326. Lighthouse built 1861. South light flashes red every five seconds; north light is fixed yellow; fog signal is two blasts every 60 seconds.

Monomoy Point Light

Location: South end of South Monomoy Island

Accessibility:The Monomoy Island Ferry offers a variety of trips, including visits to the island. The Friends of Monomoy may offer programs that include an overnight stay in the keeper's house; call 508-945-0594 for current information.
The facility: Station established in 1823; present lighthouse and keeper’s house built in 1849; deactivated in 1923. The property is now managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

East Chop Light

Location: East side of Vineyard Haven entrance, Martha's Vineyard

Accessibility: Sunset tours are offered on Sundays from mid-June to mid-September. Tours are available from 90 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after. Contact the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society for details. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Maintained by Martha's Vineyard Historical Society, Box 827, Edgartown, Massachusetts 02539; phone: 508-627-4441. Lighthouse built 1878. Light is a three-second green flash alternating with three seconds of darkness.

Long Island Head Light

Location: Long Island, Boston Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse and grounds are not open to the public; the lighthouse is best seen by boat. The facility: Active aid to navigation managed by U.S. Coast Guard. Lighthouse built 1901. Light flashes white every 2.5 seconds.

Eastern Point Light

Location: East side of Gloucester Harbor entrance

Accessibility: The station is closed to the public, but there is a parking lot nearby and the breakwater next to the lighthouse is open all year, with good views of the lighthouse. There are private road signs posted in the Eastern Point neighborhood, but visitors are permitted to drive to the lighthouse. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation, duplex keeper's house serves as housing for Coast Guard families. Lighthouse built 1890. Light flashes white every five seconds

Stage Harbor Light

Location: Stage Harbor, Harding's Beach, Nantucket Sound

Accessibility:The lighthouse is privately owned and is not open to the public. Good views are possible from Harding's Beach.
The facility: Station established and keeper’s house and tower were built in 1880; deactivated in 1933. Keeper’s house still stands.

Graves Light

Location: Outer Boston Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. It can be seen from points along the shore in Winthrop (Shore Drive), Hull (Nantasket Beach), and Nahant, but is best seen by boat. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1905. Light flashes two white flashes every 12 seconds; fog signal is two blasts every 20 seconds.

Fort Pickering Light

Winter Island Salem, MA Phone: 978-45-9430

Location: Winter Island, north side of entrance to Salem Harbor

Accessibility: Winter Island Park is open all year. In summer there is a parking fee, except for residents of Salem. To reach the park, follow Webb Street toward Salem Willows; turn right at the sign for Winter Island. The facility: Lighthouse built 1871. Managed by Winter Island A Marine Recreation Park, 50 Winter Island Road, Salem, MA 01970; phone: 978-45-9430. Light flashes white every four seconds.

Cleveland Ledge Light

Cleveland Ledge Channel Buzzard's Bay, MA, 02532 Phone:

Location: Cleveland Ledge Channel, Buzzards Bay

Open: The lighthouse is not open to the public and is best viewed by boat. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Station established and current lighthouse tower built in 1943. Light flashes white every 10 seconds and fog signal is one blast every 15 seconds.

Borden Flats Light

Location: Taunton River / Mount Hope Bay

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. It is best viewed from the Borden Light Marina in Fall River. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1881. Light flashes white every 2.5 seconds; fog signal is one blast every 10 seconds.

Nobska Point Light at Woods Hole Harbor

Church Street Woods Hole, MA, 02543 Phone:

Location: Church Street

Open: The grounds are open year-round; the lighthouse tower is open in 2007 on April 14; May 19; June 2; July 5 and 19; August 2, 11, 16, and 30; December 1. Directions: Follow State Route 28 through Falmouth. From the north, turn right on Woods Hole Road (from the south, turn left and follow signs to Woods Hole). Travel three miles and turn left on Church Street. Parking in front of the lighthouse.
Information: E-mail Abtda@aol.com.
The facility: Tours offered from 9:30-11:30 a.m. Admission is free. Attendance is heavy and it is not uncommon to wait an hour or more to tour the lighthouse. Early arrival is recommended. Station established in 1829; present tower built in 1876. Light flashes white every six seconds; fog signal is two blasts every 30 seconds. The keeper's house is home for the commander of Coast Guard Sector Southeastern New England.

Cape Poge Light (Cape Pogue Light)

Location: Chappaquiddick Island

Accessibility: A 75-minute tour is available through the Trustees of Reservations (phone: 508-627-7689). Reservations are required. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. The lighthouse may be open to the public periodically in summer to those with their own four-wheel drive vehicles. Check at the gatehouses. Property managed by Cape Poge Wildlife Refuge, Chappaquiddick Island, Martha's Vineyard, MA; 508-627-9931. Lighthouse built 1893. Light flashes white every six seconds.

Plymouth Light (Gurnet Light)

Location: Gurnet Point / Plymouth Bay

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public. The Gurnet is accessible by four-wheel-drive vehicle from Duxbury Beach, but the road to the lighthouse is not open to the general public. There may be occasional open houses, including during Duxbury's Opening of the Bay festival in May. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation; lighthouse managed by Project Gurnet and Bug Lights, P.O. Box 2167, Duxbury, MA 02331. Lighthouse built 1843. Light flashed three times every 30 seconds with a red sector; fog signal is one blast every 15 seconds.

Marblehead Light

Follett Street Marblehead, MA, 01945 Phone:

Location: Northern tip of Marblehead Neck, entrance to Marblehead Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is located in Chandler Hovey Park on Marblehead Neck. The grounds are open all year; there is a small parking lot at the park. The lighthouse is open by special arrangement only. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation; tower is maintained by Town of Marblehead. Lighthouse built 1896. Light is fixed green.

Hyannis Harbor Light (South Hyannis Light)

Hyannis Harbor Hyannis, MA, 02601 Phone:

Location: Hyannis Harbor

Open: The lighthouse is privately owned and is not open to the public. The best views are from the water or from nearby Keyes Beach.
The facility: Station established: 1849; Present tower built: 1849; Deactivated: 1929

Brant Point Light

Location: Nantucket Island

Accessibility: The grounds are open to the public; the lighthouse is within walking distance of the ferry landing. The tower is not open to the public. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1901. Light flashes red, eclipsed every four seconds; fog signal is one blast every 10 seconds.

Boston Light

Location: Little Brewster Island, outer Boston Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is open to private boaters by arrangement. Call 617-223-8666. Boaters must drop off passengers and anchor offshore. There are also public tours in season, on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The Friends of the Boston Harbor Islands also run occasional cruises to the island. The Friends can be reached at 349 Lincoln Street, Hingham MA 02043; 781-740-4290. The facility: Lighthouse built 1783. Light flashes white every 10 seconds; fog signal is one blast every 30 seconds.

Newburyport Harbor Range Lights

Location: Newburyport Harbor, Merrimack River

Accessibility: The lighthouses are not open except by special arrangement. The rear tower is easily seen on Water Street between Federal and Independent streets. The facility: Lighthouse built 1873.

Chatham Light at Chatham Harbor

Shore Road Chatham, MA, 02633 Phone: 508-430-0628

Location: Chatham Harbor, southeast corner of Cape

Open: In 2007, open from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on June 6 and 20; July 4, 11, 18, 25; August 1, 8, 15, 22, 29; September 5 and 19; October 3 and 17; open from noon to 2 p.m. on December 31. Directions: From State Route 28, bear southwest at the Chatham rotary to Main Street. At the end of Main Street, turn right onto Shore Road.
The facility: This lighthouse is a U.S. Coast Guard station and an aid to navigation. The lighthouse and keeper’s house were built in 1808; it consisted of two lights to distinguish it from Highland Light in Truro. In November 1870 a nor’easter smashed the barrier beach and started a pattern of erosion that would later undermine 228 feet of land in front of the lighthouse. In 1877 two new lighthouses and a keeper’s house were built west of the road. Within the next four years, the earlier lighthouses toppled into the sea. In 1923, the north tower was moved to Nauset in Eastham to replace one of the Three Sisters lighthouses. During a nor'easter in October 1991 part of the overlook and parking lot washed away, but the overlook has been restored.

Tarpaulin Cove Light

Location: Naushon Island (Elizabeth Islands)

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public and is best seen by boat.The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation. Managed by Cuttyhunk Historical Society, PO Box 165, Cuttyhunk, MA 02713; phone: 508-971-0932 (summer). Lighthouse built 1891. Light flashes white every six seconds.

Plum Island Light (Newburyport Harbor Light)

Location: Northern tip of Plum Island, Ipswich Bay, entrance to Merrimack River

Accessibility: The grounds are open all year; the lighthouse is sometimes open for open houses. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation; the lighthouse is owned by the City of Newburyport and is leased to the Friends of Plum Island Light, P.O. Box 381, Newburyport, MA 01950. Lighthouse built 1898. Occulting green light has two eclipses every 15 seconds.

Wood End Light

Entrance to Provincetown Harbor Provincetown, MA, 02657 Phone:

Location: West End of Provincetown

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public, but the property can be reached by foot across the breakwater from Provincetown's West End. The facility: This lighthouse is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Station established and present lighthouse built in 1872. Fog signal is a horn (originally a bell), one blast every 30 seconds

West Dennis Light at the Lighthouse Inn

1 Lighthouse Inn Road West Dennis, MA Phone:

On Lighthouse Inn Road

Accessibility:The lighthouse, built in 1855, is now part of the Lighthouse Inn, operating spring through fall.
The facility: The light went into service in April 1855, with a fifth-order Fresnel lens, but it was extinguished in 1914, when it was deemed unnecessary. The property was sold to the Harry K. Noyes family and used as a summer home. In 1938, State Senator Everett Stone bought the property as a home and he and his wife entertained overnight guests at the lighthouse so often they opened it to the public as the Lighthouse Inn. In the summer of 1989 the Stone family had the lighthouse re-lighted as a seasonal aid to navigation. It was officially designated West Dennis Light and it operates each summer.

Clark's Point Light

Location: Fort Taber, Entrance to New Bedford Harbor and Acushnet River

Accessibility: Fort Taber Park and the Clark's Point Lighthouse are reached by following Route 18 in New Bedford to a traffic light at its southern end. Turn left at the light and continue for two miles to the park entrance. The fort and lighthouse are not open to the public, but good photo opportunities are available from the grounds. The facility: Maintained by the City of New Bedford. Lighthouse built 1869. Light is fixed white.

Straitsmouth Island Light

Location: Straitsmouth Island, off east side of Cape Ann

Accessibility: The island is closed to the public; the lighthouse is best seen by boat. It can be seen distantly from the end of Bearskin Neck in Rockport. The facility: Active Coast Guard aid to navigation; island is owned by Massachusetts Audubon Society. Lighthouse built 1896. Light flashes green every six seconds; fog signal is one blast every 15 seconds.

Three Sisters of Nauset

Cape Cod National Seashore Eastham, MA, 02642 Phone: 508-771-2144

Location: Off Nauset Road

Accessibility: The lighthouse grounds are open year-round as part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Ranger-guided tours of the buildings are offered during the summer months. Directions: State Route 6 to Eastham; turn right on Nauset Road. Follow signs to Nauset Lighthouse.
The facility:The original lighthouse at Nauset was built in 1837, and was constructed as three brick towers to distinguish it from the single light at Highland and the twin lights at Chatham. In 1892, three movable wooden towers were built to replace the original brick towers, which later were undermined by erosion and toppled into the sea. In 1911, because of continuing erosion, the central tower was moved and the north and south towers were taken out of service. The central tower served until 1923, when the north tower at Chatham Light – one of the original Chatham twins -- was moved to Eastham. It replaced the last of the original three sisters, which was sold. Between 1965 and 1975, the National Park Service purchased the three original sisters; in 1983, the three towers were moved to a site about a quarter mile from their original location and restored.

Gay Head Light (Aquinnah Light)

Location: Aquinnah (Gay Head) Cliffs, Martha's Vineyard

Accessibility: Sunset tours are offered on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from mid-June to mid-September. Tours are available from 90 minutes before sunset to 30 minutes after sunset. Call the Martha's Vineyard Historical Society for more information at 508-627-4441 or 508-645-2211. The facility: Active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. Lighthouse built 1856. Light alternates red and white flashes each 15 seconds.

Palmer's Island Light

Location: New Bedford Harbor

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public except by special arrangement. It can be reached on foot at low tide via the hurricane wall in New Bedford Harbor, and can be seen from the ferry from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk Island. Maintained by the city of New Bedford. The facility: Lighthouse built 1849. Light flashes white, two seconds on, six seconds off.

Derby Wharf Light

Location: Derby Wharf

Accessibility: The lighthouse is at the end of Derby Wharf, which is open all year. The lighthouse itself is not open to the public. The facility: Managed by the National Park Service, Salem Maritime National Historic Site, 174 Derby St., Salem, MA 01970. Lighthouse built 1871. Light flashes red every six seconds.

Point Gammon Light

Great Island, entrance to Hyannis Harbor West Yarmouth, MA, 02673 Phone:

Location: Entrance to Hyannis Harbor

Accessibility: The land surrounding the lighthouse is privately owned and is not open to the public. The best views are from the water.
The facility: Station established and present tower built in 1816; discontinued in 1858

Bird Island Light

Location: Entrance to Sippican Harbor, Buzzards Bay

Accessibility: The lighthouse is not open to the public and is best seen by boat. The facility: Private aid to navigation maintained by Bird Island Lighthouse Preservation Society at 2 Spring Street, Marion, MA 02738; phone: 508-748-0550. The facililty: Lighthouse built 1819. Light flashes white every six seconds.