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We’ll leave the light on for you!
The Massachusetts coast is home to more than 45 lighthouses, some dating back all the way to the early 1700s. Lighthouses do more than just protecting boats and our coast – they’re special remnants of Massachusetts’ maritime history. They’re stunning to look at, too. Here are a handful that you can visit for National Lighthouse Day.
For more, be sure to check out the Massachusetts Lighthouse Trail!
Cover photo: Nauset Light, by Paul Schraff
Old Scituate Lighthouse
Standing tall since 1810, the Scituate Lighthouse is one of the town’s most famous landmarks. The walkways around the lighthouse are always open, and the structure itself is available for tours on specific days.
Plum Island Light, Newburyport
When construction was completed in 1788, Plum Island Light became the 13th lighthouse in the United States. Newburyport was a popular harbor for a variety of businesses, and it was the townspeople themselves who financed the new building to protect boats traversing into the Merrimack River and the Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is open for tours on specific days.
Eastern Point Lighthouse, Gloucester
Though Gloucester is America’s oldest seaport, it didn’t have a makeshift lighthouse until 1832. The current structure has stood since 1890. The lighthouse is still used by the coast guard and the grounds are closed to the public, but there are trails and parking lots nearby that offer great views of the building.
Gay Head Lighthouse, Martha’s Vineyard
It’s hard to imagine a more scenic location than Gay Head Light atop Aquinnah’s famous cliffside. The first lighthouse to be constructed in Martha’s Vineyard. Aquinnah is home to the Wampanoag tribe, many of whom still live in the area today. In fact, Gay Head Light it is the only lighthouse in the United States with a history of Native American lighthouse keepers. The lighthouse is open daily during the summer months.
Little Brewster Island was home to the first-ever lighthouse constructed in the United States. The current structure dates back to 1790, and today it is the only lighthouse in the country to still be actively staffed with an official lighthouse keeper. The island is accessible by ferry and tours are available for a fee.
Highland Lighthouse in Truro, Cape Cod
Highland Light, also known as Cape Cod Light, is the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod. Constructed to protect sailors from the Cape’s notoriously dangerous waters, it has enchanted tourists and locals alike for over a century. Painter Edward M. Hopper, a Truro summer resident, painted the lighthouse in 1930. It is open daily between May and October.
Palmers Island Lighthouse, New Bedford
Constructed during the height of the whaling industry in the mid 1850s, Palmers Island Light has long held a significant place in the hearts of New Bedford residents – enough to secure a prominent spot in the city’s seal. The island itself is popular among local hikers and birdwatchers.
Nobska Light, Woods Hole
Overlooking Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the current Nobska Light structure has stood tall at one of the southernmost points of Cape Cod since 1876. The grounds are open for tours daily as the keeper’s house is converted into a maritime museum.
Established in 1808, the Chatham Lighthouse station was the second such station established on Cape Cod. Originally it had 2 towers – Chatham Light, and a second tower that was moved to Eastham in 1923. Today it is one of the only active lighthouses in the country that still operates 24 hours a day. Tours are offered every Wednesday.
Derby Wharf, Salem
Nestled within the Salem Maritime National Historic site at the end of Derby Wharf, this light station dates back to 1871. The building’s short, square shape and its relative proximity to downtown make it unique among New England lighthouses. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but the grounds on are open and free to access during the day.
Winter Island Light, Salem
This lighthouse was originally part of Fort Pickering, nestled on Salem’s Winter Island and used by the military up until the Civil War. Today, the area that used to be a fort is now a campground.
Marblehead Point Light
The only cast-iron skeleton lighthouse in New England (and one of only 14 in the country) has been in operation since 1896. Overlooking Marblehead Harbor, the lighthouse grounds are always open, but the lighthouse itself is only open on special occasions.