Guide to Historic Lighthouses

Lighthouses have played an important part in Cape Cod's maritime history. Today, lighthouses around Cape Cod are either owned and operated by a US Coast Guard Flotilla (Chatham & Nobska), a non-profit organization (Highland & Nauset) or a private individual (Stage Harbor & Lewis Bay). 

The public may tour some of the lighthouses below. Check the calendar of events for tour dates for the lighthouse below marked (T). 

Privately-owned lighthouses are on private property and trespassing is against the law.

1. Nobska Light, Woods Hole

The original lighthouse was built in 1828 and replaced in 1879. When seen straight on from the sea, it appears white but from the side, it assumes a reddish color. This phenomenon helps orient sailors. Directions: From Falmouth, follow Route 28 to Woods Hole. Just before Woods Hole, turn left onto Church Street. (T)

Nobska Lighthouse in Woods Hole. Photo by John Fitts.

2. Sandy Neck Light, Barnstable

The original light was erected in 1826 and rebuilt in 1857. The lantern room was removed, then restored in October 2007. Your best view is from Barnstable Harbor. Take Route 6A to Mill Way (at the stoplight), continue past the Hyannis Whale Watcher to the Beach parking lot. A closer view requires a 4-wheel drive vehicle and a beach permit from the Barnstable Town Hall.

3. Lewis Bay Light, Hyannis Harbor

This private light is at the inner entrance to Hyannis inner harbor- you can get a view by walking along North St. and Lewis Bay Rd.  The lighthouse is also visible when leaving the harbor aboard a ferry or charter boat.

4. & 5. Hardings & Chatham Light, Chatham

Twin lighthouses were built in Chatham in 1808 at the current location of Chatham Light. The northern light was moved to Eastham in 1923 leaving only one light in its place. Follow Main Street to its end, bearing right. (T). 

There is also a private lighthouse at the end of Hardings Beach in Chatham, which may be viewed from Champlain Road.

6. Nauset Light, Eastham

This lighthouse was moved to its current location in 1996. Before the northern light was moved from Chatham in 1923, the area was served by three towers called the Three Sisters which are on display a hundred yards from the present light.  Follow Route 6 to Eastham. Turn right onto Nauset Road (next to the Salt Pond Visitor Center) and follow to Ocean View Drive to Nauset Light Beach. (T)

Race Point Lighthouse in Provincetown. Photo by John Fitts.

7. Cape Cod (Highland) Light, Truro

In 1797, the Cape's first lighthouse was ordered built by George Washington to warn sailor of the area known as the "Graveyard of Ships." The current beacon, with over 620,000 candlepower, is the most powerful light in New England and ships from 30 miles away can identify this landmark. In July 1996, the lighthouse, then only 100-feet away from an ever-eroding cliff, was moved west 450-feet to its current location.  Take Route 6 to Truro. Follow signs to Cape Cod (or Highland) Light off Highland Road. (T)

8. Race Point Light, Provincetown

This 40-foot beacon, built in 1816, helped guide ships around the tricky shoals for centuries before the Cape Cod Canal was built. The light and keeper's house have been restored and it is possible to stay at the location from mid-May to mid-September. The lighthouse is operated by the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation. From Herring Cove Beach, the light is about a mile hike north across the sands. (T)

9. & 10. Wood End Light & Long Point Light, Provincetown

Wood End light, built in 1872, is an exact replica of Long Point Light, erected in 1822. You can see the latter from MacMillan Wharf and the former at the end of Commercial St. Wood end is about a half mile walk across the breakwater; Long Point light is an hour's trek beyond.

Courtesy of the Best Read Guide Cape Cod.