The three Nantucket Lighthouses offer a rare glimpse into the island’s extensive maritime history. As one of the main trading ports in the 18th Century, Nantucket has multiple lighthouse for ships and whaling boats to safely navigate the Atlantic. Historic and scenic, the three lighthouses on Nantucket continue to delight visitors. Make sure to see at least one of the three Nantucket lighthouses – Brant Point Lighthouse, Sankaty Lighthouse and Great Point Lighthouse – all located in different parts of the island. Even if you’re visiting Nantucket for a day trip from Cape Cod, you should make sure you see at least one of the three Nantucket lighthouses.
Brant Point Lighthouse
One of the most iconic lighthouses on Nantucket is the historic Brant Point Lighthouse. The original tower was established in 1746, making it the second oldest lighthouse station in the country. Thanks to cliff erosion etc, the present-day Brant Point Lighthouse is actually the 10th to be erected at this location.
Brant Point Lighthouse still a working today and flashes a red light every four seconds that can be seen up to ten miles away. The lantern inside the beacon is the same light that was installed in 1901.
If you arrive on Nantucket by ferry, you’ll have unobstructed views of Brant Point as you dock at Nantucket Harbor. It’s within walking distance of downtown Nantucket, which makes it easy to visit.
Visitors are not allowed inside because Brant Point Lighthouse is still a working US Coast Guard lighthouse (similar to the West Chop Lighthouse in Martha’s Vineyard). You can, however, still walk around the grounds and admire the coastal scenery overlooking the Atlantic.
Sankaty Head Lighthouse
You may have already seen photos of this red and white striped iconic lighthouse on Nantucket. Standing over 70 feet tall and overlooking the island’s eastern shoreline, Sankaty is one of the most recognizable lighthouses on Nantucket similar to Nauset Lighthouse in Cape Cod.
The Sankaty Head Lighthouse is still the original structure built in 1850. Similar to Aquinnah Lighthouse in Martha’s Vineyard, Sankaty Head Lighthouse was also one of the first lighthouses in the country to use a Fresnel lens. This Fresnal lens was replaced in 1950 by a modern rotating beacon.
Although the Sankaty Head Lighthouse is the original structure, the location is not.
Also similar to Aquinnah Lighthouse, Sankaty Head Lighthouse was in danger of falling into the sea due to cliff erosion. The Lighthouse was moved 400 feet inland in 2007.
The Sankaty Head Lighthouse is still a working lighthouse so tour opportunities are limited. However, the Sconset Trust sometimes opens the Sankaty Head Lighthouse to the public for special events. The lighthouse grounds are open and can be visited 24 hours a day.
Great Point Lighthouse
The impressive Great Point Lighthouse stands at the connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Nantucket Sound in the middle of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. This 60-foot lighthouse towers over its setting amongst sweeping dunes and grassy marshes.
The Great Point Lighthouse was first built in 1784 as a wooden beacon and was originally referred to as the Nantucket Light. Unfortunately, the original structure was destroyed by a fire and replaced by a stone tower in 1818, which was retrofitted with the third Fresnel lens in the country.
In 1984, the stone tower was completely destroyed by a hurricane. Two years later, Great Point was rebuilt to be an exact replica of the original stone tower, with a few modern additions for safety. After its renovation, Great Point Lighthouse is no longer in the National Register of Historic Places.
Getting to Great Point Lighthouse is part of the fun. Due to its remote location by the shore in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, you’ll need a 4×4 vehicle and a beach permit to access the station which is a seven-mile journey across the sand.
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