Cape Cod is full of idyllic seaside towns, and its many lighthouses only add to its maritime essence. Adorned with striking colors and bright lights, many of them are still navigational aids for nautical traffic. Let’s take a look at the Cape Cod lighthouses that you could see during your Cape adventures.
During your tour of the Cape Cod lighthouses, you can refer to this map provided by the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce that shows the locations of the lighthouses.
History of Cape Cod Lighthouses
Historically, lighthouses were an integral part of communication and navigation on the seas. They were used as traffic lights and hazard warnings for sea captains by emitting light from their peaks. For centuries, lighthouses were used for maritime communication. They date back to as early as 280 B.C., although the first Cape Cod lighthouse was built in 1797. As our nation grew and expanded along coastline, more and more lighthouses began to emerge.
Eventually, the need for lighthouses slowly dwindled as technological advancement allowed for communication between sea and shore. Today, lighthouses in seaside towns still stand tall and serve as historical structures. On the Cape, lighthouses add to the Cape’s rich history and are a great attraction for locals and tourists alike.
Lighthouses Along the Upper Cape
Nobska Point Lighthouse
A beloved landmark on Cape Cod’s Woods Hole, Nobska Point Lighthouse in Falmouth was built in 1876 at the confluence of the Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds. A keeper’s house was built alongside the 40-foot, cast-iron tower, and a second one was built in 1905 and joined to the first keeper’s house later.
After the Nobska lighthouse was automated in 1985, it became home to a Commander of the U.S. Coast Guard. The last commander moved out in 2013, but the tower has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1987.
In 2017, the Friends of Nobska Light and the Town of Falmouth took over the preservation of the tower. They’re renovating the keeper’s house and turning it into a Maritime Museum. Tours are available from late spring until fall.
Wings Neck Lighthouse
In Bourne, Wings Neck Lighthouse is located at the tip of Wings Neck Point, which juts into Buzzards Bay. The original tower was built in 1849 and rebuilt in 1889 after a fire and disrepair. The keeper’s house replaced an old Cape-style house that was there.
For a long time, this Cape Cod lighthouse tower was one of the most important, navigating ships in and out of the harbor. In 1947, though, the government sold it to Frank and Irene Flanagan, who enjoyed their retirement there until 1999.
Since then, the keeper’s house has been completely renovated. With a weekly rental, you can climb the spiral staircase and ladder to the tiptop of Wings Neck Lighthouse where the light used to be housed. Otherwise, this tower is best viewed from boat tours, such as Cape Cod whale watching tours.
Mid Cape Cod Lighthouses for Photos & Tours
Sandy Neck Lighthouse
At the entrance of Barnstable Harbor, Sandy Neck Lighthouse was first built in 1826 amid prospering fishing and whaling industries in the area. The wood tower was replaced with the brick structure that you see today in 1857.
In 1880, a Victorian-style keeper’s house was built alongside the tower. A crack in the lighthouse required reinforcement in 1887, and it remained in service until 1931 when it was decommissioned with a decrease in maritime traffic.
However, a new lantern was installed in 2007, and Sandy Neck Lighthouse continues to operate as a private navigational aid, emitting a flashing green light. Although you can’t climb the privately-owned tower, many boat tours and charters offer a fantastic view while passing by.
Hyannis Rear Range Light
Also called the South Hyannis Lighthouse, the Hyannis Rear Range Light was built in 1849. At just 20 feet, it’s shorter than most towers because its main purpose was to guide ships into the wharf. A keeper’s house was completed in 1851 and connected to the tower with a covered walkway.
With decreased nautical traffic in the early 1900s, Hyannis Rear Range Light was discontinued in 1929 and auctioned into private ownership. The lantern wasn’t replaced until 1986 for private use. You can see the tower from the end of Harbor Rd.
Hyannis Harbor Light (Lewis Bay Light)
Originally called Lewis Bay Light, this tower is now referred to as Hyannis Harbor Light. As Hyannis grew as a commercial and fishing port in the early to mid-1800s, this conical brick tower was built and put into service in 1849. The tower light was updated in the 1850s and again in the 1860s.
Since 1985, Hyannis Harbor Light has been privately owned by Alan Granby and Janice Hyland. They’ve renovated the keeper’s house and keep the tower maintained, so it looks amazing. Because of its location, you can get great photographs from different spots around the shoreline.
Bass River Lighthouse
Built onto a large keeper’s house in 1855, Bass River Lighthouse is located in West Dennis and was one of the last Cape Cod lighthouses to be built. Its light replaced a lantern in an attic window, providing safe passage for packet and fishing fleets.
The light was turned off in 1880 but reactivated in 1881 and continued to light the way until 1914. The keeper’s house was expanded by a private owner in 1933, and it was turned into an inn later. In 1989, the tower was relit and remains on when the inn operates.
You can get a good view of the lighthouse from Lighthouse Inn Rd and the nearby beach.
Lighthouse Cape Cod Locations in the Lower Cape
Stage Harbor Light
On Harding’s Beach in West Chatham, you’ll find State Harbor Light, also known as Harding’s Beach Lighthouse. It’s one of the most iconic landmarks in the area and one of the youngest Cape Cod lighthouses built.
The tower was constructed in 1880 but deactivated just 53 years later in 1933. Since then, the private owners have made some cosmetic and functional changes to the tower. However, it remains the subject of many photographs each year.
Although you have to get special permission to visit Stage Harbor Light, you can take pictures from the beach. Just be respectful of the private residence.
The light station in East Chatham was established in 1808 with two wooden towers that were replaced in 1841. Then, two new cast-iron towers were built in 1877. During this time, they were called the Twin Lights.
The remaining tower became known as Chatham Lighthouse after its twin was moved to Eastham in 1923 and named Nauset Lighthouse. Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, Chatham Light is still a U.S. Coast Guard station.
As of 2022, the tower is undergoing maintenance and closed to tours. But, you can see the lighthouse and take photos from the nearby beach or boat tours.
Chatham Light was featured in the 2016 film “The Finest Hours” about the rescue of SS Pendleton.
Monomoy Point Lighthouse
Established in 1823 with a wooden tower atop a keeper’s house, the current Monomoy Point Lighthouse was built in 1849 out of cast iron. With redirected maritime traffic through the Cape Cod Canal, the light was deactivated in 1923.
In 1979, the lighthouse was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It’s one of the only Cape Cod lighthouses located on an island and the only one within the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge.
Ferry services can take you to the north side of the island, and you can hike to the lighthouse for pictures. On the other hand, you can see the tower from Cape Cod seal tours.
Outer Cape Cod Lighthouse Tour & Photo Opportunities
Three Sisters Lighthouses
In Eastham and the Cape Cod National Seashore, the Three Sisters Lighthouses have one of the most interesting histories of all the Cape Cod lighthouses, in that three structures were built to simultaneously shine three lights in order to inform ships of the exact location (this was much prior to technological innovation). The decommissioned towers were built in 1892 after the originals were lost to coastal erosion.
In 1911, the center lighthouse was moved and connected to an 1875 keeper’s house. It remained in service for many years but was eventually replaced. Since 1989, the three towers have been reunited, although not in their original location. You can’t go inside but can visit the property.
The history of the Three Sisters Lighthouses continues with Nauset Lighthouse because it replaced the center tower. However, the cast-iron tower with brick lining was originally built in 1877 and located in Chatham as one of the Twin Lights.
Added to the National Register of Historic Places, Nauset Light is 48 feet tall and one of the most photographed landmarks on the Cape. All tours are free and open-house style. You can climb the lighthouse, visit the lookout room, and learn more about its history.
Located in Truro, Highland Lighthouse is another one of the most popular Cape Cod lighthouses. Commissioned by George Washington, the original lighthouse was established in 1797. But the current 66-foot brick lighthouse and keeper’s house were built in 1857.
As long as the Highland Light isn’t undergoing structural repairs, it’s open for tours. The keeper’s house features exhibits that tell the story of the tower and a shop that sells keepsakes. Plus, you’ll get some fantastic photos.
Race Point Light Station
On the outermost tip of the Cape in Provincetown, Race Point Light Station was established in 1816. The current tower was built in 1876, though. The property is still home to the 1876 keeper’s house, 1874 signal building, and 1902 oil house.
You can reach the tower on foot or a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Although it’s still an active lighthouse for maritime navigation, it’s open for tours on the first and third Saturdays of the month from June through October.
Wood End Light
Near the mouth of Cape Cod Bay in Provincetown, you’ll find Wood End Light, which was lit for the first time in 1872. The 39-foot tower is square and shaped like a pyramid. The original keeper’s dwelling was replaced in 1896 with a new house, oil house, and storage shed.
In 1981, the U.S. Coast Guard turned the tower into the first solar power light station in Massachusetts. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987. You can hike to the historic lighthouse via the Provincetown Causeway (or the “jetty”) or take a boat or ferry ride to capture photos.
Long Point Light Station
Identical to Wood End Light, Long Point Light Station is located at the tip of the Cape curl and was built in 1875. Powered by solar panels, it marks the entrance of Provincetown Harbor. Adjacent to the tower is a 1904 oil house.
You can use the Provincetown Causeway (or the “jetty”) to reach the lighthouse by foot, or you can ride a ferry from Provincetown pier to the Long Point Lighthouse. The well-marked trail is a loop about 6.4 miles long that also includes Wood End Light. Part of the trail stretches along Long Point Beach.
Stay at a Historical Bed & Breakfast on the Cape
If you’re looking for a central location to start your tour of Cape Cod lighthouses, head to Candleberry Inn. Located in Brewster on scenic Route 6A, our historic bed and breakfast is the perfect fit whether you’re planning a romantic getaway or want to see the most Instagrammable spots on the Cape.
Each of our luxurious rooms and suites is decorated in a different theme, such as The Highlands Room and the Seacroft Suite. And every morning, you wake to a decadent, gourmet breakfast. Check our availability and rates for your next Cape Cod travel dates.