Must Visit Places in Nantucket : The Legendary Great Point Lighthouse
October 24, 2022
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The Great Point Lighthouse on Nantucket Island is a beacon of history, romance, and mystery. The lighthouse has a lot of interesting facts, legends, and stories that go beyond the scope of its architecture. If you’re curious about this historic site, read for helpful information.

Where is the Great Point Lighthouse?

The Great Point Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on the island of Nantucket, Massachusetts. It is situated on the island’s most northern region and within the boundaries of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Reserve. 

Brief History of the Great Point Lighthouse

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts General Court issued an agenda authorizing the construction of a lighthouse at Sandy Point on February 5, 1784. Capt. Paul Pinkham, a veteran whaler, immediately constructed a wooden tower, and the facility was put into operation in October. 

Pinkham had to trek 7 miles along the barrier beach to get to the lighthouse because there wasn’t a keeper’s home. His annual compensation was initially $166.66 but was later raised because of the particular hardships of working at the site. After three years, the General Court eventually constructed a house at the station.

Pinkham was the first to map the perilous shoals close to the tower, a tremendous help to seafarers traveling through the area. When Pinkham passed away in 1799, George Swain took charge of the keeper’s position until the court appointed Jonathan Coffin in 1812.

In 1816, a fire of an unknown cause shattered the initial wooden lighthouse. Due to the significance of the lighthouse, the court granted $7,500 to construct a new building. In 1818, they finished the whitewashed stone tower, which stood sixty feet tall and had lamps that lit up to twelve miles away. 

It took until 1825 for the General Court to build the replacement for the destroyed keeper’s house. However, the home was eventually locked and abandoned in the 1950s. 

Erosion throughout the 1970s and 1980s pushed the lighthouse nearer to the water. The Coast Guard decorated and renovated the structure in 1983, but they did nothing, despite discussions, about moving it out of the water. On March 29, 1984, a hurricane storm knocked the lighthouse, ripping the barrier beach and leaving the structure’s ruins on the island.

Nantucket inhabitants successfully desired to replace their historic stone tower with a contemporary fiberglass structure. Hydro Dredge built the new lighthouse with help from Rosado and Sons of Boston. 

They rebuilt the Great Point Lighthouse 300 yards from its original location using 2 million dollars in federal funding. They used parts of the rubblestone from the 1818 tower to finish the exterior. 

On September 7, 1986, Senator John F. Kennedy dedicated the new reinforced concrete structure. Kennedy raised a flag, smashed a champagne bottle against the tower, and declared, “Great Point is alive and well again.” 

The Great Point Lighthouse is currently private-owned by Trustees of Reservations and is still used for navigation. This beacon of safety stands 60 feet above the waters of Nantucket to show the way into Nantucket’s famous harbor and out to sea. 

How to Get to Great Point Lighthouse

Reaching Great Point Lighthouse requires much effort, but it’s also the most worthwhile. 

The Trustees of Reservations own the area, and only drivers with appropriate permits are authorized to drive to Great Point.  

If you don’t own a permit, you can take one of the many company vehicles the Trustees offer. Also, note that Great Point is not accessible with a Town of Nantucket beach sticker.

Another way to travel to Great Point is by bike or foot. After obtaining a day pass, you can start your trekking or biking excursion to the tower from the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Reserve entrance. 

Can I Visit Great Point Lighthouse on a Day Trip?

Absolutely. But plan to arrive earlier because getting to the lighthouse can be a little hectic due to the sandy pathways. Just start your trip in the morning and spend the afternoon taking photos. Or wait till the evening to watch the sunset.

How Much is the Entrance Fee to Great Point?

You’ll need to pay for an oversand permit to enter the area. It goes for around 140-160 dollars. 

There’s also a day pass that goes for 50 dollars but lowers to 10 dollars for each consecutive day you’ll visit the lighthouse. 

Take Away

The Great Point lighthouse has a fascinating history and is a prime source of inspiration for many writers and artists. You’ll enjoy the beauty of nature and the peace of mind that comes with being surrounded by water—not forgetting about the stunning views of the Cape Cod coastline. So, what are you waiting for? Visit Nantucket and come on down to Great Point Lighthouse and start your adventure today!

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