5 Lighthouses In Rockport & Gloucester MA
The 5 Lighthouses In Rockport & Gloucester MA | History & Full Details
If you are a lighthouse lover, maritime photographer, or just looking for a fun way to spend a day by the water, Cape Ann, Massachusetts is the perfect place for a visit.
In Rockport and Gloucester you will find 5 beautiful lighthouses that each have a unique and interesting history. Some lighthouses, like Annisquam lighthouse and Eastern Point lighthouse are accessible by shore. While the lighthouses at Thacher Island, Straitsmouth Island, and Ten Pound Island are accessible by water.
In this article, we will take a deep dive into the lighthouses of Cape Ann, their history, location, and provide details about accessibility and tours.
Thacher Island Lighthouse – Rockport, MA
When taking a closer look at the lighthouses on Cape Ann, it seems fitting to start with Thacher Island, home to not just one lighthouse but two! It’s actually the only operating twin lighthouse in the United States. We’re feeling a Double Mint gum nostalgic meme coming soon…
Memes aside, there is nothing funny about the origins of the Thacher Island lights. The island was named after Anthony Thacher whose family was sailing from Ipswich to Marblehead when they ran into some rough waters. They crashed during a fierce storm on August 14, 1635 and 21 of the 23 passengers perished.
Thacher and his wife were the only survivors and Thacher dubbed the island Thacher’s Woe. Some pretty dark roots for this Rockport treasure.
The first lighthouses were first erected on Thacher Island in 1771 and the current lighthouses were built in 1861. It was decided to erect 2 lighthouses to differentiate the harbor from Portsmouth in the north and Boston to the south. These Rockport lighthouses were also historic because they the first lighthouses to mark a hazard (as opposed to just an open port), and the final lighthouses built under British rule.
If you’re thinking about visiting, we’d recommend either visiting by boat or kayak. There are kayaks for rent right in town on Bearskin Neck and a Ferry that regularly brings visitors to the island.
Learn More About The History Of Thacher Island Here: https://addisonchoate.com/blog/thacher-island-lighthouses-rockport-ma-an-incredible-history/
Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse – Rockport, MA
Just 1600 feet off of the Rockport mainland you will find Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse. Originally constructed in 1835 to mark the entrance to Rockport Harbor, the light served to guide ships into harbor. Both fishing and the granite trade were booming in Rockport and Straitsmouth light was deemed an ideal location to guide ships toward Pigeon Cove and help them avoid the dangerous rocks off the coast, known as the Salvages.
Due to poor construction, the light was rebuilt in 1851 and then built again in 1896 upon the foundation of the 1851 lighthouse.
In 2010 the lighthouse and 1.8 acres of land was given to the Town of Rockport by the Coast Guard and then in 2014 Town of Rockport signed a 30-year lease with Mass Audubon for the use of the keeper and oil houses.
The keepers house had fallen into disrepair, but has been restored by the Thacher Island Association, and in 2019 Straitsmouth Island began to welcome public visitors for the first time in 180 years. We would definitely recommend a visit to the island. The trip out of the island, whether by boat or by kayak, is a beautiful showcase of Rockport’s rocky coastline and waterfront homes. It’s an incredibly peaceful way to spend an afternoon.
There is a boat ramp right on the gap cove side of the island that is perfect for bringing in a small boat or a kayak. Visitors to the island can walk over to the keeper’s house, climb the steps of lighthouse, take a dip off the dock or off the rocks, or just enjoy a picnic lunch on the island. There is even a hidden picnic table out on the Kubota Beach side of the island where you can relax and take in the views of the harbor, local birds, and Thacher Island in the distance.
If you’re thinking of kayaking, check out North Shore Adventure, right in town. They have a great crew and can point you in the right direction. If you don’t feel comfortable heading out unaccompanied, they also provide guided tours to the islands.
Annisquam Lighthouse – Gloucester, MA
Located at Wigwam Point, a former Native American gathering location, the Annisquam lighthouse was originally built back in 1801 to mark the entrance to Annisquam Harbor. The lighthouse was later rebuilt in 1897 and automated in 1974.
The village of Annisquam was founded in 1631 on the eastern side of the river. The name was combination of Anne (queen Anne) and the Native American word for harbor (squam). The village developed into a formidable shipbuilding and fishing village that actually rivaled Gloucester. For ships traveling the coast, the river was considered an important refuge.
This beautiful little lighthouse is located just off of Norwood Heights drive and is adjacent to Norwood Heights Beach.
Some interesting history about Annisquam Lighthouse is that Rudyard Kipling actually stayed at the lighthouse for a period of time while working on Captain’s Courageous. Also, the first lighthouse keeper, George Day (1801-1850), kept a cow by the light to provide milk for his family.
The wooden keeper’s house is still used as housing for the US Coast Guard which manages the site and a significant restoration of the tower took place in 2000.
Eastern Point Lighthouse – Gloucester, MA
Another lighthouse that you can visit by land is the Eastern Point Lighthouse in Gloucester. Built in 1832, during the expansion of fishing and shipping in the region, to guide boats into busy Gloucester Harbor. The tower was rebuilt again in 1848 and 1890.
One of the best parts about visiting Eastern Point is the 2,200-foot breakwater that visitors can walk out. The breakwater was built in the 1890’s and gives a great vantage point of the harbor, lighthouse, and the distant Boston skyline. At the end of the breakwater is another small lighthouse called Dog Bar lighthouse.
Eastern Point lighthouse has had a few brushes with fame. American Landscape painter, Winslow Homer, created a painting of the harbor and lighthouse titled, Eastern Point Light which you can view here: https://www.artsy.net/artwork/winslow-homer-eastern-point-light The lighthouse was also prominently featured in a Kenny Chesney video that was filmed in Gloucester. There are some beautiful aerial shots of the breakwater and the lighthouse.
To get to Eastern Point Lighthouse, just take Eastern Point Boulevard from its Niles Beach entrance all the way to the end. You will see signs mentioning private property, but just disregard. There is a parking lot at the end of the Boulevard that is for the public and a $10 recommended donation to the Audubon Society.
Ten Pound Island Lighthouse – Gloucester, MA
Rounding out our lighthouses of Cape Ann journey let’s take a closer look at Ten Pound Island lighthouse.
Constructed in 1821, Ten Pound Island is home to America’s first Coast Guard Station. The lighthouse was built to help ships better navigate Gloucester’s inner harbor. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1881 and the light was completely restored by the Lighthouse Preservation Society.
During the summer of 1880, Winslow Homer stayed on the island with the lighthouse keeper. Homer produced 50 paintings of Gloucester Harbor during his stay, including paintings of the lighthouse and Eastern Point Lighthouse. The lighthouse is also present in some work by famous Gloucester artist, Fitz Henry Lane.
According to local historians, the island received its name from the sum of money settlers paid Native Americans for it or the number of sheep pens (pounds) the island could hold. Only visible by boat or land, you can kayak/paddleboard out to the island or take a shuttle out of Gloucester Harbor to get a closer look.
Other Lighthouses Near Cape Ann
In addition to the Rockport Lighthouses and Gloucester Lighthouses you will also find more than a half dozen lighthouses to visit right here on the North Shore of Massachusetts.
There are so many lighthouses in the area it feels ripe for a coffee table book! Let’s take a closer look at some of the other lighthouses near Cape Ann.
Marblehead Lighthouse – Marblehead, MA First Built in 1836
Baker’s Island Lighthouse – Salem, MA Owned & Operated By Fed Govt Since 1798
Plum Island Lighthouse – Newburyport, MA Built In 1838