Nantucket Lighthouses

Nantucket lighthouses are some of the most distinguishing features of this island, and among the best things to see on vacations. There are three lighthouses in sum: the Great Point Light, the Brant Point Light, and the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. The necessity for lighthouses on Nantucket Island (and other coastal destinations in this part of the Atlantic) arose from a burgeoning whaling industry. The geography of the island is such that it forms a natural and protected harbor for ships. You will realize just how vibrant the whaling trade was on Nantucket when you read that the Brant Point Light was only the second lighthouse in the American Colonies (the first was built in Boston). Now, with the whaling industry long gone from the island, the Nantucket lighthouses serve as tourist attractions more than anything else. They are also a reminder of the seafaring tradition and culture of this island on the Eastern Seaboard of the Atlantic Ocean. The only way to get inside the lighthouses is as a part of a guided tour. These historic landmarks are too precious to let people run haphazardly through them at any time. It is best to make arrangements in advance for these guided tours during the peak travel season, as the lighthouses are some of the top attractions on Nantucket.

Brant Point Light was the first of the three lighthouses constructed on Nantucket Island. The first permutation of the building was erected in 1746 and survived until a fire took it down in 1757. Many of the early lighthouses that survived over time ultimately underwent many renovations, and in most every case, complete reconstructions. The Brant Point Light is no exception. Whereas it only took around 200 pounds to construct the first light in the 1740s, by the time the 1800 version was erected, the price tag had risen to $1600. Before this construction in 1825, the lighthouse had undergone several other reconstructions. The majority of what you see today remains from the construction of a new lighthouse in 1901, although remnants from the 1856 version remain. Today the lighthouse is suited with modern optics and remains in use, although not for whaling ships. Brant Point is located on the Nantucket Harbor and is the most visible and iconic attraction to all who arrive by ferries to the island.

The Great Point Light, located at the very northernmost tip of Nantucket, is another of the most historic Nantucket attractions. The first construction of the Nantucket Light (as it was also known) took place in 1785. The original wooden tower burnt down in 1816 and a new stone construct was erected in 1818. Unbelievably, this tower remained intact until 1984, when a heavy storm tore it apart. The tower you see today was inaugurated in 1986. If you want to see as much of Nantucket Island as you can and don’t mind trucking up to the north of the island for the day, you will not be disappointed.

The Sankaty Head Lighthouse is located on the eastern shore of Nantucket Island. This iconic lighthouse was built in the latter part of the 1840s and was the first lighthouse in the United States to have a Fresnel Lens. The Sankaty Head Lighthouse is especially memorable because of its white color with a broad red stripe. It is the picture perfect postcard of an American lighthouse and an attraction worth visiting on your next trip to Nantucket Island.

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