Beautiful & Bountiful Cape Ann
Cape Ann — the “other” Cape — is located approximately 30 miles northeast of Boston, Massachusetts. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on three sides and separated from the mainland by the Annisquam River, Cape Ann’s picturesque coastline is home to six very different lighthouses. With each lighthouse being within a relatively short driving distance to the next, Cape Ann makes for a perfect day trip with lots of visual bang for your gas tank buck!
The locations of Cape Ann’s six lighthouses
Even though Cape Ann consists primarily of four towns — Gloucester, Rockport, Essex, and Manchester By-The-Sea — the locations of the six lighthouses are evenly split between Gloucester and Rockport. A 19-mile route along Rt. 127 to the north, Rt. 127A to the south, and then over to Gloucester Harbor’s Stacy Boulevard covers the entire lighthouse viewing territory.
But as they say, a picture’s worth… well, you know. So, let’s get to it!
Annisquam Lighthouse stands on the east side of the Annisquam River at its northern end known as Wigwam Point. The present day 41-foot cylindrical brick structure was built in 1897 on the same foundation that supported two previous towers — both wooden — back in 1801 and 1851 respectively. The original keeper’s house, enlarged and altered over the years, still stands today.
While the actual grounds of Annisquam Lighthouse are now closed to the public, the lighthouse can be seen from Wingaersheek Beach and also nearby from Lighthouse Beach which is part of the Squam Rock Land Trust. Some boat tours also pass Annisquam Lighthouse for a close-up view from the sea. Sunset is a beautiful time to be there…
Annisquam Lighthouse at sunset
Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse
Straitsmouth Island Lighthouse can clearly be seen from the tip of Bearskin Neck in the tourist friendly town of Rockport. Originally constructed as a 19-foot lighthouse in 1835 to help direct vessels to the harbor at Pigeon Cove, it was later replaced in 1896 by a 37-foot brick tower and moved 500 feet to its present location.
This relatively small lighthouse is maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard. The island itself, however, is now owned by the Massachusetts Audubon Society as a bird and wildlife sanctuary.
Straitsmouth Lighthouse from the tip of Bearskin Neck
Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses
Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses are the only surviving multiple lighthouses on the coasts of the United States. The two 124-foot granite towers that stand today — the North Tower and South Tower — were built in 1861. The original lighthouses, constructed and lit in 1771, were unique historically, as they were the last built under British rule and the first in the U.S. to mark a dangerous area, rather than a harbor entrance.
During the summer Thacher Island is open to visitors. A shuttle boat operates out of Rockport Harbor. I’ve been fortunate to have visited the island several times, including at sunrise to capture some magnificent blue hour color, and also to climb the North Tower for a great view of the island.
When on Cape Ann, I love to view and photograph Thacher Island and its twin lights from Loblolly Cove. Every time I go there, I hike around to a different vantage point. On this day, sunrise was masked by storm clouds. All was not lost, however, as I loved the moodiness it created, as well as the flashing lights of the towers, the fog on the water, and the bright spotlight in the distance of a solitary lobster boat.
Thacher Island’s Twin Lighthouses from Loblolly Cove
Sometimes each tower features its own magic. Such was the case this day as the full moon majestically rose beside the island’s South Tower. I knew it was going to rise there as I had checked The Photographer’s Ephemeris that morning. Once again, my location was Loblolly Cove, but this time I had hiked over to the far side of the cove so that I could shoot directly across to the island.
Full moon rising over Thacher Island’s South Tower
Eastern Point Lighthouse
Eastern Point Lighthouse was originally built in 1832 to mark the entrance to Gloucester Harbor. The stone 30-foot structure was later replaced in 1848 with a new 34-foot lighthouse. A two-story duplex house, oil house, garage and fog signal building were all later added between 1879 – 1951.
Today the lighthouse station serves as active housing for the U.S. Coast Guard. While the grounds to the lighthouse are closed to the public, you can walk the 2,250-foot granite Dogbar breakwater for an excellent view.
Eastern Point Lighthouse from the Dogbar breakwater
Note: Eastern Point Lighthouse is easily accessible from downtown Gloucester by following Eastern Point Avenue to the very end where there is a small parking lot for lighthouse visitors.
Ten Pound Island Lighthouse
Ten Pound Island Lighthouse is located within Gloucester Harbor. The island itself — named for the number of sheep pens (pounds) that it could hold — boasts housing America’s first Coast Guard Station. Originally constructed in 1821, the lighthouse marks the island and assists in navigating Gloucester’s inner harbor.
Famous artist Winslow Homer boarded with the lighthouse keeper in the summer of 1880. During that time, Homer painted approximately 50 scenes of Gloucester Harbor, several of which included Ten Pound Island Lighthouse.
The lighthouse can easily be viewed from many locations along Gloucester’s waterfront, especially from Stacy Boulevard. Views can also be had from tour boats that pass through the harbor.
Sailing past Ten Pound Island Lighthouse
Great Day Trip!
Well, there you have it. Six great lighthouses all in a small square mile radius. Pretty sweet driving route too. It doesn’t get much better than that. As you can see, Cape Ann makes for a great day trip for anyone who is a lighthouse lover — or for anyone who wants to become one quickly.
So, the next time you’re looking for a fun day trip, come visit Cape Ann’s six lighthouses!
~ Liz Mackney
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