During the last 300 years there have been 3,000 or more shipwrecks in Cape Cod’s waters, the majority of which were between Chatham and Provincetown. The advent of lighthouses, some twenty or so on Cape Cod’s shoreline in the last 200 years, went a long way to safely guide vessels through these treacherous waters. Seven lighthouses still operate, while several others, now decommissioned, can also be found. The 1914 opening of the Cape Cod Canal was also a significant factor in the decline of the number of shipwrecks.
Here are nine of the most well known lighthouses to choose from to go and see, or indeed you could plan a day out to see all of these. Be warned that there is a lot of healthy exercise involved, so you may decide to target half this number.
Start perhaps with the most northerly, which is Race Point Light, you’ll need a stout pair of sneakers as you have to leave your car and walk the last 2 miles along the beach. The lighthouse was first erected in 1816. Nevertheless more than 100 ships were wrecked in this area between then and 1949. You can stay overnight at this one, but you will need to make a reservation well in advance.
There are two other” twin lights” around Provincetown, Wood End erected in 1873 and Long Point 1823, both guarding the entrance to the harbour. The former is now solar powered. Both are a walk along the breakwater, there is a summer boat service to Long Point from MacMillan Wharf.
Back on Route 6 again travelling south a matter of minutes, turn onto Highland Road and follow this to the end , then right onto Lighthouse Road. Highland was the first lighthouse to be built on Cape Cod in 1798, but the present lighthouse was erected in 1857 and moved inland in1996.
Probably by now you are feeling like a bite to eat after such an energetic morning – I did warn you – but you can relax now with a beautiful view over Wellfleet Bay while you tuck into a dozen oysters freshly gathered from those famous oyster beds 200 yards from your table. The Bookstore Restaurant is well known by locals and regular visitors to the Cape for its seafood and magnificent view. So it’s here that you can contemplate the adventures of the afternoon and soak up that New England feeling of tranquility. After lunch, allow yourself some time to visit the many art galleries in charming little Wellfleet village – you can almost at will switch back and forth from serene calm one moment to yet another discovery the next; this is one reason that I believe makes Cape Cod such a great tourist destination.
If you can face another five lighthouses, Route 6 will take you onto Eastham’s Nauset Light, whose original structure was built in 1838. The current tower was moved to here from Chatham in 1923. From the parking lot you can take a short walk along Cable Road to the Three Sisters, towers that were constructed in 1892 and replaced in 1923 by the current Nauset Light.
Our remaining three lighthouses are all in Chatham at the end of the scenic part of Route 28 which hugs the coastline between Orleans and Chatham. There are some spectacular views along the way. Chatham Light is on Shore Road at the end of Main Street and was built in 1877, however the first structure pre-dated this by 69 years. There are tours available inside the lighthouse during the summer months.
The Monomoy Point Light is only accessible by boat. The original tower, built in 1823, was rebuilt in 1849 and finally decommissioned in 1923 before it became part of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Overnight stays are available at the lighthouse keeper’s house.
The last of our nine, if you are still in the hunt that is, is Stage Harbor Light, which requires a mile walk along the beach from the Harding Beach parking lot. This was the last lighthouse to be built on the Cape and was closed in 1933 to later become a private residence.
Well it has been another day on the Cape to remember, but it has not quite finished yet. There is maybe time to see the sun go down at a wonderful restaurant with a view ( believe it or not there are not very many ). The Ocean House, yes that’s the one that your ever attentive innkeeper made you a reservation for the previous day – you sure won’t get a table without one – and it will make the evening one to remember.
We always appreciate feedback from our guests during breakfast , on their previous day’s exploits, when we continue to help them with their plans. There is a good amount of information on our website to help visitors understand the enormity of what there is to do and see on Cape Cod, before they arrive. Sometimes we put together daily itineraries for our guests’ entire stay – and nothing gives us more pleasure!