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Interesting Places in Nantucket: The Great Point Lighthouse
September 19, 2022
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If you’re in Nantucket, you must visit all the lighthouses on this island. It’s not easy to put into words how extraordinary this place is!

There are three lighthouses, namely:

  • Great Point Light, also known as Nantucket Light – located on Nantucket island’s northeastern end.
  • Sankaty Head Light  – located near the settlement of Siasconset, at the island’s easternmost edge.
  • Brant Point Light – located in the Nantucket Downtown Historic District.

Among the three, the great point lighthouse is considered the most outstanding.

Why is the Great Point Lighthouse Special?

Great Point Lighthouse was established in 1784 to aid ships in navigating the channel between Cape Cod’s Monomoy Island and Nantucket Island’s Great Point. The beacon is located many miles up a narrow stretch of shoreline.

In 1816, the first tower burned to the ground. A new stone structure was constructed the following year, 1817. It survived until 1984, when a storm later destroyed the beacon. The government rebuilt it in 1986 into a structure that still stands strong.

Today, the tower is located in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. It is situated on a small spit of coastline where Nantucket Sound and the Atlantic Ocean collide.

It rises to 60 feet, and the focal plane is 71 feet tall. Compared to the older Third-order Fresnel lens, it is VRB-25 and solar-powered.

Despite its remote location, the light at Great Point continues to guide seafarers’ navigation by flashing every five seconds. This aids them in navigating the shoal-infested seas and keeps them from colliding with shallow rips. You can see the white gleaming light up to 14NM away in transparent daylight.

Nevertheless, this attractive structure is considered to be the black sheep of the island’s lighthouse family, since it’s the only one among the trio that isn’t listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

This is because its accreditation was revoked when it was reconstructed for the second attempt. Each structure listed on the list must be at least 50 years old.

Despite its lack of formal status, it’s still a must-visit destination in Nantucket.

Planning a Visit?

Here are all the essential details you need to know:

Entry Fee

As of 2022, the entrance fee for adults is $60, while that of children under 12 years is $20. You can simply purchase your $65-day or $140-seasonal OSV permit from the Trustees. Please remember that no cash is accepted at the entrance.

Also, the Trustee of Reservations highly advises visitors to sign up for a guided expedition that runs daily from June through October at a $65 fee.

What to Anticipate

Out on Nantucket’s secluded northeastern sand spits, four-wheeling allows you to see some of the village’s most beautiful lands and coastlines.

Wavy dunes, floating marsh reeds, stretches of golden sand, and pure blue waters dotted with dancing seabirds can all be found here.

If you want to enjoy fishing, don’t visit the area when the tides are low because this is the period when the commercial fishermen are surfcasting and sometimes battling with harbor seals over the bluefish. Therefore, you will not enjoy the activity.

Visitors can take an over-sand vehicle tour across the marshland with a professional guide to discover the area’s ecology, geology, and history.

You will also get to encounter seals lounging along some beaches. Please don’t bother them because, just like you, they want to catnap and enjoy a refreshing breeze.

Once you reach the lighthouse, you will have the opportunity to climb the Great Point Lighthouse structure for some breathtaking views.

How to Get There

  1. From Nantucket’s Steamboat Wharf, go up Broad Street to South Water Street to access the wildlife sanctuary.
  2. Head left on South Water Street, then right on cobblestoned Main Street.
  3. From Main Street, go left to Orange Street and proceed for approximately a mile to the roundabout.
  4. Drive through Milestone Road to the right for approximately half a mile from the roundabout, then go left down Polpis Road.
  5. Make a left into Wauwinet Road after 4 1/2 miles on Polpis Road.
  6. Proceed down Wauwinet Road for a little more than 2½ miles, where you’ll get a glimpse of the Wauwinet Gatehouse for the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge.

Means to Get There

If you’re ready for a seven-mile stroll on the sand, you can get to the site on foot. However, Nantucket offers numerous travel options if you have no car with you.

You can acquire a bike at Young’s Bicycle Shop, located close by. Don’t be misled by the name — they also rent cars at economical prices. Other places to rent a car are Hertz, Windmill Auto Rental, and Nantucket Island Rent A Car, near the airport.

Most four-wheel drives include an Over-sand Vehicle Permit (OSV) sticker that you’ll need to access the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Alternatively, if you come in a personal car, you must buy an OSV permit at the gate.

Before venturing out, make a note of the weather and tide. Due to changing environmental circumstances, access is restricted on some occasions.

Please note that driving to Great Point Lighthouse with inflated tires is not encouraged because the sand is relatively rigid. The attendants at the Wauwinet Gatehouse will help you deflate your wheels to less than 15 PSI, and you’ll be ready to steer the dunes!

The route is frequently monitored; therefore, you should drive at a speed limit of 15 mph, starting from the gatehouse and leading upward to the Great Point lighthouse. It will take you around 40 minutes.

What to Carry

So, what would you bring along, given that you have your four-wheel? You can bring a picnic lunch, refreshments, a beach seat, sunscreen, and a towel for personal use.

However, you are advised to respect the natural surroundings by carrying out everything you took in with you. This is to make maintenance easier for the Trustees who work tirelessly to keep the area pristine and protected for the multitudes of visitors who come every year.

Where to Dine

After an exhausting adventurous day, you will want to take a delectable satisfactory meal. Lemon Press, Provisions Nantucketor, Something Natural, and Corner Table Cafe are all good restaurants to get fantastic dishes on the island. Their sandwiches are tasty and sufficing.

You can also choose from their variety of bread and toppings. Beach chairs, towels, and a cooler are available for guests to use at the inn.

Note that there are no toilet facilities at the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge when planning your trip. So, make use of the ones in these restaurants instead.

Other Places to Explore

You can visit the blissful Cisco Beach and Surfside Beach if you love to surf. Cape Cod is popular with kayakers and anyone interested in learning to windsurf.

If you enjoy more venturesome pursuits, such as hiking, the Wauwinet Gatehouse is perfect for you! Ensure to bring appropriate hiking footwear and water.

The best time for hiking is usually before dusk; however, you should only go if you’re up for a challenging trek. Otherwise, it can get pretty tiring, and you wouldn’t want to make the experience dull by making random stopovers.

Hunting is also permitted. You’re advised to wear blaze orange clothes for the adventure(deers cannot distinguish the orange color, but humans can). If you bring your dog with you, ensure that you always keep it on a leash.

The south coast beaches will entice those who want a swim. However, most beaches on the southern side border the open ocean and have the most violent waves. If you are a good swimmer, you can go ahead, but if you’re not, please take caution since rip waves can be deadly.

Important Tips to Remember

  • The site is open every day from sunrise to sundown. (Unless circumstances prevent access).
  • The facility is protected all year. Based on the environmental conditions, parts of the refuge could be restricted.
  • During the off-season, parking at the Wauwinet Gatehouse is permitted.
  • During coastal flooding or storms, the facility is normally closed. Before going out, please check the weather conditions and read all notices on their website.
  • Pedestrians are advised to stay on designated OSV pathways and not trek through the dunes.
  • You’re encouraged to be kind to the local neighbors and refrain from accessing the beach via private property.

We hope that you’re now ready to embark on this enviable adventure!