Nantucket’s one of the famed lighthouse destinations of the New England shore, and for good reason: The waters off the Grey Lady were once notorious for fitful shoals and fierce ocean storms, and for centuries mariners relied on island lights to keep them on course and out of harm’s way. (Even so, those waters have claimed hundreds of shipwrecks.)
Three historic lighthouses mark the northern and eastern coast of Nantucket, and all of them are worth a visit: some of the handsomest historical landmarks you’ll see, and great photo ops during your Greydon House getaway!
Here’s a quick survey of this tower trio.
The Brant Point Light Station
At a squat 26 feet tall, the Brant Point Light—which guards the western side of Nantucket Harbor’s entrance off Easton Street—is the shortest standing lighthouse in New England, though its flashing red beacon can be seen 10 miles out to sea. The current wooden lighthouse dates from 1901: only the most recent of a whole string of Brant Point lights, the first of which went up back in the mid-1740s.
Owned by the U.S. Coast Guard, Brant Point Light is closed to the public, but you can stroll the grounds and admire the structure from outside.
The Sankaty Head Lighthouse
The Sankaty Head Lighthouse has stood vigil on its eponymous bluff overlooking the big blue Atlantic on eastern Nantucket’s Siasconset shore since 1849. It’s now owned by the ‘Sconset Trust, which opens the 70-foot-tall tower to the public a couple times a year; the grounds, meanwhile, are open every day from sunrise to sundown. The views—both out to sea and landward—are breathtaking.
The name of the lighthouse and the headland derives from the indigenous Wampanoag word for “highland”: sankoty.
The Great Point Light
A noble fixture of the northernmost tip of Nantucket, at the end of the long spit forming the southern gate of Nantucket Sound, the Great Point Light—also known simply as Nantucket Light—is a 1986 replacement of an early-19th-century predecessor that itself replaced the 1784-built original. The Trustees of Reservations include the Great Point Lighthouse on guided tours of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge within which it lies.
Other Spots to Visit
For a fantastic complement to pilgrimages to Nantucket’s three lighthouses during your stay at Greydon House, consider visiting the Nantucket Shipwreck & Lifesaving Museum (158 Polpis Road), which delves into dramatic stories of foundered ships and heroic rescues along Nantucket’s offshore bars, and the Nantucket Lightship Basket Museum (49 Union Street), which explores a unique Nantucket tradition of basketry begun aboard the “lightships” that served as on-the-water lighthouses over the infamous South Shoals.