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Newburyport Range Lights

Plum Island
(Newburyport Harbor) Lighthouse

plum island light

Newburyport, Massachusetts
Built in 1838


Location:

Located at the northern end of Plum Island, opposite the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, at the entrance to the Merrimac River.

Latitude: 42° 48' 39" N
Longitude: 70° 49' 06" W

 

Historic Stories:

By 1764, Newburyport was a thriving shipbuilding and trading center. After the Revolutionary War, where the area made major contributions in helping the Colonists, shipbuilding began to decline and the harbor was becoming a major fishing, whaling, and trade port. The harbor was still considered important to the new country's defense. George Washington and John Hancock met in Newburyport in 1789 to discuss the building of America’s first cutter for local protection, which has evolved into a national fleet of ships under our current Coast Guard.

During the Colonial period, fires were set up on Plum Island's beaches to aid mariners. In 1783, the Marine Society of Newburyport erected two day beacons as early range lights and employed locals to hoist lanterns on top of them each night. These private range lights were welcomed aids to those mariners coming along the Plum Island coastline to the mouth of the Merrimack River. Later, in 1788, two wooden lighthouses were built on Plum Island by the locals and provided more needed help for mariners wishing to enter the Merrimack River.

The lighthouses were relocated and were rebuilt in 1838 as two range lights. Range lights, or commonly referred to as leading lights, were located at a distance apart to allow mariners to line the front light, which was generally shorter, above the taller rear light to indicate the center of a channel, river, or deep area of water. Another light was added to the two range lights as a “Bug Light” which was noted as a small "strange looking" tower.

newburyport light early construction
Early construction, remaining wooden light
Courtesy US Coast Guard

In 1856, one of the lighthouses caught fire and was destroyed. It was never replaced. As the two remaining lighthouses were moved several times due to the shifting sands, in 1898 a new tower replaced the two lights, which is the current lighthouse.

 

New England Lighthouses

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

One of the most picturesque coastal towns on the New England coast, Newburyport offers plenty of history, shops, events, concerts, and over 70 great restaurants, along its cobblestone streets around the waterfront.

The Newburyport Whale Watch offers dinner cruises, fireworks cruises, fishing, and whale watching. If you enjoy live music, try out the Newburyport Blues Cruise, as you travel down the Merrimac River.

Visit the Custom House Maritime Museum containing exhibits from Newburyport’s over 300-year history as a major shipbuilding seaport, (978) 462-8681.

The Firehouse Center for the Arts provides all kinds of entertainment in music, dance, theater, film, and art exhibitions. If you are interested in period architecture, the Newbury Historic District is an outside museum of 27 reconstructed and restored buildings from 1650 to the early 1900's. You also visit the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm and explore unfurnished rooms that openly reveal three centuries of construction techniques.

Maudslay State Park features 19th century gardens, meadows, and towing pines along the Merrimac River with plenty of trails for walking, biking, or even horseback riding.

Nearby is the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island for hiking, and bird watching, along with its majestic clean beaches to get help you connect with nature. The lighthouse tower is located on the other end of the island. The Friends of Plum Island Light offer lighthouse tours inside the tower and keeper's dwelling on Plum Island. The grounds are open year round.

The Friends of Plum Island Light offer periodic public tours inside the Plum Island (Newburyport Harbor) Lighthouse, and Newburyport Range lighthouses. Private tours available as well.

 

Directions to Plum Island Light:

Alternate Directions:

 

Directions to Plum Island lighthouse from downtown Newburyport by the Newburyport Range Lights:

Directions to Plum Island Beaches and Parker River Wildlife Refuge:

 

Contact Info:
Friends of Plum Island Light
P.O. Box 381
Newburyport, MA 01950

Email: friendsofpilight@aol.com
Phone: (978) 463-2867 0r (978) 973-6935

 

Local Boat Tour

The boat cruise mentioned below may offer many types of cruises, and will pass by the lighthouse during specific lighthouse tours, as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, fishing tours and other types of excursions.

 

Newburyport Harbor Tours
Offers various eco, wildlife, sunset and dinner tours that may pass by the lighthouse.
1 Merrimac Landing #26
Newburyport, MA
(603) 682-2293

 

 

My 300-page book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, provides special human interest stories from each of the 92 lighthouses, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions you can explore, and tours. Also included is information on lighthouse history, some of which started in Newburyport.

Look inside!

 

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