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Great Point Lighthouse

Great Point lighthouse

Nantucket, Massachusetts
Built in 1785


Located on the extreme northeastern tip of Nantucket, in the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge. Public access to the tower and surrounding grounds is allowed with the park's rangers on many of their tours during the summer months.

Latitude: 41° 23' 25" N
Longitude 70° 02' 54" W


Historic Stories:

Great Point Light (also known as Nantucket Light) was built in 1785, to help mariners navigate the passage between Great Point on Nantucket Island and Monomoy Island at Cape Cod. The lighthouse sits several miles up a thin area of beach. When the lighthouse was first built, there was not a keeper’s house built with it for many years until 1825. This forced the early keepers to either walk or get to the station on horseback, which was a distance of seven miles, or they had to use a boat to arrive at Brant Point to get food and supplies. One Keeper, Jonathan Coffin, petitioned directly to the Secretary of the Treasury, and was allowed additional "hardship pay" for making the 7-mile journey.

The original tower was destroyed by fire in 1816, and a new stone tower was built in 1818.

early Great Point light construction

Great Point Light,
1818 Stone Tower Construction
Courtesy US Coast Guard

In 1857 the lighthouse was furnished with a Fresnel lens and an Assistant Keeper's building.

Between 1863 and 1890 there were 43 wrecks near the lighthouse due many believe, to confusion with the Cross Rip Lightship nearby.


Rescue of the H.P. Kirkman by the Coskata Lifesaving Crew

One of the most grueling of rescues occurred when Keeper Walter N. Chase and his six-man Coskata lifesaving crew, also known as surfmen, stationed near Great Point lighthouse, were involved in the rescue of the crew of the H.P. Kirkman, which was in distress and sinking ten miles off shore from Nantucket Island, during a January winter storm in 1892. Through the wind gusts and rough seas they reached the stranded frozen crew of seven of the H.P. Kirkman. With the gale force winds pushing against them it took hours with little success to try to reach Sankaty Head lighthouse, which was closer.

They decided to anchor the lifeboat, waiting for the tide to change to help them reach land, but the storm again hampered their efforts, so they waited overnight. By sunrise the following day, the tide came up, and the winds started to calm as the storm passed. The exhausted and frostbitten lifesavers reached Siasconset Beach, near Sankaty Head lighthouse, by 10 AM, after 26 hours of having been out at sea.

The crewmen of the H.P. Kirkman all survived the wreck, and Keeper Chase and his crew were awarded lifesaving medals months later.  

Great Point lighthouse shadow of tower



On September 23, 1931, Keeper Chase and Assistant Keeper Walsh at Great Point saved the crew of the fishing schooner Elizabeth Foley when the vessel caught fire two miles from the light.


Nantucket Lightship Collision with the RMS Olympic

The Nantucket Lightship LV-117 was stationed south of the Nantucket Shoals about 42 miles southeast of Nantucket Island in area of heavy shipping traffic. On May 15, 1934, heavy fog had engulfed the region that night as the lightship sounded her fog horn for the incoming giant ocean liner, RMS Olympic.

Although following the radio beacon signal sent by the lightship, the lookout on the RMS Olympic had miscalculated the location of the Nantucket. He was unable to see the lightship in the fog until the ocean liner was only about 500 feet away. The crewmen of the Nantucket sounded the alarm for the impending collision and grabbed their life preservers as the RMS Olympic came towards them. The great ocean liner ran over the Nantucket, cutting it in half, as the lightship sank within minutes. Seven of the eleven lightship crewmen drowned in the frigid waters and four were rescued, including Captain George Braithwaite, who died a few months later from his injuries.

For more details about the story of the Nantucket Lightship collision or the Rescue of the H.P. Kirkman, select the appropriate link at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section.


In March 1984, a severe storm destroyed the 1818 constructed lighthouse. In 1986 with the help of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, enough federal money was set aside for the building of a new Great Point Lighthouse, 300 yards west of the site of the old tower.



Places to Visit Nearby:

Those who are adventurous, you will find the south shore beaches inviting. These southern shore beaches face the open ocean and provide the most dramatic surf. Be wary as these beaches can have dangerous rip tides. Cisco Beach and Surfside Beach are popular with surfers.

Kayakers, and those who may want to learn to windsurf, frequent Pocomo Beach. windsurfing on Nantucket Island

The eastern shore beaches are usually ones that are off the beaten path where you would need a permit, like the Great Point and Coatue beaches at Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge, where Great Point Lighthouse is located.

It's nearly impossible to visit Great Point Lighthouse without arriving by boat or 4-wheel drive vehicle. During the summer months the Trusties of Reservations offer tours of the Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge (see contact info below). Here a naturalist guide will lead you on an over-sand vehicle tour through the salt marsh to learn about the geology, ecology, and history of the area.

view from great point lighthouse tower When your arrive at the beacon, you get to climb the Great Point lighthouse tower for some spectacular views.

This is such a great tour and I guarantee you'll be glad you went and explored this area.

On the refuge, and along some of the beaches, you may find seals relaxing. seals relaxing on beach




Contact Info:

Trustees of Coskata-Coatue Wildlife Refuge
Tours of Great Point Lighthouse and the wildlife refuge area.
Wauwinet Road,
Wauwinet, Nantucket, MA 02554
Phone: (508) 228-5646

tours of Great Point lighthouse tower



Ferries to Nantucket Island

Ferries mentioned don’t pass by the lighthouse, but provide services to get to Nantucket Island.

Hy-Line Cruises
Hyannis-Oak Bluffs ferry; also Nantucket-Oak Bluffs ferry.
220 Ocean Street Dock
Hyannis, Massachusetts 02601
Information: (508) 778-2600
Oak Bluffs (508) 693-0112
Hyannis-Nantucket ferry (508) 778-2602


Steamship Authority
Ferries to both islands
Vehicle Reservations Call: (508) 477-8600
Office Hours or (508) 693-9130
Fast Ferry Reservations: (508) 495-FAST (3278)
Woods Hole: (508) 548-3788
Vineyard Haven: (508) 693-0367
Oak Bluffs: (508) 693-0125
Hyannis: (508) 771-4000
Nantucket: (508) 228-0262


Freedom Cruise Line
Ferry from Harwich Port Mass. to Nantucket
702 Main Street - Route 28
Harwich Port, Massachusetts 02646
(508) 432-8999


Books to Explore

book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

To order a signed paperback copy:

Available from bookstores in paperback, hard cover, and as an eBook for all devices.

my ebook on apple books

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies, and measured longer than a football field!

This book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships, including their final voyages. Many of these events occurred on the dangerous shoals surrounding Nantucket and the islands Martha's Vineyard.



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 and tours you can explore.

Explore this 300-page book where you'll find over 360 photos and map illustrations, with plenty of stories and things to do around each lighthouse. Great Point light is on the cover too!

Look inside!


book about lighthouses and local coastal atttractions in southern New England





New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues & Other Tales

This image-rich book contains over 50 stories of famous shipwrecks and rescues around New England lighthouses, and also tales of hauntings.

Included is the story of the coordinated rescue of survivors of the Andrea Doria south of Nantucket Island. You'll also learn about lightships stationed on the Nantucket Shoals around the islands. There is also the tragic story of the collision between the Nantucket Lightship LV-117 and the RMS Olympic.

You'll find this book and my lighthouse tourism books published by Schiffer Books, or they can be found in many fine bookstores like Barnes and Noble.


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