Previous Light:
Annisquam Harbor
Next Lighthouse:
Newburyport Range Lights

Plum Island
(Newburyport Harbor) Lighthouse

Newburyport Harbor (Plum Island) light

Newburyport, Massachusetts
Built in 1838


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:

Birthplace of Our American Navy

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 revenue cutter vessel for local protection, which has evolved into a national fleet of ships under our current Coast Guard.

Note: If you’re interested in more details regarding the three lifesaving rescue branches that evolved into our current Coast Guard, select the link "Rescue Branches History" Blog at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories blog.


The Earliest Beacons

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.

early Newburyport light 1793 construction

Wooden Tower
NewburyPort Light (1793)
Courtesy US Coast Guard

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, acting as a third light.

In 1856, one of the three lighthouses caught fire and was destroyed. It was never replaced. Over the years the two remaining lighthouses were moved several times due to the shifting sands.

newburyport light early construction 1898
Newburyport Light (1898)
Courtesy US Coast Guard

In 1898 a new tower replaced the two lights, which is the current lighthouse.



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.

Visitors enjoy hiking and bird watching on the refuge, along with its majestic clean beaches to connect with nature. beach at plum island
Newburyport (Plum Island) light tower 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 may also offer periodic public tours inside the 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

Phone: (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!

book about lighthouses and local coastal atttractions in southern New England




You can order these books through any pages on this website, and I'll be happy to personally sign and ship them to you anywhere inside the United States. You can also order from the publisher, Schiffer Books, who can ship anywhere globally.


Price is lower at $24.95 if purchased here.


Table of Contents

Over 50 famous stories with lots of details in my book New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues, and Other Tales

There is a detailed historical section that describes how Newburyport was the birthplace of our American Navy, along with many more stories.

The book also contains, along with my photographs, paintings by six famous artists for the Coast Guard, and vintage images from the Coast Guard, museums, and special collectors who wanted to be involved in this project.



Back to Top