Sankaty Head Light: One of the Oldest and Last Working Lighthouses
If lighthouses fascinate you, and you want to tour all existing lighthouses, you might want to take a trip to see Sankaty Head Light. This is one of the nation’s oldest surviving and working lighthouses. Its iconic red and white bands on the tower of the lighthouse draw tourists from miles around.
Here is more information on this landmark.
History of lighthouse through today:
The lighthouse was built in 1850. It was necessary to have a lighthouse on Nantucket Island because too many boats would come too close to these loose and random islands off the coast of Massachusetts, crash, and drown everyone on board. With the erection of this lighthouse, hundreds of ships and thousands of lives were saved as a result.
The lighthouse was manned by a lighthouse keeper all the way up until 1965, when it was finally outfitted to be fully automated. It has been a fully functional, fully automated, and fully working lighthouse since and it still remains a vital life-saving lighthouse in the Nantucket islands. Very recently, most of the lower floors of the lighthouse have been converted to the Nantucket Whaling Museum in order to provide a source of income to preserve and repair the lighthouse for future generations. Additionally, in 1987, the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2007, the lighthouse was moved from its original location. The bluff where the lighthouse had originally been built had eroded over the last 170 years and the lighthouse was in danger of falling into the ocean. The ‘Sconset Trust secured the lighthouse to preserve it, and moved it to safer ground.
Address: You can find the Sankaty Head Light lighthouse on Baxter Rd., Siaconset, Nantucket, MA 02554. The lighthouse is perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and the road rolls up right behind the lighthouse. The road is the coastal road to the entire island.
Phone number: 508-257-4100, which connects you to the ‘Sconset Trust Association. You can ask them different questions about the lighthouse, ticket costs, and future events of interest.
Hours of operation: The lighthouse and museum are open most days from ten or eleven in the morning until three or four in the afternoon. Hours are subject to various situations and needs of the lighthouse. Call ahead to make sure it is open. Group tours are currently closed until further notice.
There are no hotels directly connected to the lighthouse or the lighthouse’s property. There are, however, seven inns and bed and breakfast establishments on the island where you can stay. In-season prices (i.e., summertime) are a little steep, but staying on the island affords you direct access to everything on the island you may want to see or do, including the Sankaty lighthouse.
Here are your nearby accommodation options:
White Elephant Hotel, Lofts and Garden Cottages: A very large establishment located about seven miles away from the lighthouse.
Nantucket Inn: A very classy New England-style inn with comfortable rooms and located within five miles of the lighthouse.
Jared Coffin House: A historical place in and of itself, this establishment is also within seven miles of the lighthouse.
The Beachside: A fully renovated 1960 era hotel that provides free breakfast daily to guests and is also within seven miles of the lighthouse, give or take a half mile.
The Veranda House Hotel Collection: Big spacious rooms with views and a seven-mile hike to the lighthouse are par for the course with this hotel.
21 Broad Hotel: Seven miles away
76 Main Hotel: Seven miles away
Any and all other accommodations are within thirty or more miles of the lighthouse. If you stay on the island to be close to the lighthouse, you will need to stay in one of the seven previously mentioned establishments. You can easily use a car to get around on the island and get to the Sankaty Head Lighthouse. If you stay off the island, you will need to take a ferry to the island and then find a way around the island once you depart from the ferry.
In case you need help locating the above inns, bed and breakfasts, and hotels, the establishments and their exact addresses on the island are found below.
50 Easton St, Nantucket
1 Miller Ln
Jared Coffin House
29 Broad St
30 N Beach St
The Veranda House Hotel Collection
3 Step Ln
21 Broad Hotel
21 Broad St
76 Main St.
As the summer season ramps up, many more inns and hotels may open for the season, but the ones above are open almost all year long. This is convenient for any tourist who may be visiting the island in the off-season.
There are four restaurants in Siasconset, where the lighthouse is located. Each of these is within walking distance of the lighthouse. If you want to get a bite to eat and then visit the lighthouse, or visit the lighthouse and then eat, you can manage it quite easily.
Here are the four restaurants within walking distance of the lighthouse in Siasconset:
The Chanticleer at 9 New St. features French and international cuisine. They are open for lunch and dinner.
Claudette’s Sandwich Shop at 10 Main St. features lunch fare with a few vegetarian options. They are open for breakfast and lunch.
‘Sconset Cafe is located at 8 Main St Post Office Square, and serves only dinner until 10pm.
The Summer House Restaurant at 17 Ocean Ave. opens for lunch and stays open the rest of the night for dinner, late night, and drinks. It is the nighttime hot spot in Siasconset.
If you want more options, you can drive to the northern coast of Nantucket to Broad Point. There are several restaurants there. If you stay in a hotel there, you will be farther away from the lighthouse, but closer to numerous restaurant options.
The lighthouse usually opens for business in May or June, depending on the weather. At present, it is not open for business, but that is expected to change. Group tours may not be available for a while.
Individual tours include walking and self-guided tours, as well as small group guided tours when business returns to normal. Right now, you can only walk around the lighthouse and the island if you happen to be there already. When the lighthouse is open, you can walk around the grounds, the keeper’s home, and go up inside the lighthouse to see the views from the top. Admission prices vary on the type of tour you want and when a specific type of tour is available.
There are also several special events and gatherings at and in the lighthouse throughout the year. Some of those events have either been canceled or postponed this year, but it is expected to be a regular feature in the annual calendar again next year. You can check the events calendar on the ‘Sconset Calendar on the Sankaty Head Light’s website.
Unique features of lighthouse to observe and experience:
The lighthouse is fully automated. It spins its bright light out over the ocean in all directions to help ships steer away from the shallow shoals of Nantucket. It is also a beacon for ships that are lost in nor’easter storms, a common weather problem in New England. You can see where the original light used to be part of the top light tower, and you can stand within the guard rail and walk around the light when weather permits.
People living on Nantucket relish the sunsets near the lighthouse. Artists often come here to paint scenes and views of the lighthouse; you might see an artist on any given summer day painting en plein aire. Touring the grounds, seeing the various tableaux of historical information, and touring the keeper’s house are all possible when the site is open for business.
When and if possible, attempt to see the lighthouse during a special event. The lighthouse during the nighttime gala that is typically held each year in summer is a really extraordinary event. Jog in the Fog is another event where a run past the lighthouse early in the morning when the fog is rolling in off the ocean is quite breathtaking, both literally and figuratively.
Many people have held their weddings near this site for its beautiful scenery. Scores of photographers have taken photos here too. If you have the time, travel 405 feet to the southeast to see the exact spot where the lighthouse originally stood before being moved to a safer location in order to preserve it and keep it from falling into the ocean.