If you like lighthouses, Martha’s Vineyard is the place to visit. It is home to five beautiful lighthouses. When visiting these historic structures, it is easy to imagine a time when whaling ships, merchant vessels and schooners sailed the coastal “highways” that surround the island.
Four of the lighthouses are easily accessible from island roads. One lighthouse is more difficult to reach, but it is worth the effort.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is the steward of the East Chop, Edgartown and Gay Head Lighthouses and provides entrance into them for a small fee, which helps with the cost of maintaining the lighthouses. Not only are you able to see the inside of the lighthouses, when you climb to their tops you are rewarded with gorgeous island and ocean views. You can also schedule group visits or arrange private rentals. Imagine celebrating a special occasion at a Vineyard lighthouse!
The Trustees of Reservations manages the Cape Poge Lighthouse. If you take one of their lighthouse tours, they get you to the lighthouse and provide entry into it.
The Coast Guard manages the West Chop Lighthouse, which is private and the only lighthouse you cannot enter.
For more about the lighthouses, read the Martha’s Vineyard Magazine’s article Illuminating Lighthouses.
West Chop Lighthouse
If you take the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, the West Chop Lighthouse greets you as you round West Chop to enter Vineyard Haven harbor.
Here is what you’ll see from the boat on a hazy spring day (zoom in using your camera — the boat doesn’t get this close).
You can get a closer look at the back of the lighthouse from the road on West Chop (in Vineyard Haven).
Coast Guard personnel live on the property and take care of the lighthouse. You cannot walk around the lighthouse property or go into the lighthouse, but you get a nice view from the road.
East Chop Lighthouse
Soon after you round West Chop, the point of East Chop comes into view with the East Chop Lighthouse blinking its green light in welcome.
This view at dusk shows off the green light.
Here is a view of the lighthouse from the road on East Chop (in Oak Bluffs).
In season, you can enter the lighthouse during scheduled times. See the MV Museum’s website for details.
I’m partial to the East Chop Lighthouse. It is just up the street from where my husband and I exchanged our wedding vows.
The Edgartown Lighthouse guards the entrance into Edgartown Harbor.
The lighthouse beach (and the road behind it) is a popular viewing area for the July 4th fireworks.
You can check the MV Museum website for scheduled entry times.
Gay Head Lighthouse
The Gay Head Lighthouse stands high atop the magnificent Aquinnah cliffs.
Two years ago, this 400-ton lighthouse was moved 129 feet back from its location on the eroding cliffs. It took three days to move it foot by foot along metal I-beams. (You can see a time-lapse video of the move here.)
Check the MV Museum’s website for the schedule to enter the lighthouse.
The lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens, which was made in France and exhibited at the 1855 World’s Fair in Paris now sits on the MV Museum’s lawn and is lit every night. Don’t miss an evening trip into Edgartown to see the 1,008 prisms reflected throughout the neighborhood in which it resides.
Cape Poge Lighthouse
The Cape Poge Lighthouse sits on a sandy stretch of Chappaquiddick island. While it is a bit of a challenge to reach this lighthouse in its remote location, the trip is half the fun.
If you are a boat owner, you can see the lighthouse from the sea and sometimes access its beach to get a closer look. If you have an over-sand permit for your off-road vehicle, you can sometimes access that part of the island. Before heading to the lighthouse on your own, check if the beach is accessible (access can be cut off by sea erosion or the beach might be closed to protect nesting shorebirds).
A great way to visit the lighthouse is to take one of The Trustees of Reservations lighthouse tours. They will drive you to the lighthouse and take you inside. Along the way, you’ll get stories and great sightseeing.
To check for beach closings or to book a Cape Poge Lighthouse tour, see the The Trustees of Reservations website.
For more things to do on Martha’s Vineyard
See my post on A Capella Music on Martha’s Vineyard.