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Race Point Lighthouse

race point light

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Built in 1816

Race Point Light Photo Gallery

Location:

Northwest of Provincetown near the northernmost point of Cape Cod on Race Point Beach in the Cape Cod National Seashore. Overnight lodging for guests and tours to the lighthouse tower are provided during the summer months with reservations.

Latitude: 42° 03' 45" N
Longitude: 70° 14' 35" W
 

 

New England Lighthouses

 

Historic Stories:

The area around Race Point outside of Provincetown is marked by dangerous sand bars and a hazardous strong racing cross current, aptly called the “race” at the northern end of Cape Cod. During the Revolutionary War, the British frigate, HMS Somerset, was shipwrecked off Race Point and was believed to have been caught in one of the dangerous currents, driving it into one of the hazardous sandbars. Provincetown mariners had been requesting a lighthouse at Race Point to guide ships around the hazardous race currents as early as 1808.

Race Point Lighthouse was finally built in 1816 to guide mariners across this highly dangerous stretch of sand bars near Race Point which had already claimed many ships. This was one of the earliest lighthouses to use a "Revolving Illuminating Apparatus" which produced the flashing characteristic that was adopted in building future lighthouses.

race pt light 1816 construction

Early 1816 Construction
Courtesy US Coast Guard

It was used at Race point to distinguish between it and nearby Highland (Cape Cod) Light.

During the famous storm of 1841, where 57 mariners perished, Captain Rich spent nearly 12 hours tied to the wheel of his schooner Water Witch to finally guide the boat safely near Race Point. 

In the 1800’s the children of the keeper’s had to walk two and a half miles across soft sand to school each day.

In the 1930’s one keeper, James Hinckley, converted his Model T into a kind of "dune buggy" to not only help bring and retrieve the children from school, but also to acquire supplies in nearby Provincetown. The new vehicle allowed him to make the trip to Provincetown in less than 30 minutes.

The lighthouse and buildings have recently been completely renovated and the keeper’s dwelling is available for overnight stays.

 

Check out my book “New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues, and Other Tales” with over 40 detailed stories. Published by Schiffer Books. Here is the Table of Contents.

In the book you'll find a few local stories from the Cape Cod region, including various rescues during one of the worst gale storms in New England, named as the "Portland Gale" for the sinking of the Steamer Portland, in which some of the wreckage washed up near Race Point Light.

book of lighthouse stories

 

 

Places to Visit Nearby:

Race Point Lighthouse can be reached by hiking about two miles through the sand from Race Point Beach along the shoreline. The lighthouse can also be reached with a four-wheel drive vehicle and a permit, which can be obtained from the Cape Cod National Seashore, or the Coast Guard station at the parking lot. For those with a keen sense of direction a less strenuous hike through not so soft sand can be accessed, by taking the 2nd right after Race Point Beach sign heading towards Herring Cove Beach. The small parking lot will display a sign regarding the marshland you would trek through. Just follow the fire road until you see the lighthouse. It is also roughly a 2-mile hike. You'll find plenty of space at both beaches to relax and enjoy the wildlife and the surf, or fish offshore.

If you have had enough hiking and don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle, Art’s Dune Tours offers trips out to Race Point Light, phone (800) 894-1951.

The Keeper’s dwelling and the Whistle House next door are available for overnight stays, while public tours of the lighthouse are offered occasionally primarily during the summer months, although visitors must reach the lighthouse on their own since the tours start at the lighthouse. Race Point Lighthouse is located on part of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

Provincetown is a unique community of generations of artisans that have settled there many decades ago. Visit the Whydah Museum to see real pirate treasure and artifacts from the pirate ship the Whyda which sunk off the coast of Provincetown in 1717. The Whydah is the only verified pirate shipwreck ever discovered.

You can get spectacular views of scenic Provincetown and the three lighthouses nearby, including Race Point Light, from atop the 250 foot high Pilgrim Memorial Monument and Provincetown Museum which is the tallest all-granite structure in the United States. It stands at 353-feet above sea level and was dedicated on August 5, 1910 to commemorate the first landing of the Pilgrims in the New World at Provincetown on November 11, 1620.

 

Directions to the Lighthouse:

 

 

Contact Info:
American Lighthouse Foundation: Cape Cod
Race Point Lighthouse
c/o Cape Cod Chapter
P.O. Box 570
North Truro, MA 02652
Phone: (508) 487-9930
Email: racepointlighthouse@comcast.net

 

 

 

Airplane Rides

Race Point Aviation
Provides scenic plane rides over Race Point and parts of the Cape Cod National Seashore, including the outer Cape from Provincetown to Chatham.

Provincetown Airport
Race Point Rd
Provincetown, Mass
Phone: (508) 873-2342

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