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Race Point Lighthouse

Race Point lighthouse

Provincetown, Massachusetts
Built in 1816


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

 

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.

Race Point light 1816 construction

Early 1816 Construction
Courtesy US Coast Guard

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.

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

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. 

early Race Point light 1876
1876 Construction
Image Courtesy US Coast Guard

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 during the summer months.

Race Point light accessed by hiking around sand dunes

Race Point Light Accessed by Hiking Around Sand Dunes

 

 

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.

seashore hking towards race point light

Race Point lighthouse lies in the Cape Cod National Seashore

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.

storm approaches by Race Point light 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.

view of seashore from the tower Race Point lighthouse is located on part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Some tours allow visitors to get great views of the area from the lantern room in the tower.

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.

pilgrim monument provincetown museum

Pilgrim Monument

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

 

Explore my book, Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Southern New England: Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. Providing special stories from each of the 92 lighthouses of New England's lower states, along with plenty of indoor and outdoor coastal attractions and tours you can explore.

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book about lighthouses and nearby attractions and tours in southern New England

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