The Lighthouses of Martha’s Vineyard

Over this past Holiday season, we traveled up north to visit family and friends and one of our stops was out on Martha’s Vineyard where I finally got to photograph the last of the five lighthouses on the island. Each one is unique in its own way and there are all beautiful, especially when decorated and lit up for the Holiday season. Here are shots of each of them. Click on each one and you’ll see a couple other views of each lighthouse. Click on the individual photos to view them full size where there will be options to send them as a Free E-card or to order a digital download or a color reprint. At the end of the galleries, you’ll see a map with the location of each one of the lighthouses.

The first lighthouse you encounter on your ferry ride from Woods Hole to the island is West Chop Lighthouse which protects the western entrance to Vineyard Haven. West Chop is the most difficult to photograph as it sits on private land so all you can do is drive by it. West Chop went into service on October 5th, 1817. Following constant erosion, the lighthouse was moved back in 1830, and again in 1846 to where it now sits.

As your ferry begins its turn into Vineyard Haven, what comes into view on the left-hand side of the harbor is East Chop Lighthouse which was built in 1878 and stands as it did back then. It stands a mere 40′ above ground and is constructed of cast iron. It aides mariners entering into Vineyard Haven as well as the large numbers of fishing vessels making their way across Vineyard Sound, many of them out to the George’s Bank fishing area in the Atlantic.

The most inaccessible lighthouse on the island (although technically not on Martha’s Vineyard) is the Cape Poge Lighthouse. It is situated at the very Northeast corner in a remote area of Chappaquiddick Island, accessible only by boat or via overland vehicles once on the island. Travel to the island is via one of the ‘On Time’ ferries which make their 5 minute trip across a couple hundred yards of water from Edgartown to Chappy. Given the winds, the currents and the topography in the area, erosion has been a recurring and almost endless challenge on Chappy. The lighthouse has been moved multiple times since it was first constructed in 1801.

One of the most visited accessible lighthouses on the island is the Edgartown Lighthouse. It proudly sits on a narrow spit of land just outside Edgartown Harbor. In the 18th century, navigational aids were critical to the survival of inhabitants of the Vineyard given the enormous whaling industry that existed at that time which sailed out of Edgartown Harbor. Thus, in 1828, the first lighthouse was built to aid the whaling captains of Martha’s Vineyard. The hurricane of 1938 destroyed the lighthouse and it was ‘rebuilt’ using an existing lighthouse from up north in Ipswich which was dismantled, transported and reconstructed in Edgartown.

By far, the most dramatic of all the MV lighthouses is Gay Head Light, sitting 130′ above the ocean floor, atop the multi-color cliffs of Aquinnah. It is also the 1st lighthouse built on the Vineyard back in 1799. As with Edgartown Light, the area around the Aquinnah cliffs was vital for the burgeoning whaling industry On Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The first lighthouse was a 47′ wooden structure but it went through numerous improvements over the years until a new lighthouse was constructed in 1855. In 2015, with the lighthouse sitting just 46′ from the edge of the cliff, the decision was made to move her back nearly 130′ to where she sits now. To read a bit more about that project, read this article.

The map above will show the locations of each of the 5 lighthouses of Martha’s Vineyard. While there are a plethora of great reasons to visit the Vineyard, visiting the lighthouses and putting yourself back in time to feel and understand how valuable they were to the inhabitants of the island has got to be one of the most rewarding reasons.

If you like this post and would like to see more like this, we’ll contact you by email whenever a new post is published. You can opt out at any time.

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required

Email Format


We invite you to visit our Fine Art America page where you can purchase many of our photos in various formats such as matted or framed prints, stretched canvas, tote bags, shower curtains and much more!

Facebook Comments

We'd love to hear your comments or feedback

error: Content is protected !!
%d bloggers like this: