Sandy Neck Lighthouse

Barnstable, Massachusetts
Sandy Neck Lighthouse has stood proudly on Sandy Neck in West Barnstable at the entrance of Barnstable Harbor since 1826.
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About This Location

Sandy Neck Lighthouse: A Guiding Beacon of Barnstable

Nestled on the picturesque Sandy Neck, in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, at the entrance to Barnstable Harbor, Sandy Neck Lighthouse graces the Cape Cod coastline. This historic beacon, though not open to the public, stands as a testament to the region’s maritime heritage and continues to guide seafarers to safety.

A Beacon Born of Necessity

During the early 1800s, as Barnstable’s whaling and fishing industries burgeoned, the need for a reliable navigational aid in Barnstable Harbor became evident. Responding to this imperative, Congress authorized the construction of Sandy Neck Lighthouse in May 1826, allocating $3,500 for its creation. The town of Barnstable contributed 2 acres of land for the lighthouse’s construction.

Throughout the summer of 1826, Sandy Neck Lighthouse took shape, with a 16-foot-tall wooden tower rising from the center of a brick keeper’s residence. The lighthouse’s initial illumination comprised a 180-candlepower, fixed white light powered by ten lamps with 14.5-inch reflectors, stacked in two levels. This guiding light, standing 40 feet above mean high water, cast its brilliance across nine nautical miles, aiding mariners in avoiding hazards.

Challenges and Renewal

Despite its critical role, the original Sandy Neck Lighthouse faced numerous challenges. In 1842, Inspector I. W. P. Lewis reported significant issues, including lights being turned off, poor maintenance leading to weak illumination, and structural concerns. Lewis recommended addressing these problems promptly to maintain the beacon’s effectiveness. Although some improvements were made, the majority of issues persisted, leading to another inspection in 1859 that again found the lighthouse in poor condition.

In 1857, the original lighthouse was decommissioned and subsequently dismantled. In its place, a 48-foot brick tower was erected, positioned slightly north of the original site. To address concerns of structural integrity, a distinctive pair of iron hoops and six staves were added around the central part of the lighthouse in 1887.

Evolution and Transition

Sandy Neck Lighthouse experienced automation in the summer of 1931 under the care of Keeper William L. Anderson. The lens was relocated to a steel skeleton tower situated 200 feet closer to the edge of Sandy Neck. This new automated light, powered by acetylene gas, operated seasonally, from April 15 to October 15, until it was extinguished in 1952.

Following deactivation, the lighthouse’s lantern was dismantled, and the land was auctioned to Warren J. Clear in 1933. This 1.93-acre parcel, including all light station buildings, was acquired for $711. The property later changed hands, belonging to Fred Lang, a Yankee Network radio personality, in 1944.

In 1950, Lang sold the property to the Hinckley family, who manage Sandy Neck Lighthouse today through Ken Morton and Kee Hinckley. Recognizing the need for preservation, Morton worked with the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation in 2004 to install a replica lantern on the tower, both for aesthetic purposes and to safeguard the interior from inclement weather. In October 2007, this replica lantern was successfully added.

A Beacon for Visitors

While not open for public tours, Sandy Neck Lighthouse can be admired through various means. Boating, paddleboarding, and kayaking offer excellent views from the water, while Sandy Neck Beach provides a great vantage point for those who prefer to walk along the shore. For adventurous souls, a drive to Sandy Neck Lighthouse is possible, although limited to residents of Sandy Neck or those with OSV permits for Sandy Neck Beach. Another option involves parking at the Mass Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable and enjoying a view of the lighthouse from across Barnstable Harbor, approximately a mile away. Sandy Neck Lighthouse continues to illuminate the region’s history and captivate the hearts of all who encounter its timeless beauty.

(The lighthouse is part of the Sandy Neck Cultural Resources District which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places with reference number 87000305)


Address: Marsh Trail, Barnstable, Massachusetts
Place GPS Coordinates: 41.722639, -70.280944
Parking GPS Coordinates: 41.722639, -70.280944
Parking Notes: Driving to Sandy Neck Lighthouse is only allowed for residents of Sandy Neck or those with OSV permits for Sandy Neck Beach. The majority of sightseers park at the Mass Audubon Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary in Barnstable and look at the lighthouse located a mile across the harbor.

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