WOOD END LIGHTHOUSE
Wood End Lighthouse sits on the elbow of the sandbar surrounding Provincetown Harbor in Massachusetts. The little lighthouse is secluded from the crowds, its primary access involving a walk across a fairly long and strenuous breakwater.
Given its outlying location, there are no obstructions to disrupt its photogenic charm. The ambiance on the point is serene, making Wood End my favorite lighthouse on Cape Cod. When I come here, I usually find myself alone on the sandy hook.
Wood End Light started operating in 1871, partly motivated by the sinking of a memorable schooner based in Wellfleet. The brick structure was originally painted brown, including a keeper’s house and storage shed. Today, only the light tower and oil house remain. The brick lighthouse is now maintained by the Cape Cod Chapter of the American Lighthouse Foundation — a group of devoted volunteer workers.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Surrounded by water on three sides, Wood End can be photographed at both sunrise and sunset. Although I have not yet ventured out there at night, the isolation also makes this an ideal place for star photography. Even its beacon is photogenic, flashing red every ten seconds without the blinding side-effects of white fresnels.
I prefer to come here in June and October. In spring, the marsh grasses surrounding the lighthouse are a vivid green, whereas, in autumn, the grasses emit a golden hue.
GETTING TO WOOD END
The lighthouse is not open to the public, but since there are no fences, the grounds are accessible at any time by hiking over the breakwater in Provincetown. You’ll find the breakwater on the southern end of Commercial Street, at the intersection of 6A, directly across the street from the Provincetown Inn. Prior to 1911, the only way to reach the lighthouse on foot would have involved a long hike north along the beach.
The breakwater is approximately one mile long. Walk until you reach the sandy beach on the other side and then head west (on your right) along the path that borders the marsh. After walking about one-third mile, follow one of the smaller paths to the top of the dunes and you should now see the lighthouse.
Be aware that a nearly-identical lighthouse is situated on the eastern tip of the sandbar. You can see Long Point Lighthouse in the distance toward your left as you walk across the breakwater, but Wood End is in the opposite direction and prettier.
The hike itself is not difficult, but you need to be in decent physical condition to brave the walk across the breakwater. Past the halfway point, the rocks become uneven and slanted, so do watch your footing. And most importantly, DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CROSS THE BREAKWATER AT HIGH TIDE as the waves can spill over the breakwater, getting you, your camera gear, and the rocks drenched. Always consider the tides in determining the best day and time to make the crossing. Also be sure to bring plenty of drinking water, along with suitable protection from sun and insects.
This may not be the easiest lighthouse to reach, but I think you’ll find the journey and resulting photographs both pleasant and worthwhile!
For additional Cape Cod locations, you may want to consider The Cape Cod Scenic GPS Guide Book by Arnold J. Kaplan, APSA-AFIAP.