These days, it’s all part of Gloucester, Massachusetts. But once upon a time, Annisquam Village competed with Gloucester in the fishing and shipbuilding trades. The village was founded on the eastern side of the Annisquam River in 1631, its name given in honor of Queen Anne of England (hence Cape Anne), with a suffix denoting the anglicized Indian name for harbor (squam).
Annisquam Harbor Light was established in 1801. It sits on Wigwam Point, an estuary that connects Ipswich Bay and Gloucester Harbor. The first wooden tower was replaced in 1851, and the current brick tower replaced the second tower in 1897. The keeper’s house and oil house are the original structures though.
The lighthouse is not open to visitors, with the keeper’s house still used as housing for United States Coast Guard personnel. In 2008, the lighthouse was featured in the movie The Women starring Meg Ryan.
BEST TIME TO PHOTOGRAPH
Annisquam Harbor Light can be photographed at both sunrise and sunset. At sunrise, the structures are front-lit, whereas, at sunset the scene is back-lit as the sun sets behind the buildings.
Sunrise photos are best from November through February since the front of the structures are better lit during those times. Sunset photos, on the other hand, are better from May through August. At that time of year, the sun sets more directly behind the lighthouse, increasing the odds of getting a dramatic sunset sky. The accompanying photo was taken at sunset in late May after a thunderstorm.
The lighthouse can be photographed from two vantage points. The first is from Wingaersheek Beach, on the western side of the Annisquam River. This is a more distant view of the lighthouse, so you’ll need a long lens. To reach Wingaersheek Beach, drive north on Atlantic Street until you reach the public beach.
The second vantage point is a small private beach near the lighthouse. I prefer this perspective, as it affords a close-up view of the lighthouse and surroundings. The accompanying photo was taken from here.
To reach the private beach, take Leonard Street off Route 127 in Gloucester. Follow Leonard Street for about half a mile before turning right on Walnut Street. Soon after making the turn, you’ll see a small unpaved parking area on your right. Park here, and follow the marked hiking path down to the private beach.
The lighthouse actually sits within Norwood Heights, an area accessible from Leonard Street. But, be aware that no parking is allowed at or near the lighthouse inside Norwood Heights. This is a residential neighborhood with no provisions for visitors nor tolerance for illegal parking. I made the mistake of parking at the lighthouse on one unfortunate occasion. When I returned to my car, I found myself surrounded by three very unhappy Coast Guard personnel. So save yourself the stress and avoid Norwood Heights altogether.
The small parking area at the foot of the hiking path on Walnut Street fills up early with late afternoon visitors and dog walkers. So, I always make a point of getting there several hours early to secure a spot.
When the tide is low, you can easily walk on the white sandy beach to scout a composition. But when the tide is at its highest, the beach is entirely underwater, so you’ll need to walk on the rocks and marshy grass to approach the lighthouse. I suggest you bring footwear suitable for wet and slippery surfaces.