Annisquam Light

Annisquam Light after sunset

GPS: 42.660900 -70.679967

ANNISQUAM VILLAGE

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 LIGHT

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.

GETTING THERE

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.

PHOTOGRAPHERS BEWARE

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.

11 thoughts on “Annisquam Light”

  1. Exquisite capture added to your body of work! Positioning to the right with every element leading right to the subject. I particularly appreciate your blog inclusions of history, directions and best practices for your shot. Have you done any photo studies of the Merrimack River which will be our closest water body with a move from Vermont to NH in the fall?

    1. Thanks, Diane. I’ve done very little photography along the Merrimack River. Funny how we often deny subjects that are all too familiar.

  2. Thanks for another great photo from my home State. It’s amazing how one can see through the lens as the beauty that catches the attention and hearts of all who look at a beautiful creation. Thanks again.

  3. Hello,

    The photos are beautiful. Did you have to sign anything to access this piece of land/beach? I was told there are beach “guards” there and would love to go, but I don’t have a “pass”,

    1. Hi Kat. I never encountered beach guards and have never been asked to sign anything to gain access. I suspect that these protections only apply in the heart of summer when tourists are abundant. I usually go off-season and never had a problem. This photo was taken in late May.

  4. The parking you described is very rarely ticketed ($15?). The CG had a 15 minute rule “on site” but are very mean now.

    Each year in late July some 200 various row/paddle boats of the Blackburn Challenge go right by the ALH. It’s awesome. I did pro video so I arranged to park and the CG gave full access for an hour or so.

    The boats go CW – S to N. Best shot was the fiercest faced competitors in a six position outrigger coming RIGHT AT ME!

    Also there is a great shot of ALH from a “Geo marker” at the top of Squam Road. Small parking area as you reach the top.

    I’ve booked marked your sight. Thank you.

  5. We went to see annisquam light last week and… it seemed to be gone to us. We’d visited it before and it was always wonderful. Last week – no hint of it there at all on the grounds. We don’t know what happened to it. But it wasn’t there when we looked.

    1. Dave, are you sure you went to the right place? As far as I know, Annisquam Light is exactly where it always was. I certainly haven’t heard otherwise.

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