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Highland Light - Cape Cod's Oldest Lighthouse

Updated on April 22, 2012
Highland Light in Truro
Highland Light in Truro | Source

One of the treasures of the outer Cape Cod region is Highland Light, in the town of Truro. The lighthouse, also known as Cape Cod Light, is both the oldest and tallest lighthouse on Cape Cod.

Highland Light, which is listed in the US National Register of Historic Places, remains an active US Coast Guard aid to navigation, although today the operation is fully automated. Its beacon remains one of the brightest lights on the New England coast.

Highland Light History

The first lighthouse in the Truro Highlands area, a wooden structure, was built in 1797. That building was replaced in 1857 with the brick structure currently standing. A keeper's house, built at the same time, now houses a small museum and gift shop.

The lighthouse tower is 66 feet tall, and sits on a cliff about 120 feet above sea level. The light itself, a white light that flashes every five seconds, shines at about 174 feet above sea level, and can be seen for more than 20 miles.

In the early part of the 20th century, Highland Light was the brightest lighthouse in America. The lamp and lens system have been upgraded several times over the years, the current optical system being the VRB-25, which is the US Coast Guard standard for short-range navigational aids.

The view from the observation area.
The view from the observation area. | Source

Highland Light Relocation

Highland Light originally overlooked the Atlantic from a position 500 feet away from a cliff's edge. By the 1990s much of the coastline had eroded, and that distance had narrowed to only about 100 feet. In 1996, the International Chimney Company, a company with extensive experience relocating historic structures, moved the lighthouse an additional 450 feet away from the cliff.

A stone marker sits at the former position of the lighthouse, and nearby an observation deck has been constructed that offers a view over the cliff to the shoreline below, and out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Cape Cod National Seashore

Part of the US National Park Service, the Cape Cod National Seashore was created in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, and covers 44,600 acres.

The park runs from Chatham all the way to Provincetown, and includes 40 miles of pristine beaches and numerous historic, cultural and natural sites of interest.

Highland Light Golf Course

The lighthouse is surrounded by a 9-hole golf course, which opened in 1892, making it one of the oldest on the east coast. Highland Light Golf Course offers golfers a fabulous view of the Atlantic Ocean, and is one of the most authentic Scottish links style golf courses in America. Fans of the course are pleased that, because it is part of the Cape Cod National Seashore, it will likely never be updated.

A Look at Highland Light Golf Course

Visiting Highland Light

The observation deck and grounds around Highland Light are open year-round. The lighthouse itself is open to the public from May through late-October, with 25-minute guided tours given several times daily. Unique full-moon tours of the lighthouse are also offered during these months.

Outer Cape Cod has a number of must-see attractions, and Highland Light is among the best of these. The lighthouse is very easy to reach from Route 6 (the Mid-Cape Highway), and travelers to the outer Cape should definitely make it a part of their visit.

Directions to Highland Light

A markerHighland Light -
Highland Light Rd, Cape Cod National Seashore, Truro, MA 02652, USA
get directions


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    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks Teresa. My wife and I loved our Cape Cod vacations so much that we moved here! We've been here since 1994.

    • Teresa Coppens profile image

      Teresa Coppens 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Excellent lay out with lots of great information Doc. My kids love light houses and I've always wanted to visit Cape Cod. Sounds like a great place for a family vacation!

    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      Thanks, K9! I confess that I really don't know what I'm doing with a camera (thank goodness for auto-focus!). I'm glad you enjoyed the hub. Hubhugs right back at ya!

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 5 years ago from Northern, California

      What a perfect presentation of Highland Light Lighthouse! I love that you offer so many facts about the structure as well as the history. Wonderful photography; I must say the shot of the front of the lighthouse is simply beautiful, Doc! I felt as if I was taking the tour as I read through your hub. Absolutely share-a-licious!


    • Doc Sonic profile image

      Glen Nunes 5 years ago from Cape Cod, Massachusetts

      PWalker281, that's funny about the Oahu lighthouse. Sometimes we don't realize what's right in our own backyard!

      JamaGenee, a lighthouse with a golf course surrounding it is pretty unique. Some golfers love the course because it's so natural and authentic, not perfectly manicured like most courses. Other golfers dislike the course for that very same reason, but it's something that anyone who golfs should at least try once if they're in the area.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 5 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      I love lighthouses but had never heard of one with a golf course around it! Fascinating lighthouse AND hub! ;D

    • profile image

      PWalker281 5 years ago

      This hub reminds me of the lighthouse that sits atop the cliff at the easternmost point on Oahu, called the Makapu'u Point Lighthouse. My daughter and I were driving to an evening event, and I could see the lighthouse flashing off in the distance. I hadn't realized it was an actual working lighthouse; I thought it was just a tourist attraction (duh!).

      Enjoyed reading about the Highland Lighthouse; the video was great! Voted up and interesting.