Plum Island Light House/Newburyport Harbor Light

Guide Us Through the Channel

Plum Island Light House, Newburyport MA

The Historic Plum Island Light House

The Plum Island Light House also know as the Plum Island Light or the Newburyport Harbor Light, has a very interesting history. It was first lit in 1788 with a lantern burning whale oil. And it was the 13th lighthouse to be constructed in the U.S..  It was needed to guide boaters into the treacherous mouth of the Merrimack River and into Newburyport Harbor. The strong currents and shifting sands at the mouth of the harbor present a serious challenge to boaters to this day.

Newburyport Harbor was very active and important to the U.S. for whaling, fishing, shipbuilding, and trade. There were many ships coming in and out of Newburyport Harbor. Before the lighthouse was built, fires on the beach in Plum Island were used to guide mariners. It was the business people of Newburyport in the 1780s that paid to build the Plum Island Lighthouse. President George Washington appointed the first keeper of the Plum Island Lighthouse, Abner Lowell. And three generations of Lowells served as lighthouse keepers at the Plum Island Lighthouse.

There were storms that damaged and original Plum Island Lighthouse. In addition, shifting sands meant that the Lighthouse had to be moved several times.

The current lighthouse dates from 1898. Since 1927 the lighthouse has been powered by electricity. The last keeper left the Lighthouse in 1951 when the light was automated. Today the lighthouse flashes a green light to guide boaters.  It is still very important to have this lighthouse in operation to guide boats safely through the turbulent area where the Merrimack River meets the Atlantic Ocean.

The Plum Island Lighthouse is located across from the Park River National Wildlife Refuge at the northern section of Plum Island.

Today the lighthouse is owned by the City of Newburyport. Friends of Plum Island Light lease it from the City and care for it. The grounds are open to the public. The Friends of Plum Island Light offer periodic public tours inside the Plum Island Lighthouse.

The picture perfect Plum Island Lighthouse is one of the great lighthouses to visit in New England and the North Shore.  It’s a “must see” for any lighthouse enthusiast and worth the visit if you are in the Greater Newburyport area. For more general information on Plum Island attractions visit our Plum Island Beach page and check out our Plum Island Parking article for parking lot information.

Directions:

From the Newburyport Harbor Range Lights on Water Street in downtown Newburyport, continue east on Water Street for 1.3 miles, where Water Street will become Plum Island Turnpike. Follow the turnpike for 1.8 miles to Plum Island, and then turn left on Northern Boulevard. Continue on Northern Boulevard for 1.3 miles to the northern end of the island, where you will see the lighthouse on your left.

Plum Island Light House

263 Northern Boulevard
Newburyport, MA 01950
FriendsofPILight@gmail.com

The Friends of Plum Island Light maintain the lighthouse and host lighthouse tours.

2024 Plum Island Light Tours:

Reserve a 15 minute time slot between 10 am – 12:45 pm by sending an email to FriendsofPILight@gmail.com

May 25th
June 22nd
July 27th
August 24th
September 7th
September 28th

Each 15 minute time slot is limited to 5 people and only one person in the group needs to sign up. Reserve a time in advance and be aware that there aren’t any rain dates. All attendees must be a minimum of 5 years old and at least 42 inches high, and be wearing sturdy shoes.

A suggested donation of $5 per person is greatly appreciated to help care for the Plum Island Lighthouse. If tours are fully booked, sometimes there might be opportunities to book a private tour, depending on various factors such as availability of volunteers.