Going Ashore

The northern part of Thacher is a Federal Wildlife Sanctuary and the southern part is owned by the Town of Rockport. In the center, near the south tower, is the (private) caretaker's cottage with an adjacent small but nicely executed museum focused on island and lighthouse history. There are also a handful of reservable campsites. A system of trails emanating from the boat ramp provides access to most of the island.

Thacher is home to a good-sized seagull population. During their nesting season from May through July they are very aggressive defending their eggs and their fledgling, still-flightless chicks. As you get much away from the center of the island the gulls get denser and the trails less hospitable -- especially when there is a gull chick hopping along the trail ahead of you.

narrow gauge rail path
Geoff Rand
A narrow railroad and wooden path helped move supplies from the boat ramp to the buildings inland.
girl pulling kayak up boat ramp
Geoff Rand
Pulling a kayak up the boat ramp.

One Hour Ashore

An hour is about right to tour the island.

Off the Beaten Path

Most evidence of current and prior human activity on Thacher is concentrated in the triangle bounded by the north tower, the south tower, and the boat ramp. Follow trails off to the southwest corner of the island to reach an area that's been allowed to grow in more "naturally". But be prepared -- the gulls are if possible even more vociferous down here.

Maritime History

The original twin lights were first lit in 1771, under direction of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Cape Ann Light Station was, depending on how you count, the tenth or eleventh or twelfth light in what is now the United States, and the last established in the colonial era.

Rainy Day

Visiting Thacher in the fog and rain of a northeaster would give you a heightened sense of its historic role. But the little museum can only offer fifteen minutes or so of indoor distraction.


  • Dinghy
  • Restrooms

Land your dinghy on the boat ramp, then pull it up the ramp and off to the side. Groups of kayaks frequently paddle to the island from Rockport, and a custom landing boat makes regular visits as well, so the ramp must be kept clear.

There is a restroom off the museum's gallery and a privy near the campsites.