Take in a Maine Lighthouse
A visit to an iconic lighthouse is certain to be a highlight of your Maine vacation.
Of the nearly sixty lighthouses tucked along the Maine coast, a surprising number are accessible to visitors. These proud beacons, most of which still serve as navigational aids for ships, are among the Pine Tree State’s star attractions. Most of the towers themselves are not open to the public, but you can visit the grounds for a great family day trip. Lighthouses are listed alphabetically.
Baker Island Light
You’ll need a boat to reach this lighthouse on Little Cranberry Island, at the entrance to Frenchman’s Bay, but parents will enjoy the views of Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula while the tots frolic around the lighthouse grounds, which are open all summer. 207-288-3338.
Bass Harbor Head Light
Just one of the treats to be found on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island, the view from the lighthouse at Bass Harbor Head will tempt you to hop on the ferry to neighboring Swans Island. While the grounds are open, the U.S. Coast Guardsmen who live here will appreciate it if you don’t try to climb the tower itself, which is not open to the public. Take Route 102, just south of the lovely village of Bass Harbor. For the Bass Harbor Cruise, departing from Swan's Island Ferry Terminal: 207-244-5365.
Browns Head Light
Despite the recent price increase, the $16 you'll pay for the ferry ride from Rockland to Vinalhaven is still one of the most inexpensive ways to get afloat in Maine, and this twenty-foot-tall tower, now the home of Vinalhaven’s town manager, makes a suitable destination for a summer day. 207-596-2202.
Burnt Coat Harbor Light
The light at Hockamock Head, on the south side of Swans Island, has been sounding its fog signal and shining its flashing light since 1872. It is reachable via Maine State Ferry from Bass Harbor. 207-526-4273 or 207-244-3254.
Burnt Island Light
The white stone tower at the entrance to Boothbay Harbor is one of the oldest lighthouses on the East Coast and a popular spot with summer picnickers, although you’ll need a boat to reach it. The grounds are open daily 10 a.m. To 5 p.m. during spring, summer, and fall. 207-633-9542.
Cape Neddick Light (“The Nubble”)
One of the most picturesque — and therefore also most-photographed — lighthouses in Maine, the Nubble sits on a big chunk of rock just 100 yards off Sohier Park in York Beach. This popular spot is located at the end of Nubble Road. 207-363-1040.
Curtis Island Light
This popular Camden town park, accessible only by boat, sits just a few hundred yards from the public park at Laite Beach, a popular spot for families who enjoy its wide beach and swing sets. The island is normally open from dawn to dusk but has been closed to the public in recent years to protect a family of eagles that has nested on the island. Call ahead to see if the eaglets are in residence. 207-236-4404.
Dice Head Light
Much of this 1829 lighthouse, situated at the mouth of the Bagaduce River near Castine Harbor, has been converted to a private residence. Group tours are held on an irregular basis by first contacting the town office. 207-326-4502.
Fort Point Light
The seafaring town of Searsport and the old village of Stockton Springs provide a pleasant backdrop for this historic lighthouse, first built under the orders of President Andrew Jackson in 1836. It is accessed through Fort Point State Park. 207-941-4014.
Fort Popham Light
Combine a quick history lesson with some spectacular views of the Kennebec River at this lighthouse, located near Phippsburg in Fort Popham State Park. And when the lesson is over, the whole family will enjoy a visit to the white-sand beach here. 207-389-1335.
Goat Island Light
An afternoon spent wandering around this pleasant island just off Cape Porpoise will be a high point of your summer if you’re lucky enough to have a boat to get you there, but resist the temptation to voyage much farther. When the Bush family is in residence, the Secret Service boats patrolling nearby Walker’s Point will make sure you stay away from the presidential family’s much-admired estate. 207-967-5174.
Grindle Point Light
The twenty-minute ferry ride from Lincolnville Beach seems too short on a pleasant summer day, but the small lighthouse and museum in Gilkey Harbor provide another reason to visit this exclusive island in Penobscot Bay. The light and museum are open through Labor Day. 207-734-2253.
Isle Au Haut (Robinson Point) Light
For a getaway the whole family will enjoy, drop the kids at the in-laws and hop on the ferry from Stonington to this windswept lighthouse-turned-bed-and-breakfast for a truly romantic weekend. The grounds are open to the public on special occasions. 207-367-2261.
Marshall Point Light
If the views from this postcard-perfect lighthouse in Port Clyde don’t make you swoon for Maine lighthouses, the small museum operated here by the St. George Historical Society will give you a glimpse into the role these coastal beacons have played for more than a century. From June until the end of September the museum is open Sunday to Friday 1-5 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; in May and October, it is open Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m. Take Route 131 south from Thomaston to Marshall Point Road. 207-372-6450.
Matinicus Rock Light
To get a real taste of life in the big blue, wrestle up a boat from Rockland and head out to this tiny rock deep in the Atlantic Ocean six miles south of Matinicus. The grounds are open daily, and the tower is open by appointment. (207) 546–2124.
Monhegan Island Light
Stand too close to this picturesque tower and you’ll likely become the subject of a painting by one of the hundreds of artists who flock to this island each summer. The Monhegan Cultural and Historical Museum, located at the lighthouse, is open July 1-September 30 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Reach Monhegan by hopping on the ferry from Port Clyde. (207) 372-8848.
Owls Head Light
This white granite tower and lighthouse-keeper’s home at the entrance to Rockland Harbor have been impressing the sailing ships, tourists, and families who have passed by it since it was first built in 1826. The grounds, accessible off Route 73 south of Rockland, are open daily 9 a.m. to sunset. 207-941-4014.
Pemaquid Point Light
The tower that adorns the Maine quarter is complemented by its striking location on a granite outcropping at the entrance to Muscongus Bay. Volunteers lead tours into the small lighthouse, while the Fisherman’s Museum includes photographs and exhibits explaining the lighthouse’s storied history. A small fee is required to visit the tower or the grounds (a popular spot for family picnics), which are located at the end of Route 130. 207-677-2494.
Perkins Island Light
If you can find a suitable skiff to get you here, this small tower in the Kennebec River near Georgetown makes for a pleasant summer outing, although the tower itself is not open to the public. 207-371-2820.
Petit Manan Light
Reaching Maine’s second-tallest lighthouse, located a half-dozen miles off Milbridge, may be more of an adventure than your family is up for, but the seafaring folk who make it to this 119-foot tower will enjoy the windswept spot they’ve reached. 207-546-2422.
Portland Breakwater Light (“Bug Light”)
One of the most accessible lighthouses in Maine, this small structure in South Portland is a pleasant spot where the whole family can enjoy a summer afternoon while watching bustling Portland Harbor. It is located in Bug Light Park, just off Breakwater Drive. 207-767-7650.
Portland Head Light
Maine’s oldest lighthouse was first commissioned by George Washington and built in 1791, and the museum housed in this Cape Elizabeth landmark helps explain some of the sailing ships, steamers, and modern tankers that have used this remarkable beacon to guide themselves into Portland Harbor for more than two centuries. If all this history is too much for some family members, the view of the Casco Bay islands is unbeatable. It is located at 1000 Shore Road, in Fort Williams Park. 207-799-2661.
Rockland Breakwater Light
Everyone from starry-eyed honeymooners to the tiniest tykes make their way each summer over the granite blocks of the great breakwater to this impressive lighthouse, which was first built in 1888. The views of Penobscot Bay and Rockland’s working waterfront are well worth your effort. Park at the small lot at the end of Waldo Avenue and Samoset Road. 207-594-8431.
Seguin Island Light
Towering above the Maine coastline at 180 feet above the high-water mark, Seguin Island Light is one of the highest beacons in the state and also one of the oldest, first illuminated in 1795. In addition to a sturdy ship, you’ll need a good radar system to reach this lighthouse, as its location at the mouth of the Kennebec River south of Georgetown sees more fog than almost anywhere in the state. The grounds and a small museum are open Memorial Day through Labor Day. 207-443-3877.
Spring Point Ledge Light
Families and others in search of a sea breeze this summer can thank the well-meaning folks who connected this South Portland lighthouse, which was first built at the end of the nineteenth century, with the mainland via a breakwater back in 1951. Exceptional views of Portland Harbor, a small museum, and pleasant areas for picnicking make this a popular spot with families. The breakwater is always open, and the museum is open from May to October, 1- 4:30 p.m. 207-799-6337.
West Quoddy Head Light
Easily recognized by its red-and-white bands, this impressive tower was erected in 1808 at the easternmost point in the U.S. Its pleasant grounds in Quoddy Head State Park, just south of where Route 189 crosses into Canada from Lubec, are an ideal spot from which to view Campobello Island, the Bay of Fundy, and the Bold Coast. 207-733-0911.