Road Trip: Exploring Lighthouses in Maine
Maine Open Lighthouse Day happens every September, and with over 60 lighthouses dotting Maine’s coast, visitors should consider lighthouses as a theme for their vacation.
Lighthouses are both historically significant as well as visually interesting, and come in various shapes, sizes and monikers. From the oldest lighthouse in Maine—Portland Head Light located in Cape Elizabeth and completed in 1791—to Whitlocks Mill Light—on the St. Croix River and the most northern in the state—these “Beacons of Light” were instrumental in helping sailors navigate the difficult waters and craggy shores that make up Maine’s tremendous coastline.
(Image: Portland Head Lighthouse by Rapidfire)
It’s easy to get started on planning a trip based on touring lighthouse locations up and down the state. Several websites including the American Lighthouse Foundation the Lighthouse Getaway and Lighthouse Friends provide information including listings, details and events, giving visitors a good place to start their exploration of Maine lighthouses. You can also visit the Maine Lighthouse Trail for maps, images and more.
While you’re on tour, don’t forget to visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland to learn about Maine maritime history, Maine lighthouses and their keepers, and to see America’s largest collection of lighthouse artifacts and mementos.
Get ready for your Maine lighthouse adventure!
Fun Lighthouse Facts:
- The flashing patterns of each lighthouse make up its distinctive “light signature”, originally developed to signify its locale to sailors.
- Towers are given different colors and patterns to distinguish them from each other.
- The first lighthouse and also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was Egypt’s Pharos of Alexandria, built in the third century BC.
- The United States is home to more lighthouses than any other country.
- Lighthouse keeping was one of the first U.S. government jobs available to women, going back to the 19th century.
Starting Point—A Few Maine Lighthouses to Consider:
- West Quoddy Head Light in Lubec: This lighthouse marks the easternmost point of land in the contiguous United States, and is iconic with its unique red and white striped tower.
- Cape Neddick in York Beach: Known as “The Nubble”, there is an adjacent Victorian keeper’s house replete with gingerbread trim featuring miniature cast iron lighthouses on its railing.
- Owls Head Light: At the entrance to Rockland Harbor, Owls Head Light is a short brick tower and a centerpiece to the Owls Head State Park.
- Monhegan Island Light: Located on Monhegan, an island known for its fishing and artistic communities, this lighthouse is accessible by a 90-minute ferry ride.
- Burnt Island Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor: Located on a five acre island, this living history museum is the second oldest surviving lighthouse in Maine.