Maine has 65 lighthouses, 16 of which are in our region. Lighthouses are art, history, and culture, each unique in its design, and each with its own tales of heroic rescues, romantic legends, shipwrecks, and ghosts. Built in the 1800s by some of America’s foremost architects and engineers, lighthouses posed major construction challenges due to the rocky, wave-swept ledges and shifting sands on which they stand. In recent times, automation has left many empty lightkeeper’s houses prey to neglect. We are fortunate that several of our lighthouses here in the Midcoast have been preserved as museums. Below are only those that can be viewed easily by car, foot or boat.
Original 1832 - The Light is located on the northwest point of Vinalhaven marking the western entrance to the Fox Island Thorofare. Constructed in 1832 with a new one and half story wood framed house built in 1857.
Original 1836; current tower 1896 - This active light is located at the southeastern end of the island of the same name, overlooking Camden Harbor. The original 20-foot rubble-stone tower was badly cracked in a February 1842 storm, but survived nearly 60 years longer before being replaced by the current brick structure. This light can be viewed from a public-access path in Camden. Follow Bay View Street from the center of town for about one-half mile until Beacon Avenue intersects from the right. Park on the right shoulder, cross the street, and walk about 50 feet farther along Bay View Street to the path on the left.
Original 1851; current tower 1874 - Located at the western entrance to Gilkey Harbor, the major haven along the western shore of Islesboro Island, this 33-foot-square white tower was reactivated in 1987 with an automated beacon. During the summer months, the Town of Islesboro operates the keeper’s quarters as the Sailor’s Museum, which houses displays of the island’s maritime and human history. To reach this light, take a 20-minute ferry ride from Lincolnville Beach. The light is adjacent to the Islesboro ferry landing.
Original 1850; current tower 1875 - Unmanned and taken out of service in 1934, privately owned Indian Island Light stands at the southern end of Indian Island, on the east side of the entrance to Rockport Harbor. The white brick tower, 37 feet high from ground level to the lantern, can be viewed from Rockport Marine Park.
Original 1907 - The lighthouse tower and surrounding buildings at Isle au Haut Light Station were built in 1907 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers at a 20-acre (8.1 ha) site at Robinson Point purchased from Charles E. Robinson. The lighthouse tower was built slightly offshore, standing 40 feet (12 m) tall and consisting of a white granite and brick cylindrical upper section on a conical granite block foundation. The keeper's quarters are a two-and-a-half-story frame and stucco Victorian house connected to the tower by a catwalk. A boathouse, oil house, and storage shed were also built at the station.
The lighthouse was automated in 1934 and the government sold the property except the tower back to Robinson. The Robinson family used the property as a summer home until they sold it to Jeff and Judi Burke in 1986. The Burkes converted the keeper's quarters into a bed and breakfast called "The Keeper's House," which they operated until 2007. Isle au Haut Light was added to the National Register of Historic Places as "Isle au Haut Light Station" in 1988. The Isle au Haut Lighthouse is best seen from the water, where the Isle au Haut mailboat passes within a hundred feet of the tower.
Original 1827; current 1857 - Located on an isolated, 32-acre barren island about 5 miles southeast of Matinicus Island the light experiences some of the most violent Atlantic weather and is fogbound approximately 20 percent of the year. The Light Station which is on the National Historic Register of Historic Places, includes a granite dwelling built in 1848, a boathouse form 1890 and twin granite towers built in 1858. Matinicus Rock Light is also known for the heroic story of Abbie Burgess, the 17-year-old daughter of the keeper. She regularly tended the lights while her father went lobster fishing to augment their income. In January 1856 when he was on the mainland for provisions a violent storm developed. Abbie took her invalid mother and four siblings into the base of the lighthouse for safety as the storm swept away their house. Abbie later married the son of the replacement lighthouse keeper and was appointed assistant keeper at Matinicus Rock, they both then were transferred to Whitehead Light Station where they served for 15 years.
Matinicus Rock is now home to a nesting colony of Atlantic Puffins, as well as terns and other sea birds. The lighthouse must be viewed by boat or air.
Original 1832; current tower 1858 - If you’ve seen the movie Forrest Gump, you caught a glimpse of this 25-foot white-granite tower with attached footbridge. The former keeper’s residence is now a museum and shop, and it’s open Memorial Day through Columbus Day. Access is from Marshall Point Road, off Route 131 in Port Clyde.
Current tower 1824 - Monhegan Island is located 10 miles off the coast. It can be reached by boat from either Boothbay, New Harbor or Post Clyde. The lighthouse is historically known as the first point sighted on many transatlantic voyages and is the second highest above water on the Maine coast at 178 feet. In 1959 the light was automated and is now controlled by the Coast Guard. The keeper’s house is now a museum.
Original 1825; current tower 1852 - This 20-foot white brick conical tower stands proudly on the peak of the headland and 100 feet above sea level. You’ll get panoramic views of Rockland Harbor and frequent fishing boat and ferry traffic. Take Route 73 south from Rockland, then North Shore Drive to Owls Head village and follow the signs to the Owls Head Light State Park. The Lighthouse Keepers house is now a museum and gift shop.
Breakwater built in 1880s; lighthouse commissioned 1902 - Up for a windy walk? That’s how you reach this 18-foot square tower atop a fog signal house at the end of a seven-eighths mile-long granite pier. Rockland Breakwater is on the National Register of Historic Places. The Friends of Rockland Harbor Lights (www.rocklandharborlights.org) is restoring the lighthouse and may host an open house in the summer. We suggest a walk along the breakwater to view some of the local special events, Lobster Boat races, Great Schooner race, Friendship Sloop rendezvous and the Maine Windjammer Parade. Access is from Samoset Road, off Waldo Avenue in Rockland.
Original 1807; Current 1852 - President Thomas Jefferson ordered construction in 1807; it is located on a small island near Tenants Harbor. The area is covered in fog approximately 20 percent of the year so a fog signal was installed in 1839, with a steam driven whistle being installed in the 1860’s. Whitehead was the first Maine light station to have a one-room schoolhouse and teacher, with more than 30 children, some form nearby islands. Whitehead Light Station is now owned by the non-profit Pine Island Camp and hosts rentals and enrichment programs.
Enjoy a sightseeing trip that includes lighthouse views from the water, as the lights were meant to be seen. For details, check our boating member pages and/or our calendar of events.
If you are interested in lighthouses and their histories, a visit to the Maine Lighthouse Museum, at One Park Drive, Rockland, is a must. (Open seasonally) The Maine Lighthouse Museum features the largest and most significant collection of lighthouse lenses and artifacts in the United States —a national treasure in the heart of downtown Rockland. See rare and priceless Fresnel lenses and learn about lighthouses, lightkeepers, the U.S. Coast Guard and more. www.MaineLighthouseMuseum.org
Each year in mid-September, the general public gets the rare opportunity to climb and learn about more than two dozen historic Maine lights. Open Lighthouse Day, sponsored by the United States Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism, and the American Lighthouse Foundation, attracts 15,000 to 18,000 visitors each year. For details: American Lighthouse Foundation, 207-594-4174; www.lighthousefoundation.org.