Many of the articles I write here aim to tell you about the parts of Maine you may not be familiar with. Secret waterfalls, under-the-radar diners and strange places are just a few topics we’ve covered. But, there’s no reason to ignore the things we’re known for. Specifically, our lighthouses. To us, they feel like home. To those from away, they feel like a reminder of a summer vacation. Either way, you can’t go wrong with a trip up our coast to visit some of our most notable lights. Here are some of our favorites, from south to north.
1. Whaleback Light, Kittery
Whaleback Light is located just offshore from Fort Foster and was originally positioned to protect the Portsmouth, NH harbor.
The tower, built in 1872, now uses a revolving DCB-224 airport-style beacon. The keeper's quarters are integrated into the tower.
For the best view, head to Fort Foster Park.
2. Nubble Light, Cape Neddick
Nubble Light was built in 1879 and is the southernmost of our lighthouses. The name refers to the rocky island on which it sits, just off shore. It flashes red every six seconds, and is visible for 13 miles.
Electricity didn't come to Cape Neddick until 1938. Before then, the extremely cold wind caused numerous problems to the flow of oil to the light's lamp.
For the best view, head to the end of
Nubble Rd. in York. There is a park with a clear view of the Nubble just off shore.
3. Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth
Portland Head has the distinction of being Maine's oldest lighthouse. Completed in January 1791, the original tower stood at 72 feet and was made of rubblestone and lime.
One of the most notable features of the historic tower is its many changes in height. Between the years of 1813 and 1881, the tower was lowered and raised by about 20' 4 times! The only significant change since then came in 1989, when the previous light was removed and replaced with an airport-style revolving beacon.
Portland Head is also known for its ties to Maine's dear poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It was here that he wrote his beloved poem, "The Lighthouse."
4. Cape Elizabeth Light, Cape Elizabeth
Cape Elizabeth Light is Maine's most powerful! Cape Elizabeth Light's history begins in 1828 when two stone towers were in operation very near each other. In 1874 the two stone towers were replaced with 65 foot cast iron towers and were fitted with second-order fresnel lenses. In 1924 the Two Lights western tower was decommissioned.
Today Cape Elizabeth's light is a 4 million candlepower flashing white light visible for 27 miles.
5. Portland Breakwater Light, Portland
You may know this light more commonly as "Bug Light. It was built in 1875 and was modeled after the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates of ancient Athens. The six Corinthian columns originally held up a fourth-order fresnel lens with a red beam.
Today, the lens has been removed and its more of an object than a helpful light. Take a bike ride from downtown Portland to check it out on a nice day.
6. Pemaquid Point Light, Bristol
Originally built in 1827 during the presidency of John Quicy Adams, the tower fell victim to accelerated deterioration as a result of some faulty construction. It was rebuilt with double walls in 1835. While the tower is only 38 ft tall, its location on a rock ledge gives the light a 79 ft. focal plane. Flashing a white light every 6 seconds, Pemaquid's light is visible for 14 miles.
Pemaquid has seen its fair share of disaster. One story has been told of a man who sailed for the new world in 1635 on the Angel Gabriel, leaving his wife behind to follow him when he had established a new home. The Angel Gabriel was wrecked during an August storm. Although the man survived, his wife was afraid to follow him on such a perilous journey, and he was unable to face the journey back to England, so they never saw each other again.
7. Marshall Point Lighthouse, Port Clyde
Built in 1823, you may recognize Marshal Point from the blockbuster film, "Forrest Gump." Port Clyde has long been an artist’s retreat and the light at Marshall Point still serves as a classroom for art workshops. The 31 foot tower and light was automated in 1981.
8. Monhegan Island Light, Monhegan Island
11 miles off the coast of Maine, Monhegan Island is one of the most beautiful. A lighthouse was first built here in 1824, but the current 47 foot tower dates from 1850. The keeper's house is currently a museum, open only in summer.
9. Owl's Head Light, Owl's Head
As shipping increased in Rockland due to the lime industry, it became clear that a light was necessary. One was built in 1826, but the present tower was constructed in 1852. The tower remains essentially the same as when it was built.
Owl's Head is the subject of many unfortunate wreckage stories. One of the most well-known is that of the "frozen lovers" ... two people whose ship sunk at the point during the blizzard of 1850.
10. Bass Harbor Light, Southwest Harbor
Bass Harbor Light is my personal favorite! It's located within Acadia National Park on Mt. Desert Island and has a distinctive fourth-order red lens, dating back to 1858. Bass Harbor Head Light guards the entrance to Blue Hill Bay.
11. West Quoddy Head, Lubec
If you like your light's as far east as possible, this is the one for you! Thomas Jefferson authorized the construction of West Quoddy Head in 1806. The tower was finished in two years later, and began guiding ships through the Quoddy Narrows, between the U.S. and Canada. In 1858 it was replaced with the current tower and keeper's house.
What’s your favorite lighthouse in Maine? Any special secrets when going to see it? Let us know on