These eight Maine lighthouses are among the best in the state. They feature picture-perfect architecture set against scenic ocean views. They’re also among the most photographed lighthouses on the East Coast.
With over 3,478 miles (5,600 kilometers) of rocky shoreline and a long maritime history, Maine has some of the best lighthouse on the East Coast.
Maine’s history with lighthouses dates back to the late 1700s, when the first lighthouses were built to help captains navigate and protect ships from rocks and dangerous coastal waters.
The first lighthouse in Maine was build in 1791 on Portland Head in Cape Elizabeth. By the 19th century, many of Maine’s lighthouses were build or rebuilt using new technological advancements including the use of Fresnel lenses which increased visibility.
By the 20th century, a number of Maine’s lighthouses were automated and a few were decommissioned as modern technology made them less necessary. However, despite their reduced use, many of Maine’s lighthouses have been preserved and turned into museums or have become part of state and national parks.
The Best Lighthouses in Maine
If you’re a lighthouse aficionado, here are a few you won’t want to miss:
Portland Head Light
This iconic lighthouse was the first to be built in Maine under commission of George Washington in 1791. It’s located in Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland and is a popular tourist destination. Portland Head Light is apart of Fort Williams Park which is open year-round from sunrise to sunset. There’s much to do in this park besides see the lighthouse but note that the lighthouse tower is only open to the public one day per year on Maine Open Lighthouse Day. When you visit, you’ll also have the opportunity to view four additional lighthouse towers, Spring Point Ledge Light, Ram Island Ledge Light, Halfway Rock Light, and Cape Elizabeth Light There is no admission fee to enter Fort Williams Park, but from April 1 – November 15 there is a fee for parking in premium spaces. Free parking is available in the overflow lot.
Marshall Point Lighthouse
While not big in stature, Marshall Point Lighthouse, located in Port Clyde, Maine has been prominent in a number of movies and TV shows, most notably, “Forrest Gump” whose character concluded his cross-country run on the runway of Marshall Point Lighthouse. As such, its become a popular tourist destination and is open to the public for tours and has a museum, gift shop, and Forrest Gump exhibit. Marshall Point is owned by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands. A visit to the lighthouse and it’s museum is free and there is limited parking.
Pemaquid Point Light
The Pemaquid Point Light in Bristol, Maine, built in 1835, is one of the most photographed lighthouses in New England. Its white exterior and black trim make it a classic example of a New England lighthouse. The lighthouse is open to the general public for climbing, featuring breathtaking views of the surrounding ocean atop the beacon.
Located in York, Maine, Nubble Light, also known as Cape Neddick Light, is situated on a small island just off the coast. It is a particularly popular spot for photographers because of its picturesque location, with views of the Atlantic Ocean, and the building’s red color roof. The Nubble Light is operated by the Town of York and it is open to the public for tours during the summer months. The island is not accessible to the public but can be viewed from Sohier Park which is open year around. From April thru mid October a small gift shop and restroom facilities are also open.
Owls Head Light
The Owls Head Light, located in Owls Head, is situated on a rocky promontory at the entrance to Penobscot Bay. Unlike some lighthouses that have been decommissioned, Owls Head Light has been in continuous operation since 1825. It’s operated by the U.S. Coast Guard and it is open to the public for tours during the summer months. Visitors can climb the steep stairs to the lighthouse which also provides gorgeous views of the surrounding bay. Children must be 42″ to climb the lighthouse and while the visit is technically free, there’s a suggested $3 donation. You’ll also find a small gift shop and keeper’s museum open to the public from mid-May – late October.
Bass Harbor Head Light
The Bass Harbor Head Light, located in Tremont, Maine, on Mount Desert Island, is another of the state’s well-known and picturesque lighthouses. It’s perched on a cliff and marks the entrance to Bass Harbor and Blue Hill Bay on the southwest corner of Mount Desert Island. Among about 80 lighthouses across Maine, it is one of three lights managed by Acadia National Park, including two others on Baker Island and Bear Island. Bass Harbor Light is one of the most visited places on the west side of Mount Desert Island and the fifth busiest destination in the entire park. While visiting the lighthouse is free, it’s popularity, especially at sunset, can make it difficult to find parking.
West Quoddy Head Light
Located in Lubec Maine, West Quoddy Head Light is the easternmost point in the contiguous United States and right across from the Canadian border. The state park the lighthouse is located in is open from May 15th to October 15th for visitors, although visitors are permitted to park outside of the gate during the off-season to walk around by foot. A visitor’s center occupies the first floor of the lightkeeper’s historic residence. And tours of the tower are given at intervals during the summer, typically every Saturday in months of July and August.
About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.