Situated at the entrance to Camden Harbor, Curtis Island Lighthouse is one of the most scenic lighthouses in Maine. Its red roof and white body contrast sharply against the green grass of the island and blue water in the distance.
Catching a glimpse of the Curtis Island lighthouse captures the essence of Maine with the island’s rocky shore and nautical setting. Countless photos have been taken of the lighthouse over the years to capture its picturesque setting.
The history of Curtis Island Lighthouse
In 1835, the first brick lighthouse was built on 5 1/2 acre Curtis Island by George Galt of Massachusetts, under the direction of the U.S. president at the time, Andrew Jackson. The cost to build the lighthouse was $4,500.
When the original lighthouse was built, the island was called Negro Island, presumably after a cook who lived there who was of African descent. In 1934, the island was renamed Curtis Island to honor Cyrus H. K. Curtis the publisher of the Saturday Evening Post and a longtime summer resident of Camden.
In 1889, the original lighthouse was rebuilt and a barn and boathouse were added to the property. In 1895, an oil house was added and in 1896 the current lighthouse tower was rebuilt and a fourth-order Fresnel light was added. In 1972, the Fresnel lens was replaced by modern optics, and the lighthouse was automated, eliminating the need for keepers. The next year, the lighthouse was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 1997, the town of Camden voted to assume ownership of Curtis Island and the lighthouse officially became town property in 1998. The island is considered a public park but is only accessible by boat and the lighthouse is not open to the public.
The best ways to view and get a photo of the lighthouse
Catching a glimpse or taking a photo of the Curtis Island lighthouse takes a little planning.
Curtis Island is quite a distance from downtown Camden (roughly 4/5th of a mile) and the lighthouse is on the side of the island not facing downtown Camden.
One popular way to see the lighthouse is by boat. Locals can use personal boats to travel to the island, but visitors may be able to see Curtis Island by renting kayaks or taking a ride on one of Camden’s schooners. Schooners travel throughout Penobscot Bay during the warm weather months (Memorial Day through Mid-October) and many pass by Curtis Island on their sail.
The easiest way to find information about schooner rides is by walking along Camden Harbor’s boardwalk. Here, you’ll see a number of tables set up advertising schooner voyages and selling tickets. Be sure to ask crew members whether their excursion goes past Curtis Island.
If you don’t have time for a sail or just prefer to stay on dry land, you can either drive or walk to the Curtis Lighthouse Overlook.
To reach the overlook, head down Bayview Street from the center of Camden toward Rockport. At about .8 of a mile, you’ll encounter a pathway through the woods on the left just across from Beacon Avenue. A short walk down this path will lead to a bench and outlook that provides one of the best possible viewings of Curtis Island on land.
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.