Lighthouses along Maine's south coast

(listed from south to north)

Maine has 64 lighthouses still standing – about half that of Michigan, the state with the most. Along Maine’s south coast, there are nine, listed below from south to north.

 

 
Goat Island Lighthouse

Whaleback Light, Kittery. Whaleback is actually in Maine waters but was built to serve Portsmouth Harbor. Views are from Fort Foster Park on Gerrish Island and Fort McClary State Park on Route 103.

 

Boon Island Light, York. The lighthouse, built on a rock ledge, is six miles off the York coast. It was built in 1811 and then replaced in 1851 with a conical tower made of gray granite. At one time, keepers who manned the barren light station communicated with the mainland with carrier pigeons; it was manned for 167 years until 1978. It is best to view the light from a distance rather than to venture there in a boat, as the rock ledge makes landing dangerous. Views available from Sohier Park at Cape Neddick Light.

 

Cape Neddick Light, also known as The Nubble, York. Rising 88 feet above mean high water, it was built in 1879 and sits on small island, or nubble, which was first named Savage Island in 1602. The 41-foot cast-iron tower is central to the town’s holiday celebrations and is festooned with lights every year. It is one of the most photographed lighthouses in the nation and can be viewed from Sohier Park in Cape Neddick. Friends of Nubble Light operate a visitors’ center and gift shop in Sohier Park. Gift shop and center open mid-April through October. Open daily 9 AM to 4 PM to mid-May; 9 AM to 7 PM through October. FMI newenglandlighthouses.net. FMI for boat trip, finestkindcruises.com or 646-5227.

 

Goat Island Light, Kennebunkport. The brick lighthouse was first constructed in 1835 and then rebuilt in 1859. It sits on Goat Island at the entrance to Cape Porpoise Harbor. A boathouse, oil house and keeper’s quarters also stand on the island ledge. It was the final Maine lighthouse to be automated in 1990 and is now owned by the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust. The lighthouse can be seen from the wharf in Cape Porpoise Harbor and is accessible by boat. Interior of tower can be toured if caretaker is available. FMI kporttrust.org. FMI on boat tours, 831-3663; for kayaking rental information, 888-925-7496 or 967-6065.

 

Wood Island Light

Wood Island Light, Biddeford. Visible from Biddeford beaches, this lighthouse guards the entrance of Saco Bay. A conical white tower made of granite blocks, it was built in 1808 and rebuilt in 1858. Not open to the public, except through tours by Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse. Free; donations appreciated to Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse. FMI woodislandlighthouse.org or 207-200-4552.

 

Cape Elizabeth Light, Cape Elizabeth. Originally there were twin lighthouses here, which is why they were originally known as Two Lights, but only one is now operational. The functioning east tower with four-million candle power is the most powerful of its kind on the New England coast. The lights were built in 1829 and replaced in 1874. Two Lights State Park has views of the lighthouse and provides access to its grounds.

 

Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth. The lighthouse, built in 1791, was commissioned by George Washington and was the country’s first lighthouse built under the new government. The old tower, built of rubble stone, still stands as one of the four colonial lighthouses that have never been rebuilt. Whale oil lamps were originally used for illumination. It is probably Maine’s most famous and photographed lighthouse. It sits at the entrance to Portland Harbor; from its deck, more than 200 islands can be seen. The keeper’s quarters are now a museum. Lighthouse, accesible by car, is located on the grounds of Fort Williams State Park, open from sunrise to sunset daily.

 

Portland Breakwater Light (Bug Light), South Portland. Guarding Portland Harbor, Bug Light was erected in 1855 as a wooden tower and in 1875 was rebuilt in cast iron to resemble a 4th century B.C. Greek monument with six Corinthian columns. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1942, it was extinguished to protect the harbor during World War II; it was reactivated in 2002. There is free parking near the lighthouse at Bug Light Park in South Portland; it is possible to walk to the tower, but it is not open to the public.

 

Spring Point Ledge Light

Spring Point Ledge Light, South Portland. Sitting on the west side of the shipping channel into Portland Harbor and marking dangerous ledge there, the light began shining in 1897. It is typical of the “spark plug” style of the period and is 54 feet high. It’s accessible by a 900-foot-long breakwater built in 1951 using 50,000 tons of granite. The structure is open for scheduled tours during the summer months. The jetty connects the lighthouse to the Portland Harbor Museum, which lies within old Fort Preble, located on the campus of Southern Maine Community College on Fort Road.

 

Ram Island Ledge Light, Portland. The lighthouse is on the National Register of Historic Places. After repeated shipwrecks, the 72-foot conical tower made from granite blocks quarried in Vinalhaven, Maine, was erected in 1905 on the north side of the entrance to Portland Harbor. It was converted from kerosene to electricity in 1958 and then unmanned in 1959. Since 2001, it has operated on solar power. It can be seen from Portland Head Light; it is accessible by boat only.

 

Halfway Rock Light, Portland. This 76-foot granite structure is halfway between Portland Head Light and Seguin Light, at the east and west extremities of Casco Bay, which are about 20 miles apart. It was built in 1871 on submerged ledge. The lighthouse is not open to the public, and the island is very difficult to reach by boat. Best viewed from a distance; on a clear day it can be seen from Portland Head Light.

 

American Lighthouse Trivia


 
Portland Head Light

Tallest Lighthouse – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Outer Banks, North Carolina, stands 200 feet tall.

Tallest Lighthouse in Maine – Boon Island Light is 133 feet tall.

Highest Lighthouse in Maine – Seguin Island Light Station has the highest elevation at 186 feet above sea level.

Smallest Lighthouse – Pocahontas Light on Echo Point, Great Diamond Island, in Casco Bay off Portland, is the smallest lighthouse registered with the U.S. Coast Guard, standing only six feet tall.

Oldest Light Station – Boston Lighthouse, on Little Brewster Island, Boston Harbor, Massachusetts, is the oldest light station but not the oldest tower. The original tower, built in 1716, was destroyed by the British during the Revolutionary War. The tower that stands there today was built in 1783.

Oldest Standing Lighthouse – Sandy Hook Lighthouse, New Jersey, at the entrance to New York Harbor, built from 1761 to 1764. Part of the building of the lighthouse was paid for by the sale of lottery tickets, and shipping interests in New York City paid for the rest.

Only Manned Lighthouse – All lighthouses in the United States are automated with the exception of Boston Lighthouse. Because Boston Light is the oldest station in the United States, Congress has declared that Boston Light always be a staffed station where the keepers must still turn the light on at night and turn it off at daybreak. Boston Light is the only official lighthouse with a keeper. However, there are many other light stations around the country that have people living at them, but they are not keepers. They are either Coast Guard families living in the old keeper’s house or caretakers who live there to maintain the property and protect it against vandalism.

State with the Most Lighthouses – Michigan has 124 overseeing the Great Lakes. Maine has 64 lighthouses still standing.

First Lighthouse Completed under the Government of the United States of America – Portland Head Light, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, was completed in 1791, making it the first lighthouse completed by the new federal government. However, construction of the lighthouse had been started by the state of Massachusetts under the orders of Gov. John Hancock. At that time, Maine was part of Massachusetts.

Cape Neddick Light

First Lighthouse Actually Built by the Government of the United States – Cape Henry Light, Virginia, was completed in 1792.

First Lighthouse on a Postage Stamp – In 1970, Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, became the first lighthouse ever to be pictured on a U.S. postage stamp, from a painting by Edward Hopper.

1719 – First Fog Signal was a cannon placed near Boston Lighthouse. When there was fog, the cannon would be constantly fired to warn ships away from the rocky ledges.

1820 – First use of bells as a fog signal device was at West Quoddy Head Light in Maine.

1869 – First steam-powered fog signals in the United States were installed at Maine lighthouses at West Quoddy Head and Cape Elizabeth.

The most photographed and painted lighthouses in the United States are both in Maine – Cape Neddick Light and Portland Headlight.