More often than not, the mention of Maine conjures up images of lighthouses standing like proud and tireless sentries; warning ships of impending danger and guiding them safely back to shore. Once the saviors of the seacoast, these structures beamed their bright beacons and pierced the silent fog with the resonating call of their foghorns, cutting through weather foul and fair. With modern technology like radar and GPS, lighthouses no longer carry life and death significance as they once did, yet these distinctive structures continue to embody the romance and drama of their pasts. More than 60 lighthouses dot the Maine coast from the well known Nubble Light in York to West Quoddy Head, the easternmost lighthouse in the United States.
Within an hour of Kennebunkport, there are nine lighthouses which can be seen either close up or at the very least from locations on shore. Two lighthouses have boats that take visitors to the islands on which they stand. Look for information about Open Lighthouse Day near the end of this post below the list of local lighthouses.
Wood Island Light, Biddeford Pool – A tour to Wood Island Lighthouse is run by the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse, an all volunteer, 501(c)(3) nonprofit. The lighthouse is located off the coast of Biddeford Maine and tours leave from Vine’s Landing in Biddeford Pool. The guided tour takes about 1 1/2 hours and is subject to Mother Nature and her weather and sea conditions. The tours are held in July and August. The days and hours of the tours are listed below.
Wednesday: 10 a.m. & 11 a.m.
Thursday: 5 p.m. & 6 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. & 11 a.m.
The tower is open to those who wish to make the climb to the top. The tower received a set of double handrails in 2008, making the journey to the top safe for lighthouse guests. Advanced reservations are required for all of their lighthouse tours. Reservations may be made online through this website: WoodIslandLighthouse.org or by phone 207-200-4552. Reservations by phone are only made for the current week’s tour. The reservation phone line is open Monday – Friday, from 9 AM to 5 PM. There is no fixed charge for the boat-ride and tour. However, donations are encouraged (suggested minimum $15/person and $8 for children under 13) and gratefully accepted, all donations going to the cost of running the boat and the ultimate mission of restoring Wood Island Lighthouse.
Goat Island Light, Kennebunkport – The boat Porpus offers trips that cruise down the Kennebunk River, past Walker’s Point to Goat Island. The captain guides guests ashore and presents the history of the 150-year-old light and keeper’s house. In addition to the island tour, guests can climb the circular stairs to the tower. Reservations can be made by calling 207-205-2362.
Whaleback Light, Kittery – Station established: 1830; Present lighthouse built: 1872; Automated: 1963; Construction material: Granite; Height of tower: 50 feet; Height of focal plane: 59 feet. This lighthouse can be seen from many spots on shore, including Fort Foster in Kittery, Fort Constitution, Fort Stark, and Great Island Common in New Castle, NH, and Odiorne Point in Rye, NH. The lighthouse is accessible only by boat and is closed to the public.
Spring Point Ledge Light, South Portland – Station established: 1897; Automated: circa 1960s. Construction material: Brick, cast iron; Height of tower: 54 feet; Height of focal plane: 54 feet. There is parking nearby, and the public may walk out on the breakwater to the lighthouse. The lighthouse is closed to the public except during open houses.
Ram Island Ledge Light, Casco Bay – Station established: 1905; Present lighthouse built: 1905; Automated: 1959; Construction material: Granite; Height of tower (including lantern): 90 feet; Height of focal plane: 77 feet. The lighthouse is privately owned, and is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation. It is not open to the public and is accessible by boat only. The best views from land are from the area around Portland Head Light in Fort Williams Park.
Portland Head Light, Cape Elizabeth – Station established: 1791; Present lighthouse built: 1791; Automated: 1989; Construction materials: Stone with brick lining; Height of tower: 80 feet; Height of focal plane: 101 feet. There is free parking near the lighthouse in Fort Williams Park. The lighthouse tower is not open to the public, but there is a museum in the keeper’s house.
Portland Breakwater Light, South Portland – Also known as “Bug” Light. Station established: 1855; Present lighthouse built: 1875; Automated: 1934; Discontinued: 1942; Relighted as private aid 2002. Construction material: Cast iron with brick lining; Height of tower: 26 feet. There is free parking near the lighthouse at Bug Light Park in South Portland. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but the grounds are always open.
Cape Neddick “Nubble” Light, York – Station established: 1879; Present lighthouse built: 1879; Automated: 1987; Construction materials: Cast iron lined with brick; Height of tower: 41 feet; Height of focal plane: 88 feet. There is free parking at Sohier Park with an excellent view of the lighthouse. The lighthouse and grounds are not open to the public.
Cape Elizabeth Light, Cape Elizabeth -Station established: 1828; Present lighthouse built: 1874; Automated: 1963; Construction material: Cast iron; Height of tower: 67 feet; Height of focal plane: 129 feet. The keeper’s house is privately owned; the lighthouse and grounds are not open to the public. Views are available at the end of Two Lights Road (turn at the “Two Lights State Park” sign on Route 77, bear right at a fork in the road and follow to the end), but parking can be difficult in summer.
Open Lighthouse Day – Saturday, September 15, 2012
The U.S. Coast Guard, the State of Maine and the American Lighthouse Foundation are pleased to announce the fourth annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day.
Last year, hundreds of people visited lighthouses along the Maine coast in the largest effort of its kind in the nation. This year they expect another fun event.
The partnership with the Coast Guard, State of Maine and American Lighthouse Foundation is intended to increase awareness of Maine’s maritime heritage and the rich history of its lighthouses and lighthouse keepers.
Here is a link to find participating lighthouses: http://www.visitmaine.com/attractions/sightseeing_tours/lighthouse/lighthouse-day/
Lighthouses in the area that are participating in Open Lighthouse Day include :
Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light) – South Portland (land-based). Historic buildings open: Light tower only.
Portland Head Lighthouse – Cape Elizabeth (land-based). Historic buildings open: Light tower and keeper’s house (museum inside). Note: On Open Lighthouse Day, approximately 300 tickets will be made available to visitors on a first-come-first-served basis. A ticket will be required to climb the tower. You must be at least 48 inches tall to climb the tower. Visitors must be able to climb 85+ steps unassisted.
Spring Point Lighthouse – South Portland (land-based via a breakwater). Historic buildings open: Light tower.
Wood Island Lighthouse – Biddeford Pool (offshore). Historic buildings open: Light tower and keeper’s house. How to get there: Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse boats (reservations required). www.woodislandlighthouse.org For reservations, call (207) 200-4552, Monday-Friday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.