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    The lighthouses of Maine and New England: itinerary along the coast

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    Joel Fulleda

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    There are many symbols of the spectacular coast of New England, but one in particular, especially along the Maine reef, stands out above all. We are talking about the suggestive and now famous lighthouses of the state (Lighthouses), which often, thanks to their panoramic positions along the sea, offer some of the most fascinating views of the American East Coast. So here we are today to offer you an itinerary along the coast to discover the lighthouses of Maine and New England.


    • Let's get ready for the trip
    • Stop 1: the Bass Harbor lighthouse
    • Tappa 2: Owls Head Lighthouse
    • Tappa 3: Pemaquid Point
    • Stop 4: Maine's oldest lighthouse
    • Stop 5: Cape Neddick's Nubble Lighthouse
    • Stage 6: The Cape Cod Lighthouse
    • Step 7: How to sleep in a lighthouse?
    • Organized tours dedicated to lighthouses
    • Other useful resources
      • Online resources

    Let's get ready for the trip

    First of all, a premise: there are around sixty lighthouses in Maine alone. Given that alone it would be enough to discourage anyone who has decided to see them all. We will therefore focus on some, the most beautiful and evocative, in an itinerary that goes from the north to the south. Obviously, it can also be covered in reverse and can be customized as you wish: just below you will find the inevitable interactive map to better organize your tour.

    Note: if by any chance you are looking for the famous Cabot Cove by Jessica Fletcher (you know the Lady in Yellow?) you must know that the place you are looking for is not in Maine (as they say in the show), but in Mendocino in California.

    The itinerary is on the road, so you will need to rent a car (have you already read our tips for renting a car in the States?), But if you prefer to be chauffeured, know that there are some organized tours dedicated to lighthouses, we talk about it at the end of the article.

    Finally, I remind you that this itinerary can be perfectly combined with another one always dedicated to the same coastal area, our tour of Maine dedicated to lobsters. Combining culinary art with stunning lighthouse views will let you breathe the true essence of Maine and the New England coast!

    Stop 1: the Bass Harbor lighthouse

    J.Post .'s photo

    Let's start our tour from what without fear of exaggeration can be considered the most fascinating coastal stretch in all of New England, Mount Desert Island, an island largely called a national park (Acadia National Park). Here you will find suggestive overhanging cliffs, characterized by enormous pink rock boulders cut almost neatly (consequence of the past erosion of the glaciers).

    You can easily spend a week exploring this wonderful place (and if you want to learn more, take a look at this article), but let's not get distracted: our goal is the lighthouses, right?

    Well, there are many in this area, but there is one that is worth more than the others: it is the Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse, which stands on the southern end of the island, a lighthouse from 1858 perched on a hill overlooking the sea, a scenic location that offers a wonderful view.

    The lighthouse can be reached by car along the Statale 102A, as soon as you arrive at the parking lot you will find a path on the left and one on the right both leading to breathtaking views.

    The caretaker's house is currently used as accommodation by the Coast Guard, therefore it cannot be visited inside, sometimes the Tremont Historical Society organizes some occasional tours (you can give it a try by calling 207.244.9753), however the view and the scenic location are worth anyway the trip.

    Tappa 2: Owls Head Lighthouse

    About 2 hours away, continuing south along Route 1, we will find another lighthouse that offers a remarkable panorama. Is called Owls Head Lighthouse, is located in the port area of ​​the town of Rockland, and is certainly peculiar compared to all the others lighthouses of the coast.

    Calculating the distance from the ground it is in fact rather low compared to the standard, but there is a reason: it is in fact placed on a sheer hill (easily reachable through ladders) which offers a splendid view of the open sea. It was built in 1825 and numerous stories and legends hover around the lighthouse and the keeper's house located at the base of the promontory. Enter and collect all the information you need.

    Tappa 3: Pemaquid Point

    We continue ours coastal New England itinerary to the south, about an hour's journey awaits us.

    Our goal is the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, a historic lighthouse part of the town of Bristol (we are in the most indented coastal area of ​​the state). To reach it you will pass through the village of Damariscotta, a placid village that rises on the river of the same name, a possible destination for a relaxing snack.

    The lighthouse was commissioned by John Quincy Adams in 1827 and is ideal for those looking for a landscape made of rocky cliffs and crashing waves on the coast. The symbolic imagery is among the most representative of lighthouses of Maine and it is no coincidence that it was chosen to appear on the state's quarter dollar.

    On the ground floor you will find the Fisherman's Museum, which houses numerous artifacts from local marine history, as well as original parts of the lighthouse itself. On the second floor there is an apartment which can be rented, if you are interested you should contact the Bristol Parks Commission.

    Stop 4: Maine's oldest lighthouse

    A little less than 2 hours drive south you will find another very fascinating lighthouse, it is known as Portland Head Lighthouse but to visit it you will have to move just outside the city (about twenty minutes from the center), in the Cape Elizabeth area.

    Enter Fort Williams Park but do not park in the first car park on the left (it is for those who want to visit the small military fortification nearby, if you want you can pop in but there is not much left!), Continue rather to the right, there you will find the beautiful lighthouse.

    It is the oldest in the state, it was commissioned by George Washington in 1791, and boasts a very characteristic Victorian-style keeper's house, which now houses a museum.

    Stop 5: Cape Neddick's Nubble Lighthouse

    One of Maine's most famous lighthouses is definitely the poetic Nubble Lighthouse, which stands out solitary on an islet in the small province of Cape Neddick. To reach it you will have to drive about an hour and pass the village of Y, a typical historic town in the New England countryside, with the inevitable building in the center surmounted by a whitewashed pointed bell tower.

    The islet is a short distance from the mainland, so you can photograph it well from various perspectives, but you will not be able to enter or enter it. The lighthouse dates back to 1879 and the view is certainly one of the most scenic.

    The Maine lighthouse itinerary ends here, but if you plan to cross south to Massachusetts and Rhode Island here are 2 goodies that could further enhance your trip.

    Stage 6: The Cape Cod Lighthouse

    We leave Maine and continue our itinerary of the fari in New England in the state of Massachusetts. Our destination is Cape Cod, one of the areas most popular with beach tourism on the East Coast. There are many lighthouses that you can find in the area, however here we will focus on one in particular, the most important one, Highland Light, also known as Cape Cod Light.

    The particularly interesting thing about this lighthouse is that it can be visited entirely on a 15-minute guided tour. You will therefore have the opportunity to climb the 69 steps to the top and admire the view from above. Your guide will explain the history and operation of the lighthouse in detail. All at a cost of $ 4.

    The lighthouse also boasts an unexpected position: it is not located sheer above the sea, but about 90 meters from the coast. This strange position is due to a serious erosion problem in the area; every year a small portion of Cape Cod's surface is covered by the sea.

    This has forced us to move not only inland Highland Light but also other Cape Cod lighthouses, such as Chatham Lighthouse, Nauset Light Beach and Three Sisters Lighthouses (find information to visit them in our article on what to see in Cape Cod).

    Others closer to the sea are towards the tip of the peninsula, in the Provincetown area, such as Long Point Light, Wood End Light and Race Point Light. The best way to admire them is with a boat excursion (perhaps whale watching). The impression you will get is that of being plunged into a painting by the American painter Edward Hopper (who also had a house nearby). Here is a small example below:

    Step 7: How to sleep in a lighthouse?

    photo by Kenneth C. Zirkel

    If your dream has always been to sleep inside a lighthouse, the ideal solution is to continue further south, in the state of Rhode Island, near Newport. Right in front of this beautiful town is the small island of Rose Island, which houses the homonymous lighthouse (Rose Island Lighthouse).

    To reach it you will have to take the ferry from Newport or Jamestown (you can find all the timetables here), the landing fee on the island is 5 dollars. For sleep in the lighthouse you have 2 possibilities:

    • Spend the night on the ground floor in the museum, the restored ancient home of the lighthouse keeper.
    • Become a guardian yourself for a week or a night by sleeping upstairs and taking care of the operation and maintenance of the lighthouse directly.

    If you have always wanted to be the guardian of a lighthouse even for just one night, consult the official website.

    Note: Like all of New England, Maine is even more beautiful during the fall. Find out the best places to visit during the season in our article on the Foliage in Maine.

    Organized tours dedicated to lighthouses

    Finally, if you are not particularly fond of DIY on the road style and prefer to be chauffeured far and wide, here are some tours of the Maine and New England lighthouses that will allow you to visit some of those described so far:

    • Lighthouse Day Tour from Manchester (New Hampshire): in just one day it will allow you to visit 5 different lighthouses, including Nubble Lighthouse, Portland Head Lighthouse, Two Lights of Cape Elizabeth and that of Spring Point. The package also includes the morning tasting of artisan jams and a lobster lunch. Click here for more information on the package
    • Lighthouse Bike Tour around Portland: if you want to travel as little as possible you can take a bike tour around Portland. You will visit 5 Maine lighthouses including Portland Head Lighthouse (including an oceanfront lobster roll lunch), Two Lights, Bug Light and Spring Point. Click here for more information on the package

    Other useful resources

    If you are thinking of embarking on a New England itinerary, I would like to point out some resources that may be useful for planning your trip.

    • Our guide on how to plan a tour of New England.
    • Our tips on Country Inn: the best Bed & Breakfasts in the region.
    • All you need to know about Acadia National Park, New England's most fascinating natural park.
    • Our advice on the city of Boston, a reference point for visiting the region.
    • Our section with all the recommended itineraries in New England.

    Are you looking for other similar areas? Did you know that such views can also be enjoyed on the West Coast? Read our guide dedicated to lighthouses of Oregon.

    Online resources

    • Visit Maine
    • Discover New England
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