The romanticism of lighthouse life has motivated many a traveler to seek out Maine’s 64 beacons. Some of the lighthouses can be viewed from land, others only from the water. While lighthouse-themed excursion boats depart from many coastal communities, here are five special ways to experience Maine’s lightkeeping heritage.
BECOME ENLIGHTENED AT A MUSEUM
The Maine Lighthouse Museum (1 Park Drive, Rockland, 2207-594-3301, www.mainelighthousemuseum.org, $5) is home to the nation’s largest collection of Fresnel lenses, along with a boatload of other artifacts related to lighthouses, the Coast Guard, lifesaving stations, and the sea. It’s a must for any lighthouse lover. Plan ahead and attend a benefit concert by John Mock at the museum on July 26; tickets $15. While that’s the biggie for lighthouse museums, other troves of lighthouse lore can be seen in museums at Portland Headlight (1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth, 207-799-2661, www.portlandheadlight.com, daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m., $2) and Marshall Point Lighthouse (Marshall Point Road, Port Clyde, www.marshallpoint.org, Mon-Fri 1-5 p.m., Sun 10 a.m.-
5 p.m. until mid-October).
FOLLOW THE LIGHTHOUSE TRAIL
Follow the Deer Isle Lighthouse Trail to see eight lighthouses guarding the local waters: Pumpkin Island, Eagle Island, Mark Island, Isle au Haut, Goose Rocks, Brown’s Head, Saddleback Ledge, and Heron Neck. Three are viewable from shore, but the rest require a boat. Excursion boat outfitters offering lighthouse-themed tours include Guided Island Tours (207-348-6789, www.guidedislandtours.com), Isle au Haut Ferry Service (207-367-5193, www.isleauhaut.com), and Old Quarry Ocean Adventures (207-367-8977, www.oldquarry.com).
JOIN THE PARTY AT AN OPEN HOUSE
While some lighthouses are regularly open to the public, these beacons are accessible only during special events. The West Quoddy Head Light Keepers Association (207-733-2180, www.westquoddy.com) will host its annual Lighthouse Celebration at the Lubec beacon July 6, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. In addition to live music, food vendors, raffles, and special activities, the US Coast Guard will offer tours of the tower between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
The Friends of Cutler’s Little River Lighthouse (207-259-3833, www.littleriverlight.org) has scheduled two open houses for this summer: July 27 at 1:30 p.m. and Aug. 24 at 12:30. Transportation is provided from Cutler Town Wharf to the island in small open boats; children must supply their own life jackets. Refreshments available on the island. Event is weather dependent.
On Maine Open Lighthouse Day (207-594-4174, www.lighthousefoundation.org), Sept. 14, tour more than 20 lighthouses along the coast, from Biddeford to Lubec. Most participating sites are open from 9 a.m. to
3 p.m. for guided or self-guided tours of the keeper’s houses and the light towers. Some are accessible only by boat. Usually excursion boats operate special tours for the event.
VISIT WOOD ISLAND LIGHT
Volunteers from the Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse (207-200-4552, www.woodisandlighthouse.org), located off the coast of Biddeford, offer 1½-hour guided tours of the light, which dates to 1806. Visitors age 12 and older may climb the 60 stairs to the tower’s lantern room and even crawl through the 2-foot-square hatch that accesses the walkway ringing the top. Tours, offered at 10 and 11 a.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays and 5 and 6 p.m. on Thursdays in July and August, depart from Vine’s Landing in Biddeford Pool. Reservations are required, available by phone during the current week or online one week prior. A minimum donation of $15 per adult or $8 per child younger than 13, is appreciated.
SPEND A NIGHT OR MORE AT ONE OF THESE SIX LIGHTS
Few lighthouses are as dramatically sited as Pemaquid Point; fewer still have been featured on the Maine state quarter. Inside the Keepers House at Pemaquid Point Light, a second-floor, one-bedroom apartment that sleeps four is available for one-week rental. Cost is $1,200, plus a $60 cleaning fee. For details about property number 105, contact Newcastle Square Vacation Rentals (207-563-6500, www.mainecoastcottages.com).
The Keeper’s House Inn on Isle au Haut (207-335-2990, www.keepershouse.com) has reopened under new ownership, making it possible once again to slumber, without camping, on the island that’s home to a remote section of Acadia National Park. Inside the keeper’s house are three rooms that share a bath and a third-floor suite with a private bath. Also available are the Oil House, which offers primitive accommodations on the shoreline, and the Woodshed Cottage, with private bath and full kitchen. Rates begin around $350 and include all meals.
Friends of the Little River Light House (207-259-3833, www.littleriverlight.org) in Cutler have made it possible to overnight at the light guarding the harbor. Guests stay in three bedrooms (Keeper’s Room $225, Ocean View $175, and Woodsview $150). All share two bathrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. Guests must bring their own linens or sleeping bags, towels, food, beverages, and bottled water. Minimum age for an overnight stay is 12. Boat transportation is provided, with tide determining times.
Beacon Preservation (207-867-4747, www.beaconpreservation.org), which is working to restore and preserve Goose Rocks Light, uses overnights to raise money for restoration projects. The light, located off North Haven Island, is surrounded by water; there is no accessible land. Up to six adults (minimum age 18) can sleep in two bedrooms and one bunkroom; requested donation from $600 per night. Lighthouse volunteers provide transportation from the North Haven Island ferry terminal.
Whitehead Light Station (207-200-7957, www.whiteheadlightstation.org) on Whitehead Island at the mouth of Penobscot Bay offers rentals as well as three- to five-day adult enrichment courses. The 11.1-acre island is home to a seven-bedroom keeper’s house. Rental ($4,900-$6,900) includes full use of the island, transportation, mainland parking, local boating excursions, services of a skipper, and linens. Courses offered this summer are: The craft of beer and brewing with Charlie Papazian, July 12-17; knitter’s retreat, July 19-24; mindfulness-based stress reduction, July 25-Aug. 1; and cooking with Daisy, Aug. 3-8. Courses ($250 to $900) include instruction, room, meals, local excursions, and island transportation. Not included are food and lodging fees, which begin at $1,050 single, $650 double.
Join the Friends of Seguin Island Light Station (207-443-4808, www.seguinisland.org, from $30 individual or $55 family) and be eligible to spend a night at Seguin, located at the mouth of the Kennebec River. The rustic accommodations include two bedrooms, minimal kitchen facilities, a private bathroom (composting toilet) with running water, and an outhouse. Linens and drinking water are provided and light breakfast is delivered in the morning. Guests must provide their own transportation, and getting to the dock can be tricky. Suggested donation is $150 per couple per night.
Hilary Nangle can be reached at hilarynangle.com.