Connect with Maine’s maritime history by visiting an offshore lighthouse this summer.
And leave the driving — or rather, “skippering” — to an experienced tour boat crew.
Like eider ducks swimming along a rock-bound shore, lighthouses often “cluster” along the Maine coast, particularly near ports. For example, six lighthouses once guarded the Portland Harbor approaches: Two Lights (with the West Tower deactivated in 1924) and Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse near Cushing Island, and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse and Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light) in South Portland.
Other lighthouse clusters exist offshore — and on a fine Maine summer day, no better pastime exists than cruising the coast to see different lighthouses. From Kittery to Lubec, tour operators offer the perfect lighthouse cruise itinerary.
Prices vary with the cruise. Plan on paying $20-$25 per person for shorter cruises and more per person for longer cruises. Always bring a jacket when sailing in Maine’s cool coastal waters.
• Kittery/Portsmouth: Board an Isles of Shoals Steamship Company cruise and sail past Portsmouth Harbor Light in New Castle, N.H.; Whaleback Ledge Light in Kittery; and White Island Lighthouse in the Isles of Shoals. Maine and New Hampshire split these islands, which are scenic rocky outcrops scattered across the sea 9 miles offshore. For information, call (800) 441-4620 or (603) 431-5500 visit islesofshoals.com.
• York: Bigger ‘n Better Sport Fishing offers a cruise that encompasses remote Boone Island Light (the tallest Maine lighthouse), Cape Neddick Light in York, Whaleback Ledge Light, and White Island Light. For information, call (800) 526-8172 or (774) 200-3020 or visit biggernbetter.com.
• Ogunquit: Finestkind Sea Cruises sails from Perkins Cove and offers, among other cruises, an excursion past Cape Neddick Lighthouse (aka Nubble Light) in York. For information, call 646-5227 or visit finestkindcruises.com.
• Portland: Several companies based on the Portland waterfront offer harbor cruises that take passengers past Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Light, and a few cruises add a Portland Head Light “sail by.” On a sunny day, all three lighthouses are best viewed in the morning or late afternoon. For information, visit http://directory.portlandmaine.com.
• Bath: Located downriver from Bath Iron Works, the Maine Maritime Museum runs cruises along the Kennebec River. Passengers will often see six lighthouses: delightful Doubling Point Light, Kennebec River Range Light, Squirrel Point Light, Perkins Island Light, and Pond Island Light and the allegedly haunted Seguin Island Light, both located near the river’s entrance.
Doubling Point Light and Squirrel Point Light are also accessible by land. For information, call 443-1316 or visit mainemaritimemuseum.org.
• Boothbay Harbor: Lighthouses abound in local waters, and Cap’n Fish’s Boat Trips tailors several cruises for lighthouse aficionados. Typical cruises include nearby Burnt Island Light or Ram Island Light (best viewed from noon to early evening on sunny days).
The three-hour Kennebec River Lighthouse Cruise sails past Burnt Island Light, Cuckolds Light off Southport, Sequin Island Light (some distance away), Pond Island Light, Perkins Island Light, Squirrel Point Light, Kennebec River Range Light, and Doubling Point Light. For information, call (207) 633-6605 or visit boothbayboattrips.com.
• New Harbor: From this picturesque village in Bristol, Hardy Boat Cruises runs a one-hour round-trip cruise to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, which is also accessible via Route 130. Hardy Boat Cruises also offers a Puffin Cruise to Eastern Egg Rock in Muscongus Bay; on a clear day, passengers can see Franklin Island Lighthouse to the north. For information, call (800) 278-3346 or (207) 677-2026 or (800) 278-3346 or visit hardyboat.com.
• Port Clyde: This quintessential Maine fishing village lies at the tip of the St. George Peninsula. The Monhegan Boat Co. offers an interesting cruise that encompasses Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde, Tenants Harbor Lighthouse (owned by artist Jamie Wyeth) off Tenants Harbor, Whitehead Island Lighthouse at the southern entrance to the Mussel Ridge Channel, and Two Bush Island Lighthouse, a remote Penobscot Bay outpost. En route to completing the eastern log of his cross-country run in “Forrest Gump,” actor Tom Hanks — or a reasonable facsimile — trotted onto the walkway connecting the shore with the 31-foot lighthouse at Marshall Point. At Tenants Harbor Light, a resident occasionally fires a cannon — with a blank, of course — at the passing tour boat. For information, call (207) 372-8848 or visit monheganboat.com.
• Camden: Every vessel approaching or departing Camden Harbor must pass Curtis Island Lighthouse. Several windjammers and power boats offer cruises from this scenic harbor backdropped by Mount Battie; the Betselma takes passengers past Curtis Island Light and privately owned Indian Island Light, located off Rockport. For information, visit camdenmaineexperience.com or camdenmainevacation.com.
• Lincolnville: Catch the ferry Margaret Chase Smith and cross West Penobscot Bay to visit Grindle Point Lighthouse on Islesboro. Easily photographed as the ferry approaches its terminal, the lighthouse houses the Sailor’s Memorial Museum and stands adjacent to the terminal.
For information about Islesboro ferry service, call (207) 789-5611 or visit maine.gov/mdot/msfs/islesboro.htm.
• Deer Isle. Old Quarry Ocean Adventures offers a seven-hour cruise that passes six lighthouses and stops at North Haven for lunch. The six lighthouses are: Robinson Point Light on Isle au Haut, Saddleback Ledge Light, Brown’s Head Light on Vinalhaven, Goose Rocks Light in the Fox Island Thorofare, Heron Neck Light, and Mark Island Light, a white-painted tower guarding the western approaches to the Deer Island Thorofare. For information, visit oldquarry.com, call (207) 367-8977, or email email@example.com.
• Bar Harbor: The Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. offers four lighthouse-related trips that sail from the company’s pier on West Street.
A 2¾-hour cruise sails daily from late June to late October. This tour provides unique views of Sand Beach and Thunder Hole and passes the Little Cranberry Island Lifesaving Station and five lighthouses: Baker Island, Bear Island, Egg Rock, Great Duck Island, and Winter Harbor.
A four-hour cruise takes passengers to explore Baker Island and its remote lighthouse.
A 3½-4-hour cruise combines a visit to Petit Manan Island Lighthouse with an offshore whale watch. The second-tallest lighthouse on the Maine coast, Petit Manan Island Light guards a bird-breeding colony frequented by nesting puffins.
A 2-hour nature cruise explores Frenchman Bay and takes passengers close to Egg Rock Lighthouse.
For information, call (207) 288-2386 or (888) 942-5374 or visit barharborwhales.com.
• Bar Harbor: Sea Venture Custom Boat Tours offers customized tours to such lighthouses as Baker Island Light, Bass Harbor Head Light, Bear Island Light, Blue Hill Bay Light, Burnt Coat Harbor Light (Swans Island), Egg Rock Light, Great Duck Island Light (near Frenchboro), Mark Island Light, Petit Main Island Light, Pond Island Light, Prospect Harbor Light, and Pumpkin Island Light (Little Deer Isle). For information, call (207) 288-3355 or visit svboattours.com.
• Milbridge: Robertson Sea Tours offer cruises that visit Pond Island Light in Narraguagus Bay, Nash Island Light in Pleasant Bay, and Petit Manan Island Light. For information, call (207) 483-6110 or (207) 461-7439 (cell), email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit http://robertsonseatours.com.
• Cutler: Sailing from this scenic Washington County fishing village, the Bold Coast Charter Company offers cruises to Machias Seal Island, home to nesting puffins and a Canadian lighthouse. Every cruise passes Little River Lighthouse, which guards the Cutler Harbor approaches. For information, call (207) 259-4484, email email@example.com, or visit boldcoast.com.
• Lubec: Located in Lubec are the sparkplug-shaped Lubec Channel Light and West Quoddy Head Light with its distinctive barber-pole paint scheme. Nearby on Campobello Island are Mulholland Point Light (deactivated) and East Quoddy Head Light. All but the Lubec Channel Light are accessible by land, but visitors can reach East Quoddy Head Light only at low tide.
Cruise operators in Lubec and on Campobello Island offer daily or customized tours that can visit local lighthouses. For tourist information, call (207) 733-2997 or (888) 347-9302, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit visitlubecmaine.com. or www.lubecme.govoffice2.com.