Tri-State Lighthouse Guide

"The right thing to do benefits you and others. Be the lighthouse that you are." - Nina Ferrell

One of the best ways to learn about the rich maritime history of Maine or New England in general, is to visit the many impeccably preserved lighthouses. Lighthouses are recognized today primarily for their unique beauty, their importance in guidance and for safe maritime navigation.

Maine has more lighthouses on the ocean than any other state in the nation, and each one has its own unique appearance, distinctive history and, more often than not, haunting legends that only add to its appeal.

My best friend and I decided to make the most of our short New England trip and added a lighthouse road trip to learn about the places even more. It's the first thing that comes in mind besides eating endless lobster rolls and cannolis. We're both suckers for beautiful ocean views and picturesque architectures, let alone a good, rich American history. While not all of Maine's lighthouses are open to the public and very inaccessible especially within a short amount of time, we were able to visit 8 lighthouses in a span of 4 days while still being able to check off other things on our itinerary list.

I consider ourselves very lucky in terms of the weather conditions. The sun coordinated with us by making a special appearance the whole trip, not a single snow fall even during the snowstorm season.

1. Derby Wharf Light Station (Salem, MA)

Our first lighthouse stop. We started from East end of Boston, hopped on a rental and drove about 40 minutes to a cute, little town of Salem AKA the Witch City. Passing through the premises of Salem Maritime National Historic Site, is a nice stroll to the lighthouse. I personally enjoyed our trip to Salem because of my love for spooky things and horror movies. This lighthouse has got to be the smallest one out of all that we've been to, and definitely the simplest one. It's quaint, rugged, boxed-shaped structure that was built in the 1800s. 

2. Portsmouth Harbor Light (Portsmouth, NH)

This is the only lighthouse of mainland New Hampshire. It is a little over an hour drive from Derby Wharf and is located on a Coast Guard base so it's hard to find and get an access into. We ended up pulling over to the side of the road to get a glimpse of it, after circling around the vicinity with other guests trying to find this area. We took a few pictures and headed on our way. Plan ahead to get a better close-up view and get the whole experience.

3. Newburyport Harbor Light A.K.A. Plum Island Light (Newburyport, MA)

The timing was perfect when we arrived here: no crowd, warm sunny day, untouched snow. We parked across a pay-to-park lot, where there was nobody on the pay station (yay for free parking!). The walk around the lighthouse was very relaxing. Seeing anything covered with untouched snow just makes me so happy, for some reason. Imagine our daze and amazement everytime we see untouched snow during our drive. This is not a very popular lighthouse in New England, but it ranks one of the most photogenic to me. Just look at that lighting, though!

4. Cape Neddick A.K.A. Nubble Lighthouse (York, ME)

One of my favorites by far! Picturesque, peaceful and photogenic. The lighthouse is not accessible directly, because it is sitting on an island. Visitors can only observe it from afar, and it's not connected to the shores nor it is open to the public. Totally not an issue for me, because you get to see a better view of it "photographically speaking" and I think it adds more character to the lighthouse itself. We spent most of our time here to watch the sunset, sitting on one of the big boulders of rocks, while appreciating this beauty. I will definitely be back to see this again.

5. Cape Elizabeth Lights A.K.A. Two Lights (Cape Elizabeth, ME)

Originally, there were two that made up the light station. Only the Eastern tower remains in service (pictured), while the Western tower was dismantled. We didn't get to stop by and take a better picture of the Western tower because it is now privately owned with a "No Trespassing" right before the parkway. The Eastern one, on the other hand, is still open to the public but quite hard to get to because it is occupying in a private residential property (yes, residents get to see this on their backyard). Just like the other lighthouses, you can only see it from a distance.

6. Portland Head Light (Portland, ME)

My personal favorite of all. Definitely a postcard-worthy view on either side of the coast. You can view both sides of the lighthouse with just a short walk around it. It is the most photographed lighthouse in United States and it's on every Maine postcards/artwork you could find. What a joy to see it in real life...just as impressive in person! I was pleasantly surprised on how breath taking this one is, that the moment I saw it, I was completely blown away and had no words to describe it but simply beautiful. We visited when the snow was melting into ice, so wear proper shoes because it can get pretty slippery. Take it from someone (cough) who thought Timberland's are great for icy snow. Well, I was being accompanied to walk by my best friend the whole entire time we were there. Other than that, it's a definite must see. If at any point you can only get to visit one lighthouse in your lifetime, this is definitely the one!

7. Spring Point Ledge Light (South Portland, ME)

This particular small lighthouse offers the best view of the Casco Bay, and is located right by the South Maine Community College. A little treacherous walking out to this lighthouse because you step onto big boulders of granite rocks above the bay, so you have to watch your steps. I personally enjoyed the adventure and the whole idea of walking across the waters to get to it (definitely not for the faint of heart). If it wasn't for the wild wind, I would've enjoyed it even more. These natural events made it hard for me to continue walking to the end of the lighthouse.

8. Portland Breakwater Lighthouse A.K.A. Bug Light (South Portland, ME)

Another small lighthouse, located a little over a mile from Spring Point Ledge, on a park that is fairly easy to navigate. This is one of those easy in and out quick stops while visiting Portland. What makes it unique is when you look over to the left of the harbor, it presents a spectacular view of the city of Portland on the other side of the coast. You could see the simple, yet, industrialized city of Maine.

We were able to see other lighthouses that wasn't featured on this post, for reasons being: a) private property like the Western tower of Two Lights, b) some lighthouses are on an island, c) inaccessibility. On a brighter note, we still got a short glimpse of them, and I personally still count them on our lighthouse road trip.

Hope you all enjoyed this post! Follow through our journey on Instagram with #NewEnglandwithmyMaine hashtag. Let me know which lighthouse is your favorite!