More than 2 dozen Maine lighthouses will be open for tours on Saturday

Marshall Point Lighthouse.
Marshall Point Lighthouse. –Maine Office of Tourism

Maine lighthouses will come alive on Saturday, when thousands tour the seaside structures for free during Maine Open Lighthouse Day.

Twenty-five of the state’s 66 lighthouses will open to the public. About one-third of the participating lighthouses are only open on this annual day, said Bob Trapani, executive director of the American Lighthouse Foundation. The event, sponsored by the American Lighthouse Foundation, the United States Coast Guard, and the Maine Office of Tourism, has drawn between 15,000 to 18,000 visitors each year since it began nine years ago.

“[Lighthouses are] a really important part of Maine’s heritage,” said Steven Lyons, executive director of the Maine Office of Tourism. “It’s a great opportunity for people to see just how a lighthouse works. Instead of seeing it just from the outside, there’s a certain thrill, I guess, for people who can walk up the spiral staircase to the tower and look out and get a different perspective looking out at the coast.”

Portland Head Light. —Maine Office of Tourism
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Maine may not have the most lighthouses nationally — that honor goes to Michigan — but its lighthouses are steeped in history.

“Our lighthouses in Maine are some of the oldest in the country,” Trapani said. “Of course, they’re by some of the most breathtaking seascapes.”

The oldest participating lighthouse, Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, dates back to 1791, Trapani said. Visitors looking to experience the view from the tower must climb more than 85 steps to the top.

The newest lighthouse taking part is Isle Au Haut Lighthouse on Isle Au Haut, Trapani said. It was built in 1907 and can only be accessed by boat.

The cliffside Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse in Acadia National Park, built in 1858, is always a hot spot during this event, Trapani said.

“That is a structure that many thousands of people see from the outside, but they can’t get inside,” said Trapani, because it is typically not open to the public. “Through the course of the day, we’ll see 600 to 700 people go inside that one. That many people over six hours is pretty amazing.”

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse. —Maine Office of Tourism

Visitors who go to Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde may recognize it as the spot where Tom Hanks’s titular character concluded his cross-country run in the 1994 Oscar-winning film Forrest Gump.

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Some lighthouses will offer added attractions on Saturday. Maine’s lighthouses are automated now, but previous keepers will be on hand at some sites to educate the public about the structures and discuss what life was like caring for them, Trapani said. Visitors can explore a living history museum inside Burnt Island Lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor and check out a special art exhibit, “Reckoning with Nature: Andrew Winter at Monhegan Island,” inside the assistant keeper’s house at Monhegan Island Lighthouse on Monhegan Island, another location that’s only accessible by boat.

The lighthouses will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, unless otherwise specified.

“There’s a serenity, there’s a peacefulness,” Trapani said. “Things slow down for people when they’re at a lighthouse. When you get to these spots, it’s like, ‘Wow. This is Maine.'”

Read up on the location of each of the 25 lighthouses taking part in this year’s event here, and map your excursion below:

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