Portland Head Light
The iconic Portland Head Light beckons visitors to explore a scenic coastal park in Cape Elizabeth. Here you can relish awe-inspiring ocean views, wander diverse natural environments, and discover historic sites of military and maritime significance.
A museum inside the tower’s former keeper’s house reveals interesting lighthouse history. The site also features scenic trails including the Goddard Loop and Cliff Walk Loop. You’ll be glad you read this!
Visiting the Lighthouse
Situated along the shores of Fort Williams Park, Portland Head Light and its red-roofed keeper’s house are a sight to see. The lighthouse itself is maintained by the United States Coast Guard while the former keeper’s house is now home to a maritime museum, which opens Memorial Day through Indigenous Peoples’ Day with an admission fee of $2 per adult.
It is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and one of the most photographed lighthouses in the country. Its story is deeply entwined with America’s quest for independence, beginning in 1776 when residents of Cape Elizabeth stationed eight soldiers here to alert them of potential British attacks.
The lighthouse and its surroundings are open to the public year-round from sunrise to sunset, with parking available onsite for a small fee during peak season (April 1 through November 15). Dogs on leashes are also welcome at the lighthouse and in the park. It’s a beautiful spot for picnicking, photography, and exploring the history of coastal gun batteries.
Fort Williams State Park
Maine’s coastline is home to many iconic lighthouses, seals, seabirds, and rocky cliffs. One of the most famous is the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth. This historic site is situated within Fort Williams State Park and is a must-see attraction.
The 90-acre park offers picnic areas, recreational/sports fields, a children’s play area, a beach and walking trails. The park has a number of historic sites, including Battery Keyes and Goddard Mansion (the ruins of a grand home built for Colonel John Goddard in the 1850s).
The lighthouse itself was built in 1791 and is Maine’s oldest lighthouse. It is still in operation and is a popular destination for lighthouse enthusiasts and history buffs. The lighthouse is currently automated and the former keeper’s quarters now houses a museum. The tower, beacon, and foghorn are maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard and the lighthouse is open to the public only on Open Lighthouse Day in September. The museum is open daily from Memorial Day through Columbus Day. A great place to also visit is East End Beach.
The Lighthouse Museum
When you think of lighthouses, chances are the first image that pops into your mind is this iconic tapered white tower on a rocky cape buffeted by crashing waves. Commissioned by George Washington, Portland Head Light is Maine’s oldest lighthouse and one of the most famous along the Atlantic seaboard. Situated in the midst of Fort Williams Park, the lighthouse and its adjacent keeper’s house are now home to a museum with maritime artifacts and Fresnel lenses for a delightfully retro admission price of only $2.
This museum, found in the former keeper’s quarters, is packed with history, from the beginning of the lighthouse to how technology has changed over the years. The museum is a must-see for any Portland Head Light visitor, especially those who want to learn more about this legendary structure.
Situated along the coast within Cape Elizabeth’s Fort Williams Park, this iconic lighthouse is a quintessential coastal landmark woven into Maine’s maritime history. As the oldest lighthouse on the state’s coastline, it was commissioned by George Washington and has stood watch over Casco Bay for two centuries.
You can visit Portland Head Light on foot, but if you want the most unique perspective (and the best chance at a spectacular photo), then you’ll definitely need to take a boat tour. You’ll find several regular or specialty tours operated by the local company, Casco Bay Lines, and all of them will pass right by the lighthouse.
Getting to Portland Head Light by public transit is also an option. You can fly into the Portland International Jetport which is only about 8 miles from the lighthouse or you can take a train or Greyhound bus to Portland and then drive to Cape Elizabeth. Check out Moovit’s all-in-one transit app for free maps and live directions. Discover more interesting articles.
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