6 Lighthouses to See Near Portland, Maine

Visit Portland Head Light and More on a Tour of Scenic and Historic Lights

Portland, Maine, is one of New England's most vibrant seaside cities: a place where lobstermen and lawyers walk the same streets, and every quintessential coastal experience you've imagined is either within city limits or a short drive away. Of course, that means lighthouses are a part of Portland's fabric. One of Maine's most photographed beacons—Portland Head Light—is a treasured symbol of the city, and five more lighthouses are within a 20-minute driving distance. Build your lighthouse-themed itinerary with these tips for finding, visiting and photographing Portland's lighthouses.  

  • 01 of 05

    Portland Head Light

    Portland Head Light

    © Kim Knox Beckius

    If you see only one lighthouse during your Portland stay, make it Maine's oldest operating lighthouse. Built during the presidency of George Washington and renovated in 1813, Portland Head Light (1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth) has been a lifesaving fixture and is among the most photographed lighthouses in all of America. It strikes a stunning pose, with waves crashing against jagged rocks below, in every season. You'll capture the most dramatic photos on a windy day at high tide. There is only one day each year when the Coast Guard allows a limited number of visitors inside this storied lighthouse: the annual Maine Open Lighthouse Day in September. There is a museum, however, operating from late April through December inside the 1891 keeper's quarters, where you can view several lighthouse lenses and interpretive displays.

    Things To Do Nearby:

    Fort Williams Park, adjacent to Portland Head Light, offers something for everyone: History buffs can explore the fort's remains; nature and birding enthusiasts can walk along cliffs that drop to the sea or along the rocky beach below; families can picnic on grassy hills or fly kites. Even in winter, the park draws cross-country skiers, sledders and ice skaters.

    For a different photographic angle on Portland Head Light, book passage aboard one of Portland Discovery Land & Sea Tours' lighthouse cruises.

  • 02 of 05

    Ram Island Ledge Light

    Ram Island Ledge Light

    Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse, © Dave Hensley @davehensley, flickr.com Creative Commons License 

    Built of gray granite blocks in 1905 on a tiny rock island in Casco Bay, Ram Island Ledge Light strikes a solitary pose at the entrance to Portland Harbor. Fun fact: It has a near twin. Graves Light Station in Boston was built during the same time. Still a critical aid to navigation, you'll see it flash white twice every six seconds. Although this lighthouse, located about a mile offshore, is never open to the public, and the island is accessible only by private boat, you can view and photograph Ram Island Ledge Light from Portland Head Light (1000 Shore Road, Cape Elizabeth).

    Things To Do Nearby:

    Portland Paddle offers a full-day Lighthouse & Fort guided sea kayaking tour that affords paddlers of all abilities a rare chance to see Casco Bay's lighthouses—including Ram Island Ledge Light—from the water.

  • 03 of 05

    Two Lights State Park

    Cape Elizabeth Light Near Portland
    Indabelle/ flickr.com/ Creative Commons License

    With 41 acres of wooded trails, plus granite ledges, rocky headlands and oceanfront paths lush with wild sea roses, bayberries and sumacs that provide cover for songbirds, Two Lights State Park (7 Tower Drive, Cape Elizabeth) offers lighthouse lovers so much more than views of the twin Cape Elizabeth Lights. Located 8 miles south of Portland, the park was named for these 1874 Gothic Revival-style towers at the end of Two Lights Road. The eastern structure is still a working lighthouse, though not accessible to the public, and the other is now a one-of-a-kind private home. You may recognize these attractive twins from Edward Hopper's famous 1929 painting: The Lighthouse at Two Lights.

    Things To Do Nearby:

    One of the best spots for photographing the Cape Elizabeth Lights is also one of the Portland area's top places to savor lobster in the rough. The oceanfront Lobster Shack at Two Lights, open seasonally (typically April through October), serves up fresh lobster and other Maine delights, and the views from outdoor picnic tables are unbeatable.

    From Two Lights, you're just a 6-minute drive away from Crescent Beach State Park: one of the Portland area's finest sandy beaches.

  • 04 of 05

    Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light)

    Portland Breakwater Bug Light

    Portland Breakwater Light, © Kan Wu @alunwk, flickr.com Creative Commons License

    Affectionately referred to as Bug Light because of its small stature, Portland Breakwater Lighthouse in Bug Light Park (Madison Street, South Portland) was built in 1875 of cast iron with a brick lining on a granite block foundation. In 1942 during World War II, lighthouse beacons were dimmed for security reasons, and Bug Light wasn't relit until 2002, when the Coast Guard added a solar-powered light. This elegant-looking lighthouse is unique because it's believed to be the only lighthouse in the world shaped like a 4th-century Greek monument. Four Corinthian columns hold up the lens. Maine Open Lighthouse Day in September is your chance to venture inside. The best photographs of Bug Light are shot on a moody, dusky evening or even on a clear night, as stars and city lights begin to glow.

    Things To Do Nearby:

    It's free to park at and to visit Bug Light Park, located at the site of a former shipbuilding complex, so take time to stroll the walking path or to relax on a bench and enjoy the views. This is also a popular saltwater fishing spot.

    You'll find the South Portland Historical Society Museum near the park entrance. Open daily May through October and weekends in November and December, the museum features exhibits that dive into the city's people and its past. The historical society also hosts events such as the Bug Light Kite Festival each May.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

    A lighthouse stands guard over the entrance to a harbor.
    Chris Bennett/Getty Images

    Built in 1897, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse (Fort Road, South Portland) sticks up at the mouth of the harbor like a giant spark plug. It has several unique distinctions. Of the 49 caisson-style lighthouses built in America on sturdy, metal foundations, this is the only one you can walk to: It's connected to land via a breakwater on the campus of Southern Maine Community College. It is also the only Portland-area lighthouse visitors can step inside on a regular basis. Volunteer-led tours of the still-active light station are offered most Saturdays, Sundays and Tuesdays from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend. Year-round, you can capture impressive images of the lighthouse with the breakwater's giant granite blocks in the foreground. Exercise particular caution when these stones are wet or icy. The entire Portland skyline is visible across the water.

    Things To Do Nearby:

    While you're on campus grounds, you'll also want to see the ruins of Fort Preble, which guarded this point of land from 1808 until 1947.

    South Portland's Willard Beach adjoins the Southern Maine Community College Campus and is open to visitors.