Looking for a beautiful view on the East Coast? Head to one of the prettiest lighthouses in Portland, Maine! These lighthouses offer everyone stunning views of the surrounding area – making for unforgettable memories.
Did you know that there are over 60 lighthouses in Maine? The state’s prominent location on the northeast coast of the United States explains why there is an abundance of lighthouses in Portland Maine.
By the late 19th century, Portland boasted one of the busiest harbors on the east coast. The waterways were crawling with schooners and steamships transporting goods and commodities to and from the city. Additionally, there was a demand for passenger traffic between Portland, other east coast cities, and offshore vacation islands.
The original purpose of these Portland lighthouses was to signal the mouth of a harbor to sailors. Nowadays, they are emblematic of Maine and are visited from far and wide!
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about visiting the prettiest lighthouses in Portland ME including how to visit them independently as well as with a guided tour.
*Disclosure: This post contains a few affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through my link.*
No time to read now? Pin it for later!
5 Prettiest Lighthouses in Portland You Can’t Miss
Portland, Maine is a city rich in history and culture. From the vibrant arts scene to the delicious seafood, there’s plenty to see and do in this charming coastal town.
However, visiting the lighthouses in Portland is definitely one of the most popular things to do! After all, these historic structures are not only beautiful but also offer stunning views of the coast.
Fun fact: Although everyone refers to them as “lighthouses in Portland”, actually none of them are located within the city limits. Don’t worry though, even the farthest lighthouse on this list is only a 15-minute drive from the center of town!
Now, without further ado, let’s explore the best lighthouses in Portland, Maine!
1. Portland Head Light
Address: 12 Captain Strout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
Opening hours: Monday to Friday; 10 am-2 pm, Saturday and Sunday; 10 am-4 pm
Price: Free but donations are always appreciated. Entrance is $2 to visit the museum.
Portland Head Light is the oldest and most well-known of the famous Maine lighthouses. It sits at the entrance of the shipping channel into Casco Bay within Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth.
The lighthouse was built in the late 18th century under President George Washington and remains in use to this day. The original tower measured 72 feet (22 meters) from the base to the lantern deck. Illuminated with 16 whale oil lamps, it was lit for the first time on 10 January 1791.
Further works commenced over the subsequent decades and centuries including the raising of the tower, the installation of additional lenses, and new Keepers’ Quarters.
The current Keepers’ Quarters was assembled in 1891. Until 1989, it was served as home to both the head and assistant lighthouse keepers – as well as their families.
Fort Williams Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset and provides a number of viewing and photography perspectives on the lighthouse.
There is an award-winning museum housed within the former Keepers’ Quarters that contains a number of lighthouse lenses and displays about its history.
How to get there
A private vehicle is required to visit Portland Head Light unless you book a tour.
Portland Head Light is 5 miles (8 km) from Downtown Portland. You can drive there in 15 minutes via ME-77 S which passes over the Casco Bay Bridge.
Other important info
- Although there is no admission fee, parking charges apply between mid-April and mid-November.
- The best time to visit is early in the morning or evening when the crowds are smaller. If you want to avoid the crowds entirely, consider visiting on a weekday during the off-season.
- While you’re at the Portland Head Light, be sure to take a walk down to the nearby beach. Here you’ll find large rocks perfect for exploring and tidepools full of fascinating creatures.
- If you’re looking for a unique way to see the Portland Head Light, consider taking a sail on Casco Bay. These sails depart from Portland’s Old Port and offer unbeatable views of the coastline and lighthouses.
2. Ram Island Ledge Light
Address: Portland, ME 04108
Opening hours: N/A
Ram Island Ledge Light is located across the bay from Portland Head Light on a tiny island. Ram Island is only a quarter-mile in length and marks the northern entrance into Portland’s harbor.
This is the most remote of the lighthouses in Maine near Portland and you can either see it from a distance while on the shore or via a boat tour.
Prior to the construction of Ram Island Ledge Light, an iron spindle placed at the southern edge of the ledge was used as a navigational aid. In 1873, this was updated to a 50-foot (15 meters) tall wooden tripod. This was not a success either and ended up drifting out to sea at least three times.
One evening in February 1900, a Liverpool-bound steamer was hard aground on Ram Island Ledge. Captain John France had hit the reef straight on and, as a result, the ship was stranded on the island for six weeks.
Plans for a lighthouse to be built were drawn up in 1902 although various issues meant that construction was delayed.
In the late 1950s, an underwater power cable was installed to connect Portland Head and Ram Island Ledge and allow the ledge lighthouse to be automated. It was converted to solar power in 2000.
The lighthouse is now officially owned by Dr. Jeffrey Florman: a neurosurgeon from Windham. He purchased the lighthouse out of a desire to preserve its historic significance.
How to get there
You can view Ram Island Ledge Light from Portland Head Light. For a closer experience, you might want to book the Private Lighthouse Sightseeing Charter on a Vintage Lobster Boat. More details about this tour are provided at the end of this post.
Other important info
- The grounds are not open to the public unless by prior appointment but you’ll get a good view from Portland Head Light.
- At high tide, Ram Island Ledge Light appears to float and be unattached to any landmass. This is incredible to see through a pair of binoculars and makes it one of the most photographic lighthouses in Portland Maine.
3. Bug Light (Portland Breakwater Lighthouse)
Address: S Portland Greenbelt Pathway, South Portland, ME 04106
Opening hours: 6 am-9 pm (as per the park hours)
Bug Light (officially known as Portland Breakwater Lighthouse) is located in Bug Light Park in South Portland. It sits across Casco Bay from Downtown Portland and the harbor.
This small lighthouse was built in 1875 to help crew navigate vessels into Portland Harbor. It has a fetching design that resembles a classical monument and makes it one of the most elegant lighthouses in Portland. The nickname Bug Light was applied due to its humble size.
You can walk right up to the base of the lighthouse and survey the views.
Bug Light Park marks the eastern terminus of the Greenbelt Walkway and offers incredible views of Portland Harbor. This 8.8-acre park was the site of major shipbuilding efforts during World War II.
How to get there
Bus route number 21 departs from outside Portland City Hall and stops at Benjamin Pickett St + Adams St. From there it’s only a 20-minute walk to Bug Light Park. This will take around 45 minutes in total.
You can drive from Downtown Portland following ME-77 S which passes over the Casco Bay Bridge. The journey should take less than 10 minutes in light traffic.
Other important info
- Restrooms are available seasonally at Bug Light Park.
- You will also find seasonal events taking place including festivals, movie screenings, and public holiday celebrations.
4. Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse
Address: 2 Fort Rd, South Portland, ME 04106
Opening hours: 24/7 but you shouldn’t walk on the breakwater outside of daylight hours
Price: Free but there is a charge for tours
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is located on a rocky breakwater that protrudes into the bay from near Fort Preble.
This is another of the small and pretty lighthouses in Portland ME. It was built in 1897 after several shipwrecks caused by a dangerous ledge that extended into the main shipping channel in Portland Harbor.
Several of these were high profile enough to prompt a campaign to construct a lighthouse to mark the ledge.
Originally, this lighthouse was painted with one coat of red lead and two coats of “prince metallic brown.” But later, the Corps of Engineers recommended the color be updated to its current black and white scheme so it would stand out more prominently from the nearby shoreline.
An underwater electrical cable was routed from Fort Preble to the lighthouse on 1 May 1934.
How to get there
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is situated 4.3 miles (6.9 km) from Downtown Portland. As Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is close to Bug Light, it makes sense to visit these two lighthouses in tandem.
You can drive there following ME-77 S which passes over the Casco Bay Bridge and takes around 15 minutes.
As with Bug Light, you can take bus number 21 which departs from outside Portland City Hall. Alight at Fort Rd + SMCC and it’s a 5-minute walk from there.
Other important info
- Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is located right next to Fort Preble and Willard Beach. You might want to allow additional time to visit these two attractions.
- The causeway that leads you from the mainland to the base of the lighthouse consists of large boulders rather than a boardwalk or pavement. It’s not accessible to those in wheelchairs and care should be taken by anyone who visits the lighthouse.
- Public and shared tours are available seasonally. You will see the current public tour schedule and alerts on the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse Facebook and Instagram pages.
5. Two Lights (Cape Elizabeth Light)
Address: Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107
Opening hours: The state park is open 9 am-6 pm (9 am-4.30 pm on Sundays)
If you fancy a road trip, then the Cape Elizabeth Light is one of the most breathtaking lighthouses near Portland ME. As it’s the furthest away from Portland, this one benefits from fewer crowds and feels more off the beaten track.
It’s located at the southernmost tip of Cape Elizabeth and was originally named Two Lights as it comprised two lighthouses.
These were in fact the first twin lighthouses to appear on the coast of Maine. They lent their name to the Two Lights State Park which you can visit at the same time.
Two Lights were built in 1828, originally as two rubble stone towers 885 feet (270 meters) apart. These were replaced by conical towers in 1874.
The western light discontinued operation in 1924 and is now used as a private residence and closed to the public.
On the other hand, the eastern light is an active and automated light system that is visible up to 17 miles (27 km) at sea. This solitary light is known as the Cape Elizabeth Light.
How to get there
There is no public transport connection from Downtown Portland to Two Lights.
Located 9 miles (14.5 km) south of the city, you can drive there following the ME-77 S. This takes 20-30 minutes subject to traffic conditions.
It’s important to note that although the park is called Two Lights State Park, the lighthouses are actually not located inside the park. If you want to see them, you should head to 2 Lights Terrace Road.
Other important info
- Both lighthouses are now considered as private residences so you can’t get close to them. Your best bet is parking on the street I shared above from where you can see both lighthouses.
- There is an excellent Lobster Shack located close to the Cape Elizabeth Light along the shore where you can bask in awesome views of the ocean while you eat.
- Definitely plan to hike in the Two Lights State Park if your schedule permits. Entrance to the state park is $5 for Maine residents and $7 for non-residents.
Best Guided Tours for Visiting the Lighthouses in Portland
Would you rather visit these famous Maine lighthouses as part of a tour? Then this section is for you! Here are the top-rated, most comprehensive guided tours of the Portland lighthouses listed above.
The Real Portland Tour: City and 3 Lighthouses Historical Tour with a Real Local
The Real Portland Tour is led by a born-and-raised Portlander who works as a college librarian by day. He has worked as a guide for over 20 years and knows his stuff!
The three lighthouses in Portland that you will visit are the Portland Head Light, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Portland Breakwater Lighthouse.
You will meet the guide in Downtown Portland and commence the tour in a private vehicle that is included in the cost.
On the way to the lighthouses, you will pass by prominent landmarks of Portland and hear about their history. There is one additional stop at Fort Preble.
This tour lasts approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
Portland, Maine Lighthouse Tour – 2 Hour Land Tour
You will meet the guide – a local lobsterman – in Downtown Portland near the harbor.
The lighthouses visited are the Portland Head Light, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Bug Light. You will spend longer at the first lighthouse while the second two are brief photo stops.
Transport is provided in the cost as well as tour guide commentary. Do quiz the guide about the best places to eat lobster rolls in the area as he is an expert!
Expect the tour to last approximately 2 hours.
Lighthouse Bicycle Tour from South Portland
The Lighthouse Bicycle Tour from South Portland is perfect for those seeking an adventurous way to tour the lighthouses near Portland ME!
Bicycles and safety helmets are included in the tour price and you will follow the licensed guide to a total of three lighthouses.
You will visit Bug Light, Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse, and Portland Head Light. The tour also includes a stop at Willard Beach where restrooms are available.
This experience is suitable for novice cyclists with a moderate level of fitness. The terrain is mostly flat with a couple of inclines.
Note that the meeting point is in Knightville, South Portland. This tour lasts approximately 3 hours.
5 Lighthouse Bike Tour with XL Lobster Roll
An alternative for those who feel more comfortable on a bicycle, check out the 5 Lighthouse Bike Tour with XL Lobster Roll.
The tour takes you by bicycle to a total of four lighthouses. Due to the impact of the pandemic, the latest tour offering visits Bug Light, Spring Point, Portland Head Light, and Ram Island Ledge Light (from the shore). You will not visit Two Lights.
Bicycles and helmets are included in the tour price as well as lunch, in the form of a delicious lobster roll.
This tour of lighthouses in Portland lasts approximately 5 hours and requires a high level of stamina.
Private Lighthouse Sightseeing Charter on a Vintage Lobster Boat
Last but not least, you can consider the Private Lighthouse Sightseeing Charter on a Vintage Lobster Boat.
If you are not constrained by budget then this is a unique way to see the lighthouses in Maine near Portland on MONHEGAN, a vintage lobster boat.
The tour takes you around Casco Bay where you’ll get great views of the coastline and pass by four of the lighthouses as you go. Your captain and guide will share information about local nautical history.
Bottled water is provided and you are welcome to bring your own food. Beer and wine are available to purchase on board. There is a toilet on the vessel.
Charters are priced per boat and permit up to 6 passengers per booking. This tour lasts approximately 2 hours.
That concludes my guide to the prettiest lighthouses in Portland Maine. I hope that this guide will help you plan your sightseeing itinerary around the area and ensure that you see all the places that you can.
If you have any questions about visiting these famous Maine lighthouses, feel free to contact me via email, social media, or by dropping a comment below.
Have you already visited any of the lighthouses mentioned above? Drop a comment below and let us know what you thought!
How to Spend One Day in Portland, Maine
The Perfect New England Fall Road Trip for 2 Weeks
The Perfect 2 Days in Acadia National Park Itinerary
Want to read more about Maine?
What Camera Gear Do We Use?
- Camera body: Sony Alpha 7 III
- Standard zoom lens: TAMRON 28-75 mm f/2.8
- Wide angle lens: Sony FE 16-35mm f/4
- Telephoto lens: TAMRON 70-180 mm f/2.8
- Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- GoPro: GoPro Hero 7
- Camera Bag: Peak Design Everyday Totepack
- Tripod: Manfrotto Compact Action
If you want to read more about what is in our camera bag, check out my detailed post about our travel photography gear!