Nothing exemplifies the state of Maine quite like its gorgeous lighthouses…
…Well, maybe the lobster roll, but the iconic lighthouses in Portland are a close second!
Fortunately, my husband and I recently satisfied my lust for lighthouses with a fun road trip to the Pine Tree State.
We started with an amazing day at Acadia National Park and then drove south to see the famous Portland lighthouses for ourselves.
Our successful lighthouse mission inspired this guide – and all of the native-New-Englander-insight contained within.
Here’s the full roster of lighthouses in Portland, from the oldest state icon to an ancient-Greece-inspired bug light!
There are six lighthouses in Portland, all of which are located within a 20-minute drive of the city.
However, this count includes a set of twin lighthouses, so this numbered list ends at five.
Head here for the most convenient driving route to all of the lighthouses in this guide.
Portland Head Light is arguably the most iconic lighthouse on this list – and for good reason.
Not only was it the most impressive lighthouse I’ve seen in Maine, but the most spectacular lighthouse I’ve ever seen. Period.
If you only have time to visit one of these lighthouses in Portland, the Head Light should be it.
This historical gem is the oldest lighthouse in all of Maine and was first lit in 1791.
Today, it’s owned and lovingly managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth, located just seven miles outside of Portland.
It sits along the breathtaking shores of Fort Williams Park and features an award-winning museum (previously the keepers’ quarters).
Fort Williams Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Although there’s no admission fee, you’ll need to pay for parking. In addition, donations are always appreciated.
You can find park visiting hours, museum hours, and directions here.
Portland Head Light is located at 12 Captain Strout Cir in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.
While at the Portland Head Light, you’ll actually be able to spot the Ram Island Ledge Light off in the distance.
Unfortunately, this is one of the lighthouses in Portland that you’ll need to admire from afar. It’s accessible by private boat only and the bare ledge/island it sits on is located about a mile offshore.
The structure dates back to 1855 and was historically feared by local mariners. This is because its low visibility was responsible for a number of shipwrecks.
As a result, it underwent a series of navigational aid upgrades over time. This included everything from an iron spindle addition in 1855 to a 50-foot wooden tripod in 1873.
In 1902, Congress appropriated funds for the building of a lighthouse on Ram Island Ledge. The following year, the federal government purchased the ledges from two Cape Elizabeth families.
Construction was completed in 1905 and an iron pier was added to the ledge. This marked the collection of sharp, jagged rocks near Portland Harbor’s outer entrance.
Following suit, a kerosene lamp was first lit in January of that year.
Today, the lighthouse is solar-powered, as of 2001.
You can read more about the Ram Island Ledge Light’s interesting history here.
Although Ram Island Ledge Light is only accessible by private boat, the GPS coordinates are 43°37′53.3″N 70°11′14.5″W.
Two Lights State Park is made up of 41 acres of rocky headlands and is the vantage point of the only “twin” lighthouses in Portland.
The eastern lighthouse is an automated light station that’s visible from 17 miles out at sea and still active today. The western lighthouse stopped running in 1924 and is a private home today.
The park opened in 1961 and offers views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Casco Bay.
The area was originally the site of a World War II coastal defense installation. Today, visitors can still see an observation tower as well as several bunkers located throughout the park.
Many visitors walk the easy, almost 2-mile hike of intersecting footpaths within the park. The trails range from gravel to unimproved forest floor, including rocks and exposed tree roots.
Note: Neither of the lighthouses is located directly in the park itself and both are closed to the public.
Unfortunately, we only found a vantage point of one of the lighthouses from the park, as we were short on time.
Unfortunately, you can’t access these lighthouses in Portland directly, since both are located on private property.
However, you’ll be able to see them from Two Lights State Park. (Again, we only found one, as we were in a bit of a hurry.)
Additionally, there’s apparently another good vantage point to capture the lighthouses. To reach it, navigate to 225 Two Lights Road in Cape Elizabeth (The Lobster Shack at Two Lights). However, we didn’t venture here ourselves.
Two Lights State Park is open year-round from 9 AM until sunset, unless otherwise posted at the gate.
Although we were exempt from paying (presumably because of the current world situation), there’s apparently a fee under normal circumstances. You can access the day-use fee information here.
Two Lights State Park is located at 7 Tower Drive Cape Elizabeth, ME.
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is constructed in the caisson style. It’s situated at the end of a 950-foot breakwater on the Southern Maine Community College South Portland Campus.
This beautiful South Portland symbol was originally built in 1897 to warn mariners of a dangerous ledge in Portland Harbor.
You can read more about the lighthouse’s history here.
While the U.S. Coast Guard maintains the aids to navigation, they transferred ownership to the Spring Point Ledge Light Trust in 1998. This public charity is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) and is committed to lighthouse preservation.
The stones leading up to the lighthouse are huge and there are gaps in between them. Be careful while navigating and avoid high heels!
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is one of the rare lighthouses in Portland that offers tours. Typically, this is an awesome opportunity to experience history and navigate the inside of a working lighthouse.
However, given the current world situation, tours are currently canceled for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, you can enjoy a virtual representation of the lighthouse here.
Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse is located at 2 Fort Rd in South Portland. Head here for directions and parking information.
Last – but definitely not least – is the cutest contender on the list: Portland Breakwater Lighthouse!
Also known as “Bug Light,” it dates back to 1855 and was originally a wooden structure marking the breakwater shielding Portland Harbor.
The existing 26-foot lighthouse was built in 1875, fully restored in 1989, and reactivated in 2002.
Admittedly, I wasn’t expecting much when I first discovered the Bug Light online, as it’s the smallest on this list.
However, I can now say I definitely misjudged, as it ended up being one of my favorite lighthouses in Portland!
This little gem sits in Bug Light Park – affectionately named after the structure – and can be enjoyed at various distances.
Its unique design resembles a 4th-century Greek monument, as it was inspired by the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens. However, it was built with cast iron plates painted white.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and memorializes ship building efforts of WW II.
This park offers free and convenient parking so that visitors can easily access the lighthouse.
Many visitors also choose to explore the South Portland Historical Society Museum, adjacent to the park.
Although the museum is temporarily closed, you can plan a future visit here.
Portland Breakwater Light is located within Bug Light Park, at S Portland Greenbelt Pathway in South Portland.
I hope I’ve convinced you to add some – if not all – of these Portland lighthouses to your itinerary!
Additionally, if you have more time to spend in Maine, I highly recommend driving up to Acadia National Park.
Even if you’re on a tight schedule, this stunning national park is still totally doable in a brief time. Fortunately, I’ve put together a 1-day Acadia itinerary to help you plan your trip.
In the meantime, I’d love to know if you’ve visited any of these iconic lighthouses in Portland. Let me know about your experience in the comments below!