Carved by glaciers thousands of years ago, Maine’s coastline is a jumble of points, passages, bays, inlets, coves, and fjord-like fingers of land reaching into a sea dotted by hundreds of little islands, ledges and shoals. To navigate these unusually complicated and dangerous waters, mariners needed help. Beginning in 1794, an array of lighthouses was established to help them find their way.
The lighthouses stood atop dangerous isles and ledges, warning skippers to beware. They guided vessels to navigable water channels and marked the mouths of rivers. During the most terrible storms and the foggiest nights, they stood against the elements, fixed points of light and hope helping sailors of all sorts to chart a safe course to their destinations.
Explore an interactive map of the once-perilous Maine coast.
Maine: “The Lighthouse State”
Maine is known as “The Lighthouse State” for good reasons. By the turn of the 20th century, at least 70 lighthouses guarded its craggy seacoast, its deepest rivers and even one lake. A mariner could sail up and down the coast and always have a lighthouse in sight. Sixty-seven of these beacons still stand. There are more lighthouses here than in any other states but Michigan and New York, and more coastal lighthouses than anywhere in the nation! Maine is a great place to see the distinctive towers and explore their rich history.
Interested in visiting a historical Maine landmark or taking your family on a lighthouse tour? Plan your vacation or weekend getaway with our free travel planner.
The lighthouses became much more than directional aids. In their remote and often spectacular settings, they developed a distinctive look that continues to appeal to admirers of beauty and proportion and also to those who enjoy Yankee ingenuity, along with its occasional quirks. With some science and luck and quite a few mistakes, they came to have a luminous, effective technology.
Somehow Maine lighthouses attracted a cadre of keepers who, with their families and other assistants, were remarkable not only for their dedication to the job but for their many acts of bravery and heroism as well as some misbehavior and even madness. Read more about lighthouse bravery and madness.