Maine has over 60 lighthouses, and more than 20 are located in the Penobscot Bay area. Some are accessible by land, others are best seen by boat. There’s even a boat trip that visits 15 lighthouses in a day. Crazy!
Hector and I visited a modest total of four lighthouses in the Penobscot Bay area – too many other things to do around here!
One of the most interesting lighthouses, not only because of the structure itself, but how you access the lighthouse was the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was built in 1902 and is still in use today. It originally had a fourth-order Fresnel lens that has been replaced by another optic with a flashing white light. It also has a fog signal.
The really amazing aspect of the Lighthouse is the Rockland Breakwater. Construction began in 1881, and – here come the amazing numbers – they used over 700,000 tons of granite, and the cost (remember this is the late 1800s) was $750,000. The Breakwater was completed 19 years later in 1899. It was built to protect the commercial and working harbor after several big storms caused extreme damage to the inner parts of this Harbor.
Although the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse is best viewed by boat, we, like many others chose to walk the Breakwater. The Breakwater is just under a mile long, and you are walking out to the middle of the bay. The temperature and weather even changes as you approach the Lighthouse. You basically walk on gigantic granite blocks (some with significant gaps in between them) that were placed end-to-end in water up to 70 feet deep. Some folks fish from the Breakwater. It’s an incredible feat.
We chose a sunny day because in bad weather the chilly waves crash over the breakwater and make the granite very slick. It really was a unique experience. We didn’t get to enter the Lighthouse as it was late afternoon – but we had a great view of the town, the harbor and the Owl’s Head Lighthouse at the opposite side of Rockland Harbor.
Owl’s Head Lighthouse was established in 1825, and the present structure was built in 1852. We climbed all 30 feet of this lighthouse which has a great 360 degree view of the Harbor and surrounding area. The Lighthouse has a working fourth-order Fresnel lens with a fixed white light. A fog signal has replaced the original bell. There is also a Lighthouse Keeper’s house used by the Coast Guard. The Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse and Owl’s Head Lighthouse mark the entrance to Rockland Harbor.
The Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde was established in 1832, and the present structure was built in 1857. This lighthouse is an active U.S. Coast Guard aid to navigation with a fifth-order Fresnel lens. This Lighthouse also has a fog signal, and the original bell tower is on display. This was the lighthouse that Tom Hanks ran towards at the end of his cross-country run in the movie Forrest Gump.
The Lighthouse Keeper’s house, originally built in 1832 and rebuilt in 1895 after a fire destroyed the original is now a nice museum highlighting the history of Port Clyde; quarrying, lobstering and lighthouses.
What’s fun about these lighthouses (for those keeping count, I’ll write about the fourth one in next post) is that each has its own “life”, some are said to be haunted, many have been destroyed and re-built, some multiple times. Each one has its own stories to tell. And there are wonderful people working to keep those stories alive.