ELLSWORTH — Maine’s iconic coastal sentinels take center stage during the state’s 10th Annual Open Lighthouse Day, Saturday Sept. 8, in locations from Kennebunkport to Lubec.
This year, 23 lighthouses, including many not usually open to the public, will welcome visitors with free entry on this one day. This family-friendly event, sponsored jointly by the U.S. Coast Guard, the Maine Office of Tourism and the American Lighthouse Foundation, draws between 15,000 to 18,000 visitors annually for an exploration of Maine’s historic lights and the rich history of its lighthouses and lightkeepers.
“Maine Open Lighthouse Day showcases our state’s historic sentinels like no other day of the year, and is a wonderful way to experience the charm of Maine’s coastal communities and enchanting islands,” Steve Lyons, director of the Maine Office of Tourism, said in a prepared statement.
With more coastal lighthouses than any other state, Maine is often referred to as “The Lighthouse State.”
Beginning in 1791, lighthouses were built to help navigate mariners through dangerous waters and Maine’s many small islands, ledges and shoals. By the turn of the 20th century, at least 70 lighthouses guarded Maine’s seacoast, river channels and even one lake.
Today, 66 lighthouses still stand sentry over the Maine coast. But over the decades, these lighthouses have come to be more than just navigational aids. The historic structures that house the lights have become cherished reminders of the hardihood, romance and adventure of Maine’s maritime history.
“The importance of these historic lighthouses to Maine is evident in the dedication of the communities and volunteers who invest in preserving this important connection to Maine’s maritime heritage,” Bob Trapani Jr., American Lighthouse Foundation executive director, said in a statement. “Open Lighthouse Day celebrates these stalwart sentinels and allows the public to see them up close and hear some of their stories from the people who know them best.”
Many of Maine’s lighthouses are accessible by land, some only by boat. Participating lighthouses will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. during Maine Open Lighthouse Day unless otherwise noted. Entry to lighthouses and lighthouse tours are free, with donations optional. Some parking and transportation costs to lighthouses are additional.
Details of the lighthouse visits and a map of map of the participating sites and attractions can be found at lighthousefoundation.org.