Lob-stah on a Roll

The area from Portland to the Massachusetts border is often called “The Beaches Region” because it has some long strands of sandy beaches that draw many people to play in the beautiful ocean waters. When we arrived the weather was much warmer than it had been in NY but it was still too cold to venture out into the cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean. Officials warned all residents not to go swimming yet for fear of people getting hypothermia. Even though we did not get to enjoy the beaches this time, we did find other fun things to do along the southern Maine coast.

Portland Head Lighthouse

I guess you can tell by now that we love seeing and photographing Maine’s lighthouses. If they are nearby, we try to find them.

One of the most iconic and most photographed lighthouses in America is the Portland Head Lighthouse. This beautiful structure perched on a picturesque cliff is also the oldest one in Maine. Construction began in 1787 under the direction of George Washington. George Washington hired two masons, Jonathan Bryant and John Nichols, to build the tower. They built the structure to a height of 58 ft. but decided that it was not tall enough and made it much taller. At its completion in 1791, the stone and brick lighthouse measured 80 ft. and stood 101 ft. above sea level. A light keeper’s house was added next to the light and today it serves as a museum. Originally the light was fueled by whale oil but it was replaced with a 4th order Fresnel lens in 1855. Today the Coast Guard maintains the aerobeacon and the city of Cape Elizabeth owns the lighthouse and keeper’s quarters.

Across the from the Portland Head Lighthouse in Casco Bay, you can see another lighthouse the Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse. At the north end of the channel leading to Portland’s bay and port, there are a series of underwater ledges that were very problematic for mariners. After many shipwrecks, Congress appropriated funds for the construction of a granite lighthouse on Ram Island. Completed in 1905, this 72 ft. tower remained an important harbor navigational beacon for years. In 1988, this historic lighthouse was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 2010, it was put up for sale to the public and it is now owned by Jeffrey Florman, a resident of Maine.

The Portland Head Lighthouse is within the boundaries of the 90 acre Fort Williams Park. The city also owns Fort Williams. Fort Williams was an important Army post from 1872-1964. You can still visit the batteries and the fort that was active during World War I and World War II. On the property is also the remnants of the Goddard Mansion built in 1853. The Army used this mansion after its acquisition in 1855. Unfortunately a fire destroyed the interior of the mansion in the 1980s. There is a lot to explore in Fort Williams Park but we chose to focus our time on seeing the famed lighthouses there and they did not disappoint.

Ogunquit and Perkins Cove

South of Cape Elizabeth is the town of Ogunquit. It’s been named “America’s Best Small Coastal Town” and its beach is considered to be one of the top 10 beaches in America.

Ogunquit has a long history and its name means “beautiful place by the sea” in the Abenaki language. It is a lovely resort town of some 1,500 residents near the border with Massachusetts. First established as the town of Wells in 1641, it was a center for ship building because they built the first sawmill in 1686. In 1898, the Ogunquit Art Colony was formed near Perkins Cove and this drew many artists to the area. Today, Ogunquit still has an active art community. The art, good restaurants, and beautiful beaches, lure many tourists here from all around to enjoy the sun, the art, and to have fun.

Perkins Cove has a small harbor and it was filled with lobster boats. Near the docks the lobstermen even had dedicated parking places since traffic can be very heavy during peak season. Although it was a warm and sunny day, we were not there during the summer season and we still had to park ¼ mile away and had to pay for parking too.

While visiting Perkins Cove, we decided to sample one of the famous “Lobstah Rolls.” We found a lobster shack called Foot Bridge Lobster and purchased a couple. (They even had a GF bun for Celia!) They were fresh and delicious but were pricey since lobster is not cheap these days. We can now say that we have tried one!

In the 1920s, the town built a scenic cliff trail that connects Ogunquit Beach and Perkins Cove. This trail is about 1.25 miles long and is a great way to see some of Maine’s shoreline. Along the Marginal Way, you will encounter a mini lighthouse called Lobster Point Lighthouse. Winfield C. Littlefield built this small light in 1948 and people enjoy stopping here and taking photos. We did that too!

Nubble Lighthouse

After eating our “lobstah roll” and poking around some the shops in Perkins Cove, we drove farther south to see the Nubble Lighthouse. It’s actually called the Cape Neddick Lighthouse but it sits atop Nubble Island so the locals call it either “the Nubble Lighthouse” or just “the Nub.” In 1874, Rutherford B. Hayes proposed that it be erected on “this Nub of land.” So Congress approved $15,000 for this project. The cast iron and brick tower is 41 ft. tall and sits 88 ft. above sea level and is still in use today. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1985 and it is an example of a classic American lighthouse. The city of York owns the structures on the island now. Unfortunately, there is no public access to the island or the lighthouse. We talked to some local residents and they told us that you used to be able to visit them but it is currently closed.

The southern part of Maine was certainly full of surprises. During our stay, the weather was great, warm and sunny, for this time of the year. David and I got to see the oldest lighthouse in Maine, to sample some of the state’s famed lobster, and to take in some of Maine’s beautiful sites and coastline. Now we are heading farther north to the Mid-Coast region.

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