One of Maine’s great icons, the picturesque white-stucco, black-capped Portland Headlight marks the entrance to the namesake city’s busy harbor, and lies just seven miles from downtown in Fort Williams Park. Incredibly, it was built in 1794 and was manned until 1989, at which time an automated beacon was installed. The small century-old keeper’s house now operates as a museum, but most visit for a stroll around the well-maintained grounds and for picnics with an unbeatable view. Head to the rocky ravine to the right of the lighthouse for a bit of sobering history; despite the head’s bright light, many met their fates on the sharp rocks below. The names of sailors and ships, including some from the1800s, are scrawled on the craggy boulders for all to remember.
Insider Tip: Mainely Tours (184 Commercial Street; 207/774-0808; www.mainelytours.com; adults $16, children $10) runs an excellent 90-minute narrated tour of the city with a detour to Portland Headlight. In nice weather, there isn’t a more pleasant way to travel.
Free entrance to park grounds. Admission: $2 adults; $1 children (6–18); free for children under 6.
Park grounds open year-round daily from sunrise to sunset (until 8:30 p.m. in summer); museum open June–October daily 10 a.m.–4 p.m., spring and late fall Saturday–Sunday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.