Tour The Maine Lighthouse Museum

Maine Lighthouse Museum Fresnel lensesMaritime history and lighthouse enthusiasts will enjoy a trip to the Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, ME. The museum contains a fascinating collection of Coast Guard memorabilia and lighthouse artifacts, including the largest collection of lighthouse lenses in the United States!

Lighthouses are as iconic as they are picturesque, evoking a range of emotions in many of us – and no wonder. They’ve been with us, protecting and guiding mariners, for over 2,000 years.

Maine’s rugged coastline is currently home to at least 65 lighthouses, more than any other coastal state in the country. In fact, there are more than 12 lighthouses within easy driving distance of the our Maine bed and breakfast.

With so many lighthouses on our shore, is it any wonder that Maine is also home to one of the world’s largest collections of lighthouse artifacts?

A Bit of History

The Maine Lighthouse Museum story goes back to 1972 when retired Coast Guard Officer Kenneth Black founded the Shore Village Museum. The Shore Village Museum collection included Civil War memorabilia and both maritime and lighthouse artifacts.

By 2005, the continuously expanding collection had outgrown its old home. The museum moved to its present location and changed its name to the Maine Lighthouse Museum. Joining forces with the Museum of Lighthouse History, formerly in Wells, ME expanded the collection even more, creating the country’s largest lighthouse museum.

Visiting The Maine Lighthouse Museum

Maine Lighthouse MuseumThe Maine Lighthouse Museum is located at 1 Park Drive on the waterfront in historic, downtown Rockland, ME. This is just under an hour from the front door of Captain Nickels Inn.

Inside you’ll find a variety of exhibits of Coast Guard memorabilia, maritime history, and everything lighthouse. You’ll see detailed models of different lighthouse designs, as well as vintage flags, buoys, fog horns, and fog bells.

You’ll also be treated to photographs and tales of famous lighthouse keepers and their families. There’s even an exhibit dedicated to the fascinating and mostly untold history of female lighthouse keepers. Many of the items displayed at the museum are one of a kind and cannot be seen elsewhere.

And, oh, those fantastic lenses!

The Maine Lighthouse Museum’s stunning Fresnel lens collection has no peer. Fresnel lenses were invented in the 1820s by French physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel. A Fresnel lens has many separate glass sections to help disperse the light great distances. Many are quite large. A “first order” Fresnel lens, for example, is about 12 feet tall and about 6 feet wide!

Maine Lighthouse Museum Fresnel lensesThe Fresnel lens collection at the Lighthouse Museum includes a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and many are illuminated. You’ll be shocked at how big, bright, and beautiful they all are.

The building housing the museum is also home to the Maine Discovery Center, with exhibits from museums around the Maine Coast. You’ll also find the Lighthouse Gift Shop and Penobscot Bay Regional Chamber of Commerce. For those who worked up an appetite touring the museum, the on-premises Park Street Grille could not be any more convenient.

Visit the museum website for further information. You can also find the museum on Facebook.

While In Rockland

Rockland, ME is an easy and scenic drive down U.S. Highway 1 from Captain Nickels Inn.

Along the way you’ll pass by many attractions worth your time: Belfast, Camden, a variety of lighthouses, parks, and overlooks. Lighthouse enthusiasts, especially, will want to stop by the unique Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse.

You’ll also find plenty to enjoy in Rockland, ME. The Maine Lighthouse Museum is near restaurants, shops and galleries. It’s also home to a couple of other museums of note: Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center and the Owls Head Transportation Museum.

If you’d like some advice about where to go and what to see during your Maine adventures, just let us know. We’d love to help you plan your day’s itinerary!