There are lots of historic, photogenic lighthouses to visit in Maine, but none is quite like the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse. This unique and historic lighthouse is perched at the end of a long, granite breakwater in Rockland, ME harbor.
At first sight, one might assume that the 7/8 mile (1.4 km) long granite causeway leading out to the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was built to reach the light. Only, that’s no causeway – it’s a breakwater, and it was here first.
A breakwater is a barrier that is built out into a body of water to help “break the water,” protecting a coast or harbor from strong waves.
Back in the 1850s, the Rockland waterfront was continually battered by severe nor’easters. This seasonal damage limited Rockland Harbor’s potential as a commercial port and a harbor of refuge, and breakwaters were proposed. Congress approved the plan and, by 1899, the breakwater was in place.
A couple of severe winter storms that first year showed that the breakwater needed to be higher. It was also discovered that the breakwater was a bit of a navigational hazard, itself. The solution was the addition of a four-foot-high cap to the breakwater – and the base for a lighthouse at the breakwater’s end.
By 1902, the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse was in place, replacing the light at Jameson Point.
The historic light is still an active, automated navigational guide maintained by the Coast Guard. The lighthouse buildings, however, are owned by the City of Rockland and maintained by volunteers.
Visiting the Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse
The light station includes a keeper’s house and a fog signal building, which is also the light tower. Tours will take you through the historic and beautifully restored keeper’s house. You’ll also have the opportunity to climb to the top of the light for a stunning, panoramic view of the working harbor’s lobster boats and historic schooners.
The Rockland Breakwater is good for a visit even when the lighthouse isn’t open for tours. Many come to watch all the marine traffic in the harbor as well as wildlife like shorebirds, harbor seals, and the occasional dolphin. Don’t forget your camera!
Visitors to the lighthouse should be prepared for a two mile (3.2 km) round-trip hike on the potentially slippery granite blocks of the breakwater. Comfortable, sensible shoes with good, gripping soles are a must. Dress in layers because the temperature drops out on the water and be sure to check the weather before you head off down the breakwater. Never attempt the hike during lightning! Also, be aware that the lighthouse has no running water or bathroom facilities.
Getting to Rockland Breakwater Lighthouse from our Maine coast bed and breakfast, Captain Nickels Inn, is a snap. It would be quite easy to make a pleasant day trip out of this jaunt down the coast. You’ll pass by plenty of attractions in Belfast, Camden, and more.
Simply head south from the Inn on US Route 1 – Main Street here in Searsport – and stay on it for around 25 miles. Once you’ve passed Glen Cove in Rockport, keep an eye out for Warrenton Street on your left. Turn onto Warrenton and follow it as it becomes Waldo Avenue. A little over a mile in, turn left onto Samoset Road and follow it to Marie Reed Park and the parking lot for the lighthouse. The grounds are open from sunrise to sunset.
Updated March 2023