Southwest Harbor Things to Do: Visiting Oldest Lighthouses

On the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, on the south tip of Maine, the tiny town of Southwest Harbor is home to some rich history. Nothing showcases that history better than the lighthouses in the area, which date back to the early 19th century. If you're looking for Southwest Harbor things to do, be sure to put these 3 lighthouses on your list.

Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
44 13 19 N
68 20 14 W

Take 102 to Lighthouse Road to reach this beautiful old lighthouse, first lit in 1858. Serving Bass Harbor, the Lighthouse was originally built for less than $5,000. Sitting on top of a granite cliff, the lighthouse does not have to be as tall as some. Rising only 32 feet from the foundation, it's still more than 50 feet above sea level. The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse has seen many improvements over the years, from a boathouse added in 1893 to a brick oil house added in 1902. The Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse has been automated since 1974 and remains in use today. If you want to visit the lighthouse, the grounds are open to the public, although the lighthouse itself is not. Now inside the boundaries of Acadia National Park, there is a campground nearby the lighthouse if you want to take a break from the comfort of your Southwest Harbor bed and breakfast and rough it for a night.

Bear Island Lighthouse
44 16 59 N
68 16 10 W

Bear Island is part of the Cranberry Isles, which lie just to the south and east of Southwest Harbor. The Bear Island Lighthouse was originally built in 1839, authorized by President Martin Van Buren. The first lighthouse burned down in 1852, and a new one was built the following year. The lighthouse added a fog bell in 1888, during which time the lighthouse and the keeper's house was reported to be very broken down. Subsequently, a new lighthouse was built in 1889. Now automated, the lighthouse continues to function and fulfill its purpose. The Cranberry Isles are not connected by land to Maine, and the best way to add this one to your list of Southwest Harbor things to do is by boat. The lighthouse is not open to the public, so take a day trip out from your Southwest Harbor inn to see this historic building.

Baker Island Lighthouse
44 14 29 N
68 11 56 W

Another island in the Cranberry Isles, Baker Island is one of the largest islands and lies on the easternmost edge of the isles. The island covers close to 123 acres. The Baker Island Lighthouse is one of the older lighthouses in the area, originally commissioned by President John Quincy Adams in 1828 to shed light on some dangerous sandbars and rough coastline in the area. The lighthouse presently standing was built in 1855, after the original structure was declared unfit. The lighthouse was automated in 1966 and became one of a few solar-powered lighthouses. After repeated efforts were stymied by local mariners, the Coast Guard finally shut down the lighthouse in 2002, declaring that the surrounding trees made it to difficult to see the light. The Baker Island Lighthouse is another lighthouse that you really need to be in a boat to see properly, and guided tours are readily available. The lighthouse is not open to the public, but BBonline still recommends viewing it from afar, as one of the many Southwest Harbor things to do.