There’s something iconic about a lighthouse. The proud silhouette, the service, the history. There are seven lighthouses within easy reach of the Kennebunks, including Maine’s two oldest lighthouses, one of which is the Wood Island Lighthouse.
The Wood Island Light is a still active beacon, located at the mouth of the Saco River on an otherwise uninhabited, 32-acre island. Uninhabited if you don’t count the non-humans, that is. The island is home to a wide variety of birds. In fact, the Audubon Society has set aside 30 acres on the island as a bird sanctuary.
Second Oldest Maine Light
The Wood Island Light was established by President Thomas Jefferson in 1808. It is the second oldest lighthouse in Maine and 11th oldest in the nation.
The original tower was octagonal and built of wood. That was replaced by a 47 foot tall granite tower in 1839. That tower was renovated for the installation of a 4th order Fresnel lens in 1858 and, minus a few other small changes, is the light tower you find on Wood Island today.
The light station is located on the eastern point of the island. A two-story keeper’s house (also added in 1858) is connected to the tower by an enclosed passageway. Other structures on the island include a nearby stone oil house and a boathouse a half-mile away on the opposite end of the island. A raised wooden walkway runs between the boathouse and the light tower.
Visiting Wood Island Lighthouse
The Wood Island Light is an active light operated by the U.S. Coast Guard. Though closed to the public most of the year, some do still visit via small craft. Just because a lighthouse is closed to the public doesn’t mean it stops being fascinating and photogenic.
If you’d like a guided lighthouse tour, they are offered during three days a week in July and August, and on Maine Lighthouse Day in September.
Tours take around an hour and forty-five minutes and include a 15-minute boat-trip to and from the island. Once at the island, you’ll walk the half-mile elevated boardwalk to the lighthouse. Here you’ll tour the keeper’s house and grounds, and – of course! – climb the tower.
Climbing the tower involves a steep, circular climb of 60 narrow stone steps. There is a handrail but the climb is definitely not for everyone. Especially when they learn they have to come down BACKWARDS for safety. Those who do make the climb, however, are rewarded with exhilarating views and even more insight into the life of a lighthouse keeper.
Tours of Wood Island Light Station are free but please consider making a donation. All tour proceeds go towards the care and maintenance of this amazing historic lighthouse.
Wood Island Lighthouse
20 Yates Street, Biddeford, ME, 04006
Open three days a week in July and August, and on Maine Lighthouse Day in September. Learn more online at the lighthouse website.
Best of all, Wood Island Light is only a half hour’s drive from our Kennebunkport bed and breakfast, The Captain Jefferds Inn!