As part of a series on exploring Downeast Maine, I spent a day touring Lubec, Maine. Lubec is a beautiful town and boasts dramatic scenery to rival any other and is working hard to preserve the natural beauty of the “Bold Coast”.
No trip to Lubec is complete without a visit to Quoddy Head State Park and West Quoddy Head Light which are located four miles off Route 189 (watch for the light house sign).
On your way, keep an eye out for the “Sparkplug”, one of only three remaining cast iron lighthouses left in Maine.
Entering Quoddy Head State Park, the first sight visitors see is West Quoddy Head Light, perched atop a cliff, standing sentry to the often perilous waters of the cold, grey Atlantic.
There have been three lighthouses on this spot. The first was made of wood in 1808 and for obvious reasons didn’t remain standing for too long. The second was made of stone and was replaced in 1858 by the brick structure you see today.
West Quoddy Head Light just celebrated 200 years of lighthouses in the same location. More than 1200 people attended the celebration and enjoyed tours of the tower, music, food, and the annual postal cancellation to celebrate the history of the lighthouse.
There’s a small museum found inside the former Light Keeper’s residence which provides visitors with a glimpse into the history of the lighthouse, its keepers, and the history of Lubec.
The lighthouse has been unmanned since Malcolm Rouse closed the door behind him in 1988. Operations are now fully automated and moisture in the air is what activates the fog horn and light. Museum manager, Debora Bridges, smiled ruefully as she said, “There’s no need for people anymore.”
One can only imagine the lonely existence for the light keepers as they faced the choppy waters and the red cliffs of Grand Manan Island (Canada) miles off in the distance with the mournful cries of sea gulls for company.
There’s more to Quoddy Head State Park: tables and grills for picnickers and four separate trails for hikers (and by now you know I love the trails).
The trails take hikers along the coast, sometimes perilously close to the edges of cliffs and outcrops. The views are stunning, dramatic, and bold.
Of considerable interest is the Bog Trail which is listed as a National Natural Landmark. A boardwalk takes visitors through the ice age bog that’s been 8,000 years in the making. There are signs marking rare plants such as sheep laurel and pitcher plant as well as subarctic species like the baked-apple berry, reindeer moss, and black crowberry.
The trails are, for the most part, very easy going and clearly marked.
Quoddy Head State Park is open from 9:00 a.m to sunset, May 15-October 15. The lighthouse and museum are free of charge although it is important to note the museum is staffed by volunteers and supported through donations. The hiking trails are maintained through a very nominal park entry fee.
I have no qualms in saying no trip to “Lubec, America” is complete without a visit to Quoddy Head State Park.
And one final note: the fog and cool air can move in quickly along the coast so be sure to bring along a jacket, good walking shoes, and of course your camera.