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Matinicus Rock Lighthouse

matinicus rock light

Matinicus, Maine
Built in 1827


Location:

On Matinicus Rock, about five miles from Matinicus Island, in southeastern Penobscot Bay. Grounds and tower are closed to the public, as it is now a puffin bird sanctuary.

Latitude: 44° 47' 00" N
Longitude: 68° 51' 18" W

 

Historic Stories:

Matinicus Rock Lighthouse lies about 23 miles from Rockland, Maine and five miles from the larger Matinicus Island. Originally built as two lighthouses to accommodate the increasing busy shipping traffic around Penobscot Bay, many of its keepers became ill, some dying, from what many believe was due to the constant cold, damp air and frequent storms sweeping over the island.

Samuel Burgess became keeper in 1853, with his invalid wife, and brought several of their ten children to live with them at the light station. One of their daughters Abbie learned the procedures to tend the light station.

In January 1856, Burgess left in his sailboat to pick up supplies in Rockland, leaving Abbie alone with her mother and younger sisters when a sudden storm surged into Penobscot Bay stranding Abbie and the remaining family at the lighthouse for what would become four weeks before anyone could land on the island safely.

matinicus lights with buildings

Courtesy US Coast Guard

A few days into the storm, Matinicus Rock was practically underwater from the huge swells and Abbie moved her family to the towers while tending the light making sure it stayed lit and operational, then watched as the keeper’s building washed away.

abbie burgess grant

Courtesy of
US Coast Guard

During the four weeks of still surging waves, Abbie, who was only a teenager, tended the light and to her family. With their food supply diminishing, they were down to eating one egg and a cup of corn meal mush before supplies arrived, and when her father was finally allowed to get to the island nearly a month later.

Years later when her father was later dismissed from duty due to political reasons at the time, Abbie stayed on to train his replacement Capt. John Grant, fell in love with his son Issac, married him, and they had four children together on Matinicus Rock. Abbie Burgess Grant is still known as the most famous teenage heroine in Maine’s history.

The second north light was discontinued in 1923, leaving the one south light tower. In 1983, the south light was automated. The National Audubon Society researches and protects the island's seabird population, which includes puffins and terns.

 

New England Lighthouses

 

Places to Visit:

To view Matinicus Rock Light, you need to get to Matinicus Island first, and then take a boat out to the rock. You can contact George Tarkleson, of Matinicus Excursions, at (207) 691-9030. George also provides a water taxi, that can not only take you from the mainland at Rockland to Matinicus Island, but he can also get you to Matinicus Rock Light, about five miles away from Matinicus Island where you can also view puffins and all kinds of birds during the summer months. The boat is custom made for comfort for anyone who uses this service.

Matinicus Rock is maintained as a bird sanctuary especially in the protection of a puffin nesting colony so public boats are only allowed to circle the island but not allowed to explore the island. There are also seals usually found sunning themselves on the rocks. matinicus light towers

Don’t worry, you can get great views of the lighthouse from the boat. Be wary that the lighthouse may be covered in fog or rain, especially during the summer months

Maine State Ferry Service ferries passengers to Matinicus Island only a few times a month, but if you want a rustic vacation away from technology, there are a few bed and breakfast places to stay. Matinicus Island, about five miles away from Matinicus Rock and the lighthouse, provides a quiet sanctuary for those visitors who want a truly isolated island experience. Visitors will also find two large sand beaches and numerous small pebble beaches.

Another way to get to Matinicus Island, you can take a 20 minute plane ride from Penobscot Island Air near Rockland during the summer months to the tiny air strip on the island. From there you can take the island’s only taxi, Mermaid Taxi, (207) 355-3161, to one of the few places you might be able to stay. If you are using your own boat, contact Josh Ames at (207) 366-3937 to secure a mooring.

matinicus island harbor Matinicus Island is an isolated island, about 23 miles from the mainland, few tourists visit on account of its availability to get on the island from shore. There are no amenities but the unpopulated views are worth the trip. The island is about 2 miles long, and about a mile wide. There are no paved roads and you’ll find the few islanders, most of whom are fishermen or lobstermen and their families, who live here are friendly as they wave when they drive by in their pick-up trucks, ATV’s, bicycles, or golf carts.

There are two fairly large beaches, Markey Beach about a ½ mile long, and South Sandy Beach, about a mile long crescent beach. These are unusually sandy beaches nestled between rock formations that jut out into the ocean with very few people around. It’s like having your own private beach. Be wary though, the water temps are very cold, even in the summer. There are plenty of hiking trails, where you’ll find plenty of smaller isolated sandy and pebble beaches, coves, rocky bluffs, open fields, and woodlands, along with many species of birds. There are no restaurants, but one bakery, Eva’s Bakery, at her house, with some great pastries to try. There is a one room school house for island children grades 1-8, usually less than a dozen attend the school. There is a tiny post office, a church, and phone service.

The island’s electricity, due to its remote location, is the highest in the country, so you’ll find everyone hangs their laundry out to dry and there are very few air conditioners in the houses. This picturesque island will make you feel like you've gone back in time. There is no internet so if you are looking for a break from technology, and society as a whole, and to reflect and observe, you’ll find this island a great place to recharge your soul.

Contact Info:
American Lighthouse Foundation
P.O. Box 565
Rockland, ME 04841
Phone: 207-594-4174


 

Local Boat Tour

Matinicus Excursions provides specific charter to Matinicus Lighthouse on Matinicus Rock, along with narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, fishing tours and other types of excursions. The ferry will get you to Matinicus Island, five miles away from Matinicus Rock where the lighthouse is located.

 

Matinicus Excursions
Specializing in chartered lighthouse trips, and special trips around Matinicus Rock, involving bird watching, seals, and other marine life. You can get great views of Matinicus Rock Light from the boat as well, depending on the cooperation of the weather. The boat is customized for comfort for visitors and also can be chartered as a water taxi from the mainland at Rockland, to Matinicus Island, and to Matinicus Rock Light, five miles away from Matinicus Island.

Matinicus Excursions
PO BOx 195
Matinicus, Maine 04851
Phone: (207) 691-9030 (cell phone with voice mail)
Email: gtarkleson@yahoo.com

Departure From Rockland
Journey's End Marina
120 Tillson Avenue
Rockland, Maine

 

 

 

Maine State Ferry to Matinicus
Ferry service to and from Rockland to Matinicus Island, Vinalhaven and Northhaven. Provides trips out to Matinicus Island a few times a month. Be wary of their schedule when you plan a trip. You can then take a five mile ride out to Matinicus Rock Light using Matinicus Excursions mentioned above.

24 Holmes Street
Rockland, Maine 04841
Phone: (207) 691-6030

 

 

 

Scenic Flight

Penobscot Island Air
Chartering a variety of lighthouse viewing flights. They make daily flights that take about 20 minutes to Matinicus Island and supply runs for the islanders, and for tourists.

Knox County Regional Airport
Owls Head ME 04854
Phone: (207) 596-7500
Cellular: (207) 542-4944
Fax: (207) 596-6870
 info@penobscotislandair.net

 

 

 

My 300-page book (with over 360 images), Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England: New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont, published by Schiffer Publishing, provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon, and contact info to plan your special trips. You'll find more detailed accounts of Abbie Burgess's heroic deeds at Matinicus Rock Lighthouse, and her life as a lighthouse keeper.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and attractions

 

 

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