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Matinicus Rock Lighthouse

Matinicus Rock lighthouse

Matinicus, Maine
Built in 1827


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.

Matinicus Rock light with both towers, North light was discontinued


Abbie Burgess, Maine's Teenage Hero

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. 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.

A few days into the storm, Matinicus Rock was practically underwater from the huge swells.

early Matinicus lights with buildings

Courtesy US Coast Guard

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.

Nearly a month later after continous storms her father was finally allowed to get to the island, and very grateful that his family survived.

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. Her infant daughter Bessie, died and is buried on the rock. Abbie Burgess Grant is still known as the most famous teenage heroine in Maine’s history.

Just before her death she wrote that if she were ever provided a gravestone, that she would like it in the form of a beacon. Years later, Edward Rowe Snow, known as the "Flying Santa" for his generosity in deliving presents to keepers, placed a replica of a beacon over her grave.

Note: If you’re interested in more details regarding this famous story, select the link "Hero Abbie Burgess" Blog at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories section. For stories about the Flying Santas, select that link.


Matinicus Light towers 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.



Places to Visit:

To view Matinicus Rock Light, you need to get to Matinicus Island first, and then take a boat out to Matinicus Rock Island. You can contact George Tarkleson, of Matinicus Excursions. He also provides a water taxi, that can take you from the mainland at Rockland to Matinicus Island, then 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.

Matinicus Rock South Light tower 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.

There are also seals usually found sunning themselves on the rocks.

Matinicus Rock is maintained as a bird sanctuary especially in the protection of a puffin nesting colony. puffin swimming nearby

Public boats are only allowed to circle the island but are not allowed to explore the island.

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.

There are two fairly large beaches, Markey Beach about a ½ mile long, and South Sandy Beach, about a mile long crescent beach.

sandy beach on Matinicus Island amid rocky shore

Beach on Matinicus Island
Amid Rocky Shore

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.

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, to one of the few places you might be able to stay.

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.

Matinicus Island Harbor There are no paved roads and you’ll find the few islanders, most of whom are fishermen or lobstermen, are very friendly.

The island’s electricity, due to its remote location, is the highest in costs 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 color everywhere. colorful chairs around a wooden shingled house

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. They also offer service to and from Criehaven Island.

Matinicus Excursions
PO BOx 195
Matinicus, Maine 04851
Phone: (207) 691-9030 (cell phone with voice mail)

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


Books to Explore

Lighthouses and Coastal Attractions of Northern New England:
New Hampshire, Maine, and Vermont

This book provides human interest stories from each of the 76 lighthouses in the northern New England states, along with plenty of coastal attractions and tours near each beacon. You'll find stories like the one mentioned about Abbie Burgess's heroic deeds at Matinicus Rock Lighthouse. Contact info provided to be able to get out to Matinicus Island and take the nature tour to view Matinicus Rock lighthouse. 

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions



book of the rise and demise of the largest sailing ships

Available as an eBook and you can get it at Amazon Books.

Look inside!

The Rise and Demise of the Largest Sailing Ships:
Stories of the Six and Seven-Masted Coal Schooners of New England

In the early 1900s, New England shipbuilders constructed the world’s largest sailing ships amid social and political reforms. These giants of sail were the ten original six-masted coal schooners and one colossal seven-masted vessel, built to carry massive quantities of coal and building supplies, and measured longer than a football field!

This self-published book, balanced with plenty of color and vintage images, showcases the historical accounts that followed these mighty ships.



New England Lighthouses: Famous Shipwrecks, Rescues & Other Tales

This image-rich book contains over 50 stories of famous shipwrecks and rescues around New England lighthouses, and also tales of hauntings.

There are more details and imagery provided in the story of Abbie Burgess saving her family, and about the origins and stories of the "Flying Santas".

You'll find this book and my lighthouse tourism books from the publisher Schiffer Books.