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Burnt Island Lighthouse

Burnt Island lighthouse in Boothbay Harbor

Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Built in 1821



Guarding the entrance to Boothbay Harbor on Burnt Island. Some tours out of Boothbay are offered to explore the island and lighthouse grounds.

Latitude: 43° 49' 31" N
Longitude: 69° 38' 27" W

Historic Stories:

Burnt Island Light was one of the earliest lighthouses built in the area to accommodate the increasing business at the fishing port in Boothbay Harbor. Most keepers relished living at the island with its close proximity to Boothbay Harbor.

The lighthouse has technically the oldest original tower in Maine in 1821. Original construction of Burnt Island Light

Burnt Island Light (Circa 1859)
Courtesy National Archives

You see, as Maine was part of Massachusetts until it was granted to become its own state in 1820, and the lighthouse was built in 1821, this change made it the first lighthouse in the new Maine state.

James A. McCobb was keeper from 1868 to 1880. He was a former sea captain who took the position at the age of fifty with his wife Martha. The keeper and his family loved life on the island until Martha died of cancer in 1879. McCobb’s attitude and disposition changed without his wife’s company, and would often complain about the many visitors who would visit the island. When he retired, due to his own health failing in 1880, Freeman Grover, whose descendants still operate Grover’s Hardware Store in Boothbay Harbor, replaced him.

Joseph Muise was keeper from 1936 to 1951. He was originally from Nova Scotia, and also loved life on the island with his wife Anna and their children.

Early Burnt Island Light  
Courtesy National Archives

He was a kind man and would always be happy, like most of the keepers, to help the local fishermen, who in turn would always provide his family with a fresh catch of lobster or fish. During Christmas, Muise’s family became recipients on the route of the “Flying Santas,” first initiated by Captain Bill Wincapaw, then by historian Edward Rowe Snow, who would fly over the island to drop presents for the family. 

Note: If you’re interested in more details regarding the true stories of the Flying Santas, select the link "Flying Santas" Blog at the top of the page to be directed to my Lighthouse Stories blog.

In April 1962, Burnt Island Light became the last lighthouse in New England to be converted from kerosene to electricity, and it became one of the last Maine lights to be automated in 1988.


Places to Visit Nearby:

There are many cruises and tours out of Boothbay Harbor that pass by Burnt Island Lighthouse. water view of Burnt Island lighthouse

A three-hour educational and fun tour is offered twice during the week days in the summer months, with the Balmy Days Cruises providing access to the island. This is all part of the Living History program to educate visitors and have them enjoy the new refurbished lighthouse and keeper's dwelling that now replicate theior construction in the early 1950s. The boat trip takes only 15 minutes out of Boothbay Harbor.

Visitors are grouped together so everyone gets to meet the keeper, his wife, and the children all dressed in the period of 1950. They all help to explain what life was like at the lighthouse in that era (no plumbing..all year round!!??), and about the lighthouse history.

view from Burnt Island light tower

View from Lighthouse Tower

You can explore the island and be taken up the lighthouse tower for some great views of the harbor and nearby islands.

You'll find the keeper's dwelling furnished from the period of 1950, along with buildings and boats as well.

burnt island boat launch as in 1950

Boat Launch Used by Early Keepers

By the way, the actors are actually portraying an actual keeper who was stationed at the lighthouse during the period, Keeper John Muise, his wife Anna, and their four children.

The Maine Maritime Museum also provides tours out of Bath to the area. Maine Maritime Museum grounds

One of the first of its kind exhibits at the museum is a full scale replica of being in the lantern room of Cape Elizabeth light with its original second order lens. The room has a time-lapsed video projection displaying a panorama of the Gulf of Maine that changes with the weather and seasons.

Boothbay Harbor region offers plenty of curio and specialty stores, quaint inlet harbors, with small coastal villages, like Southport, with plenty of local B&B’s to rest in.

Boothbay Harbor boats You will find plenty of boat cruises leaving out of the harbor for fishing, whale watching, and lighthouse tours covering the Kennebec River area and around Penobscot Bay leaving out of Boothbay Harbor.

Take a left on Route 96 from Route 27 in Boothbay and follow it for about 10 miles to the end and you'll be treated to a special area referred to as Ocean Point, where you'll find yourself driving along the edge of where surf meets rocks along the shoreline.

Look closely around the harbor and outer areas and you'll find lots of small eateries, coffee shops, etc., that may appear to be a private residence. It's these little special places that many visitors enjoy coming back to each year.



Contact Info:
Keepers of Burnt Island Light
Private group tours available
For information call: (207) 592-1839
Other tours out to the island provided below

Burnt Island lighthouse overlooking Boothbay Harbor


Local Boat Tours

Boat cruises mentioned below may offer many types of cruises coming out of Boothbay Harbor or the Kennebec River area. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises that pass by the lighthouse, some may pass by Burnt Island Light as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions.


Maine Maritime Museum
Frequent lighthouse tours along the Kennebec River and Boothbay Harbor
243 Washington Street
Bath, ME 04530
Phone: (207) 443-1316
Fax: (207) 443-1665



Cap'n Fish's Whale Watch and Scenic Nature Cruises
Includes lighthouses along the Kennebec River and Boothbay Harbor.
Boothbay Harbor, Maine
Or toll free 1-800-636-3244



River Run Tours
Provides a relaxing chartered pontoon boat for lighthouse excursions.
River Run Tours, Inc.
28 Walnut Point
Woolwich, Maine 04578
(207) 504-BOAT(2628)



Balmy Days Cruises
Offers special lighthouse tours. Provides special access for 3-hour tours to Burnt Island.
Pier 8
42 Commercial St.
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
(207) 633-2284 or
(800) 298-2284



Tidal Transit Kayak Company
Offers various kayak tours including one to Burnt Island Lighthouse.
18 Granary Way
Boothbay Harbor, ME 04538
(207) 633-7140



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 vacations.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and local coastal attractions





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