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Great Duck Island Lighthouse

great duck island light

Frenchboro, Maine
Built in 1890


On remote Great Duck Island a few miles southeast of Mount Desert Rock Light. The island is used for marine and bird research and grounds are not open to the public.

Latitude: 44° 08' 30" N
Longitude: 68° 14' 42" W


Historic Stories:

This other remote island got its name from a pond in the center of the island that attracted huge crowds of ducks each spring.

The lighthouse was built in 1890 and had three keeper’s dwellings by the side of the lighthouse. This proved quite helpful with one Keeper Nathan Reed, who had one of the largest families to tend a lighthouse with his wife and 17 children. At one time, because of the large number of keepers' children on the island, a small school was established, the only such school for lighthouse children.

Vintage Image Great Duck Island Light
with Additional Buildings Including School House
Courtesy US Coast Guard

A dog that was believed to have survived a shipwreck was found at the island and adopted with the name Seaboy by a little girl who found him on the island. Two years later a fisherman, who claimed the dog as his own, tried to bring the dog back with him. As the fisherman rowed away the dog jumped out of the boat and swam back ashore to the little girl calling for him. The fisherman never returned to try to reclaim the dog and the story became the basis for a popular children’s book Captain’s Castaway.

In early February 1955, a newly appointed Coast Guardsman to the lighthouse, Richard Swartz, found his pregnant wife going into an early labor. At the time the seas were rough and help from a local tugboat could only be docked on the other side of the island. Both Richard and his wife walked for an hour and a half in deep snow to find the boat to bring his wife to the hospital on the mainland where she was given immediate medical attention and proudly gave birth to a baby boy.

The current lighthouse is located southeast of Mount Desert Rock Light and stands 67 feet above average high water. It was automated in 1986. It is estimated that Great Duck Island claims support of over one-fifth of Maine’s nesting seabird population.

Both Great Duck and Mount Desert Rock lighthouses have been the property of Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic for ecological and botanical studies since 1998.



Places to Visit:

Island Cruises offers leisurely cruises that include wildlife tours and lobster trap hauling around Bass Harbor, and cruises to some of the outer islands including the offshore fishing village of Frenchboro. One of their cruises is the Morning Lunch Cruise out to Frenchboro. The island, named Long Island, hasn’t changed and is a welcoming site for those who want to relax and disconnect. The Maine State Ferry offers no frills rides from Bass Harbor to Frenchboro, and to nearby Swan’s Island.

On Frenchboro Island, not only will you be stepping back in time to an old working fishing village, but you’ll find the real deal in an island lobster shack at Lunt’s Dockside Deli, right on the fisherman’s wharf.

Great Duck Island’s remote location is best viewed by boat. It is not open to the public as it is a bird nesting sanctuary, but boat tours from Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company passes close by the lighthouse as part of its 5 lighthouse tour. With a good lens you can get some great images of the island's bird population too.

Back on Mount Desert Island, walk around the resort town of Bar Harbor and its specialty shops and wonderful restaurants, or take in some of the many sightseeing land and ocean tours offered in and outside the region. There are not only lighthouse cruises, but deep-sea fishing, whaling, and sailing excursions as well.



Contact Info:
Bar Harbor’s College of the Atlantic




Local Boat Tours

Boat cruises mentioned below offer many types of cruises. While some may offer specific lighthouse cruises, some will pass by specific lighthouses as part of charters, narrated wildlife and historic tours, ferrying passengers, whale watching, fishing tours and other types of excursions. Contact info is provided to help you plan your special trips to New England’s shorelines. Enjoy!


Sea Venture Custom Boat Tours
Very specific boat tours you can enjoy with a minimum of passengers.
Capt. Winston Shaw
Phone: (207) 288-3355
Bar Harbor, Maine


Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company
Lighthouse and Park Tour of Baker Island and five other lighthouses.
1 West Street
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609
Phone: (207) 288-2386 or 1-888-WHALES-4



Scenic Flights

Acadia Air Tours
Flights from a Biplane or glider. Lighthouse tour includes Schoodic Peninsula, the community of Winter Harbor, the Cranberry Islands, Southwest Harbor, Bass Harbor and four area lighthouses.
Bar Harbor Airport
Trenton, ME 04605
Phone: (207) 667-7627




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. You'll also find a more detailed account about the rescue and care of the dog named "Seaboy" mentioned above.

Look inside!

book northern New England lighthouses and attractions



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