Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park – Cape Elizabeth, ME

Living many years in Colorado I really miss the ocean, thus on our Northwest Falls Adventure trip I was really looking forward to visiting the oceans and a few lighthouses. The main lighthouse we wanted to see was the Portland Head Light in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  I had seen so many pictures and heard a few stories and couldn’t wait to see it. Happily this was also on our friends list to see during our trip.

Portland Head Light 4

The morning we visited the lighthouse, we stopped at Holy Donuts to eat on way to check out what they were all about. If you haven’t treid one before, you definitely should while visiting Maine. They make their donuts out of potatos. Who knew? lol They were pretty good, but FYI, they heavier than a regular donut.  Anyway, we ate our donut and made our way to the coast. One of the first things I noticed when we pulled up to the area, that it was that the Portland Head Light was part of Fort Williams Park. The area is so spectacular and I loved seeing the ocean again. Watching the waves hit the rocks was also amazing.

Portland Head Light 2

For those who are not familiar with the Portland Head Lighthouse, while in Cape Elizabeth, it is also within Casco Bay in the Gulf of Maine. Completed in 1791, it is the oldest lighthouse in Maine and is automated. The tower, beacon, and foghorn are maintained by the United States Coast Guard, while the former lighthouse keepers’ house is a maritime museum within the aforementioned Fort Williams Park.

Fort Williams Park 1

We walked around the park looking at all the plaques and learned a lot about the park. It encompasses the decommissioned and largely demolished United States Army post.On April 13, 1899 the post at Portland Head was designated Fort Williams in honor of Bvt. Maj. Gen. Seth Williams, a native of Augusta, Maine, as well as a veteran of the Mexican and Civil wars.

Fort Williams Park 3

The fort, which was operational during World War I and World War II, was constructed in 1873 and contained six modern batteries mounting twelve guns and became the headquarters for the harbor defenses.  These guns firing a 12-inch diameter, 1,000 pound shell, had a range of 8 miles. The fired armor-piercing shells on a flat trajectory to breach the heavily protected hulls of battleships.

Fort Williams Park 2

In 1941, Fort Williams became the regimental headquarters for the 240th Coast Artillery. Although never engaged in hostile actions, after the declaration of war on December 8, 1941, the regiments at Fort Williams were in a constant state of wartime readiness with training and alerts intensified. Fort Williams was the last army post in Maine when in closed in 1962.

Portland Head Light 5

According to their website, the Portland Head Light’s original tower measured 72′ from base to lantern deck and was lit with 16 whale oil lamps. It was first lit on January 10, 1791. By 1865, the tower was raised 20′ and a 2nd order Fresnel lens was installed. A portion of this lens may now be seen at the Museum at Portland Head Light. Except for a period between1883 and1885, this lens was in the lighthouse until 1958.

Portland Head Light 3

As a historical note, the Portland Head Light was the responsibility of the United States Department of the Treasury from 1790 to 1852 when management was transferred to the US Lighthouse Board. The Board was reorganized into the Bureau of Lighthouses in 1910. In 1939, aids to navigation became the responsibility of the United States Coast Guard. On August 7th, 1989, Petty Officer Davis Simpson struck the US flag for the last time at the decommissioning ceremony recognizing the automation of the lighthouse. The property was leased in 1990 to the Town of Cape Elizabeth. Three years later, through the efforts of United States Senator George Mitchell, the property was deeded to the Town.

Portland Head Light 7

The United States Coast Guard maintains the actual light and the fog signal, but the remainder of the property is managed by the Town of Cape Elizabeth. On a side note: the lighthouse tower is only open to the public one day per year, on Maine Open Lighthouse Day. Apparently the date changes each year, but in 2024 it will be September 14th.  It is kind of sad that it is open only one day a year.

Portland Head Light 6

My friend and I had a great time exploring the gift shop and buying a few trinkets. I bought a cute little Portland Head Light souvenir as well as a shot glass which cracked me up. It has things about Maine on the outside, and on the inside, there is a lobster trying to crawl out. Can’t really use it as a shot glass, but it is adorable. The park also has a museum but it was closed during our visit. Sadly the guys were looking forward to doing that while we were shopping. However we had a great time walking around taking a bunch of pictures and just enjoying the views. It was beautiful to see and the area is again, gorgeous.  Here is their website again, if you would like to plan your own trip. Please let us know if you have visited and share your experience.

Portland Head Light and Fort Williams Park Visitor Information


1000 Shore Road Cape Elizabeth, ME 04107




Fort Williams Park is open year-round from sunrise to sunset.  The museum and gift shop have different hours depending on the time of year. Check this link for the latest updates on hours, etc.


The park is free to enjoy, although donations are appreciated.


If you’re driving from the north or Interstate 295 in Portland, take Route 77 south to South Portland. Then, take a left on Broadway and a right on Cottage Road, and continue driving for 2 miles until you reach the entrance of the park. At the Cape Elizabeth town line, Cottage Road becomes Shore Road.

If you’re approaching from the south, drive on Route 1 north to Oak Hill in Scarborough. Then, turn right on Route 207 and left on Route 77 north to Cape Elizabeth. At the flashing blinker, take a right onto Shore Road. The park entrance is 2.4 miles away from the Shore Road/Route 77 intersection.


From April 1 to November 15, there is a fee for parking in premium spaces in the park. Free parking is available in the Overflow Lot.






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