All American Road Trip: 5 Day East Coast Lighthouse Trip from Maryland to Maine

The Portland Head Lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine, USA. Photographed at sunrise.

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Are you looking for a historic vacation filled with magnificent views and delicious food?

The East Coast is dotted with many majestic lighthouses that have withstood the test of time and witnessed the stories of countless sailors and lighthouse keepers. Unique due to their size, their history or their architecture, some of these guardians of the sea have become national treasures.

Exploring the lighthouses between Maryland and Maine is an excellent way to enjoy historical destinations while also immersing yourself in local cuisine and culture. Whether you love historic landmarks, maritime history, nature, scenic views or fun adventures, there’s something for everyone on this five-day East Coast road trip.

1840s Carrollton Inn located in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo Courtesy of 1840s Plaza

DAY 1 – SEVEN FOOT KNOLL & FRIENDS-CONCORD POINT

After spending the night at 1840s Carrollton Inn, a charming boutique hotel located in the heart of Baltimore, Maryland, start your coastal road trip by enjoying a gourmet breakfast at Miss Shirley’s Cafe. There, you’ll find delicious comfort food in a cheerful atmosphere. Try the decadent funky monkey bread and the mouthwatering homemade strawberry and pineapple biscuits. Ideal for fueling up before a long day on the road!

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse on the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland. Photo Courtesy of Corey Seeman

Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse

Once you’ve finished your feast, time to head to the oldest surviving screw-pile lighthouse in Maryland: the spectacular Seven Foot Knoll Lighthouse. The lighthouse is one of the city’s landmarks and is open year-round. Built in 1856, it was originally located atop Seven Foot Knoll in the Chesapeake Bay before being relocated to Baltimore’s inner harbor. It’s entirely made of iron and particularly famous for its barn red color. These days, it’s home to an extensive collection of artifacts, all telling the story of the lighthouse, the keepers and sailors stationed in the area and life in the Chesapeake region.

Concord Point Lighthouse in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Photo Courtesy of Doug Kerr

Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse

After visiting your first lighthouse, time to hit the road to reach your next destination: Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse. Located 37 miles north in Havre de Grace, Maryland and nestled along the edge of Chesapeake Bay, this fabulous lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Erected in 1827 as a beacon for sailors navigating in the Upper Chesapeake Bay, Friends-Concord Point is the second oldest lighthouse in the state. It was decommissioned in 1975, but it’s now open to the public from April to October. It overlooks the Susquehanna River, providing visitors with stunning panoramic views. And the Keeper’s House has been turned into a museum which allows visitors to experience life as a lighthouse keeper during the 19th century.

After climbing the lighthouse, time for a well-deserved late lunch! Walk along the waterfront promenade on Girard Street and pass the Frank J. Hutchins Memorial Park to reach Abbey Burger. This local favorite offers a wide range of burger options, including shrimp and game burgers, in a rustic pub atmosphere.

Once your bellies are full, head back to the lighthouse to enjoy the picture-perfect sunset.

Note: If you visit in fall or winter and can’t access the inside of the Friends-Concord Point Lighthouse, you can still visit the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, which is open year-round. The museum is rich in artifacts depicting the region’s maritime history, spanning over 10,000 years! And if you’re up for a hike, check out the 4.8-mile Susquehanna Ridge Trail. It will provide you with spectacular views of the Susquehanna River Valley.

N. Washington St. in Havre De Grace, MD. Photo Courtesy of BeyondDC

Where to Eat & Stay

The Vineyard Wine Bar is the ideal place to grab a bite and sip on a delicious cocktail at the end of an adventure-filled day! And to spend the night, we’d recommend booking a room in the quaint Spencer Silver Mansion, where you’ll be welcomed by charming host Carol.

DAY 2 – 1879 HOOPER STRAIT & CHOPTANK RIVER

For the second day of your adventure, start with a copious breakfast at Vintage Cafe on Washington Street. This charming diner has a small-town cafe vibe and oozes nostalgia. The food is made from scratch, and the menu items are all excellent, especially the eggs benedict.

The Hooper Strait Lighthouse at St. Michael’s, Maryland. Photo Courtesy of Amrit Tuladhar

1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse

Once satiated, time to get going. This morning, you’re on your way to 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse, located 94 miles south of Havre de Grace. As you probably guessed, the lighthouse was built in 1879. While it was originally located 40 miles south of St. Michaels in the Hooper Strait area, it was relocated to St. Michaels in 1966. The shallow waters in the Hooper Strait explain why the screw-pile lighthouse has a cottage style.

The Choptank River Lighthouse in Cambridge, MD. Photo Courtesy of Eric B. Walker

Choptank River Lighthouse

After exploring the well-preserved lighthouse, admiring the views of the bay from the top and visiting the museum on the grounds, head 27 miles south (approximately 35 minutes) towards the Choptank River. This is where the scenic replica of the Choptank River Lighthouse stands proudly. Located on the edge of the Choptank River, it used to guide sailors up and down the river and has become one of the landmarks of the peaceful town of Cambridge. Just like the other lighthouses mentioned before, it was built in the screw-pile style that characterizes the region.

Note: If you visit during fall or winter, there’s still plenty to do. Not only can you walk around the lighthouse and take in the scenic views, but you can also explore the awe-inspiring 28,000 acre Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge. This park is a bird sanctuary, and it provides travelers with a wide range of activities, from hiking and fishing to wildlife watching and paddling.

Where to Eat & Stay

Now, if you’re hungry, what better way to fully immerse yourself in the life of a sailor than by eating local seafood? The Snappers Waterfront Cafe is a no-brainer for seafood lovers looking for a one-of-a-kind culinary experience. Whether you choose the original fried crab cakes, the fried jumbo shrimp or the Ahi tuna steak, your taste buds won’t be disappointed.

After enjoying a delicious meal, time to check in to Cambridge House Bed & Breakfast to rest up before another epic day!

DAY 3 – CAPE MAY & FIRE ISLAND

Wake up early and enjoy a tranquil breakfast by the garden at your bed and breakfast before hitting the road. Your first stop is about three hours away at the Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May Point, New Jersey.

Cape May Lighthouse in Cape May Point, New Jersey. Photo Courtesy of Jim, the Photographer

Cape May Lighthouse

Yet another fantastic site listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, the Cape May Lighthouse is still in operation. Its construction began in 1857, and the lighthouse started its operation as a beacon for mariners in 1859.

This iconic landmark is an absolute must-see for anyone on a road trip from Maryland to Maine. So much so that it has already attracted over 2.5 million visitors since it was opened to the public in 1988.

Once you step foot into the lighthouse, you’ll be greeted by information panels depicting life as a lighthouse keeper. And as you climb up the 199 stairs, the story continues with facts and information about life in the region. As soon as you get to the top, you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay. A true feast for the eyes!

And talking about a feast, if you’re hungry, head to the superb Oceanview Restaurant a couple of miles from there. The French toast is to die for, and so is the pork roll breakfast sandwich.

Fire Island Lighthouse in Long Island, NY. Photo Courtesy of Vishwaant avk

Fire Island Lighthouse

Your next and last stop for the day is the Fire Island Lighthouse in Long Island, located 210 miles from Cape May, approximately a 3.5-hour drive.

Completed in 1858, the Fire Island Lighthouse used to be of significant importance as it was the first landfall for transatlantic ships as they were approaching the New York Harbor. That’s because, standing at 168 feet, Fire Island Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse on Long Island and can be seen from more than 20 miles out to sea. It’s so high that, on a clear day, you can see the New York skyline from the top!

The beach nearby is the perfect spot to relax after a long day and enjoy a sip while watching the sunset in this incredible part of the world.

A little slice of beachside Americana in Ocean View, Fire Island, NY. Photo Courtesy of Jenna Rose Robbins

Where to Eat & Stay

If these emotions have made you peckish, head to Island Mermaid for dinner. The popular waterfront restaurant’s menu offers a welcome mix of casual and gourmet dishes and excellent cocktails.

And because you’ve earned a fantastic night’s sleep, we’d recommend staying in Pines Bluff Overlook for a comfortable stay in a private beach retreat overlooking the ocean.

DAY 4 – POINT JUDITH & BEAVERTAIL

Today we’re tackling the long drive first for a fun afternoon filled with lighthouse visits in Rhode Island! Nicknamed the “Ocean State” due to its 400 miles of shoreline, Rhode Island brims with amazing lighthouses and sparkling beaches for visitors to explore!

Point Judith Lighthouse in Narragansett, Rhode Island. Photo Courtesy of James Hatcher

Point Judith Lighthouse

After driving for 3.5 hours, your first stop of the day will be the Point Judith Lighthouse in Narragansett. The lighthouse was built in 1816 and is still in operation, guiding ships navigating in the area.

While the lighthouse is closed to the public, it’s worth the trip as you can still admire the 51-foot octagonal brownstone brick building from the nearby viewing platform located on the beach and enjoy the splendid surrounding views. And while in the area, we’d recommend visiting the charming Port of Galilee and watching fishing boats unloading their catch while enjoying an ice cream. The port attracts tourists from all over year-round due to its authentic New England fishing village atmosphere.

Beavertail Lighthouse at Beavertail State Park, Rhode Island. Photo Courtesy of Jimmy Emerson, DVM

Beavertail Lighthouse

Your second stop will take you to the splendid Beavertail Lighthouse sitting at the southern tip of Conanicut Island, 23 miles from there. Beavertail Lighthouse was built in 1749, making it the third oldest lighthouse in America and the first one ever built in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, it was destroyed during the American Revolutionary War, but a new 64-foot tall tower was built in its place in 1856. And for over 165 years, its beacon has been cutting through the morning fog and guiding ships at night, keeping sailors safe. Once on top of the lighthouse, you’ll be able to soak in the panoramic views over the shoreline and the Atlantic Ocean.

Note: The lighthouse museum is open from May to October. The climb to the top of the lighthouse is allowed on selected days, so don’t forget to check when preparing for your trip. If you visit during the colder months, the waterfront Beavertail State Park is famous for offering some of the most spectacular views of the New England coastline, so don’t hesitate to put your walking shoes on and explore the park. Besides, travelers all rave about the sunset views of the lighthouse, so make sure to stick around if you still have some energy.

Historic 1881 Borden Flats Lighthouse in the middle of the mouth of the Taunton River near Mt. Hope Bay in Fall River, Massachusetts. Photo Courtesy of cmh2315fl

Where to Eat & Stay

After seeing these two beautiful lighthouses and exploring the spectacular surrounding nature, head north to Providence for some food and rest. If you’re after some incredible seafood, check out Hemenway’s. The signature shellfish platter is delightful, and the Alaskan King crab is absolutely divine. For something original, book a table at Los Andes, a delicious Peruvian and Bolivian restaurant. Whether you’re keen to try the Spanish octopus, lobster paella or the empanada de pollo, you won’t be disappointed!

And for a brilliant night to recharge and reset, we’d recommend staying at the beautiful Omni Hotels & Resorts. Its central location and luxury amenities make it the perfect spot to spend the night before the last day of your lighthouse road trip. However, if you’re after a once-in-a-lifetime experience, book a night at Borden Flats Lighthouse. This historic lighthouse was turned into accommodation for travelers to experience life as a lighthouse keeper!

DAY 5 – WOOD ISLAND & PORTLAND HEAD LIGHT

What better way to end your lighthouse road trip than with a little ferry ride to explore the Wood Island Lighthouse?

Wood Island Light is an active lighthouse on the eastern edge of Wood Island in Saco Bay, on the southern coast of Maine. Photo Courtesy of James Hatcher

Wood Island Lighthouse

Located on a tiny island off the coast of Maine, in the Saco Bay and 165 miles from Providence, Rhode Island, Wooden Island Lighthouse will provide for an epic experience. After a 15-minute boat ride from the Vines Landing at Biddeford Pool, you’ll be taken along the majestic boardwalk that leads to the lighthouse by a local guide who will share information about the island, the lighthouse and life as a keeper on the island. And as a bonus, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to spot a whale or two from the tower!

Tours are only available in July and August and only on selected days, so check availability before planning your trip.

Then, head to Sea Salt Lobster for a delightful lunch. The dishes are all made using freshly sourced local seafood, and the craft beers are always a hit with the locals and visitors alike!

Spring Point Ledge Light at Fort Preble in South Portland, Maine. Photo Courtesy of Jason Aarons

Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse

And if you aren’t planning a trip during the summer months, you can skip the Wood Island Lighthouse and visit the popular Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse in South Portland instead. The caisson-style lighthouse is open between May and October and is one of the only lighthouses in Maine, allowing visitors to climb up the tower. And while you’re visiting South Portland, stroll along the Spring Point Shoreway to admire the views of Casco Bay and nearby islands, and visit the Liberty Ship Memorial and the South Portland Historical Society Museum for a trip back in time.

Portland Head Light is a historic lighthouse in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Photo Courtesy of Ken Lund

Portland Head Light

For the last lighthouse visit of the trip, drive to Portland Head Light, located in picturesque Cape Elizabeth, 30 miles away from the Saco Bay and 3 miles from the Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse.

While you can visit the area all year round, the surrounding blooming fields and cotton candy skies make for a spectacular backdrop and photo opportunity during the warmer months. And even though the lighthouse climb isn’t open to the public, you can visit the former Keepers’ Quarters that have been turned into an award-winning museum from May to October. Believe us, the museum is well worth it!

Note: If you’re visiting during the winter months and are up for a historic scenic walk, venture out to see Battery Keyes, Battery Blair, and the Goddard Mansion in Fort William Park. These historic sites are reminiscent of the long maritime and military history of the region.

And this concludes our five-day itinerary to explore some of the most beautiful lighthouses on the coast between Maryland and Maine.


The Great American Road Trip. Photo from our Original Series Venturing Out: Park 2 Park

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