It’s a scene out of a picturesque novel. A private island near the granite islands off Maine’s coast. An historic lighthouse. They’re yours for the taking—at least temporarily. And while you head out on an adventure and retreat, you’ll be helping to restore history.
Maine History Remembered and Saved
The Cuckolds Light Station, now home to the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse, was built in the late 1800’s. It was a key part of a busy fishing port, helping to protect mariners as they navigated rocky islets near the entrance to Boothbay Harbor. The station was manned by two lightkeepers until the 1970’s, when the light station was automated. It was later de-commissioned and declared “excess property.” In other words, the U.S. Coast Guard no longer had use for it and it was “doomed for destruction.”
But one couple, Philip Yasinski and Janet Reingold, along with a group of local citizens, set out to save and restore the lighthouse and the property.Their volunteer efforts, along with the purchase of the property deed and help from almost 200 volunteers, are enabling adventure-seeking travelers to experience the tiny island and former lighthouse.
To get there, you will drive through the charming but touristy town of Boothbay, leave the crowds behind, and proceed across a small bridge onto the quiet island of Southport. You will continue along for 3.5 miles down Rt. 238 through the heavily wooded terrain, catching glimpses of the craggy coastline, to 40 Town Landing Road at Cape Newagen, an area that’s a favorite haunt of the marine biologist Rachel Carson, who had a cottage nearby where she wrote her world-changing—although alas, not quite enough—book, Silent Spring. You’ll park your car, check in at the Welcome Center, where you’ll meet the Cuckolds Keepers, and make your way down the dock.
From there, you will board a restored Navy whaleboat, hopefully having timed your arrival with the twice daily 10-12 foot high tide, which is when the boat can most safely navigate the rocky waters. You will take the 15-minute boat ride, possibly holding on tightly depending on the weather, to arrive at your destination, a truly unique, luxury bed and breakfast, known as the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse. An intriguing destination with an intriguing name. (We don’t know the precise history of the name, but we certainly don’t condone that type of behavior – the inn’s remote location notwithstanding.)
With the feel of a modern, “boutique” inn, the B&B is built inside of the restored lighthouse. There’s artwork installed from local artists and high tea is served at 4 pm. There’s even more expected from the non-profit project. Further historical exhibits will be on display in a small museum-style space by May of 2015. A docent will be accessible on the island for tours. And in a small, separate building on the island, seminars and educational programs will be held on topics ranging from marine biology to maritime history to the global economy.
The Reingolds may have bought the property for a dollar, but, to bring the project to fruition, “It took plenty more, and there was plenty of red tape to cut along the way,” Philip explains. The couple notes they’ve worked with more than twenty-one government agencies checking out all that’s been done in the renovations.
Do Something or Do Nothing
Travelers who venture to the island can relax, exploring tidal pools, playing a game of chess, enjoying homemade snacks or home cooked meals. With a 360 degree view of the ocean as well as the mainland and other islands, you’ll likely be inspired by the scenery and have plenty of time to take in the crashing waves as you rest in strategically placed Adirondack chairs.
Off the Island
If you choose to leave the island for a portion of the day, Boothbay Harbor offers options, including harbor cruises, whale watching, and deep-sea fishing excursions. There are art galleries, craft stores, and fresh salt-water taffy and fudge. And for transportation buffs, you may want to check out the Boothbay Railway Village and Antique Auto Museum. Sea kayaking and hiking on nature trails are other options in the area for nature lovers who want a bit more of a challenge. And nearby is the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, billed as the largest botanical gardens in New England. Autumn provides plenty of foliage to take in.
The Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse is about one half-mile offshore from Cape Newagen. While you’re in the area, you may also wish to check out (or check into!) the Newagen Seaside Inn. In addition to being on the registry of historic places, it offers a pool, life-sized outdoor chess and candle-pin bowling, among other activities. Reservations for the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse can be made at www.InnAtCuckoldsLighthouse.
No children are currently allowed to stay at the Inn at Cuckolds Lighthouse as there are too many dangerous temptations—it’s 18 and older only. But here’s a chance to cuddle up with a loved one, spend time with friends, or indulge in adventure and introspection—all in a mini-vacation.