Despite our mostly east-facing shoreline, there are many great places to watch the sun go down in Maine. A single list could never compile all of them, and depending on the conditions, a special sunset in your own beautiful location could give you the best picture you’ve ever made. With that in mind, I put together this list for landscape photographers who want to know where to start. Criteria for forming this list include not only locations with a large, open view to the west, but also important landmarks or features that provide great subjects for your photos. Remember that there is a large difference in where the sun sets between summer and winter solstice. In the summer the sun sets to the northwest, in the winter, to the southwest. This has a big effect on photo opportunities at each location.
Marshall Point Lighthouse
Marshall Point Lighthouse in Port Clyde tops the list because of its stunning coastal scenery and wide-open views to the south and west. The classic composition is looking straight down the boardwalk, which lines up nicely with winter’s more southern sunsets. Don’t be afraid to explore however, as great photos can be made that include the porch and elements of the keeper’s house as well as plants, rocks, and ocean surf to make great foregrounds. Stick around after sunset in the summer, and see why Marshall Point has become a hotspot for Milky Way photography at night.
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse
Bass Harbor Head Lighthouse is the place to be at sunset in Acadia. Don’t just take my word for it, ask the dozens of other photographers you’ll be competing with for a prime spot in this very small location. The best time to visit is in fall and winter, when the sun sets over the ocean to the left of the lighthouse. This allows you to get light on the scene during the golden hour. In late spring and summer it sets behind the lighthouse and landmass.
Doubling Point Lighthouse
This isn’t a terribly dramatic location. There aren’t ocean rocks, pounding waves, and you can see the opposite shore of the Kennebec River right in front of you. That said, it’s one of my personal favorites for the quiet, intimate character that other locations simply don’t have. The western view from here makes it a terrific sunset spot. In addition to the “down the walkway” composition, try shooting over the bushes and cattails to get great views of this charming lighthouse.
Lookout Point Harpswell
It doesn’t get more Maine than this. There’s a working lobster pound, boats in the harbor, and two picturesque islands sitting just offshore. That, and the shoreline faces west/northwest, which makes for great light at sunset.
Standpipe Park Portland
For those of you looking for a city location to catch a sunset, this is a great spot. The classic photo has the park benches silhouetted against the sky, but you can also get up close to the edge and capture the cityscape as your foreground.
Maiden Cliff Camden
While you can’t just get out of your car and photograph this location, the short but steep hike here makes for a very rewarding experience. Start climbing this 45 minute hike 2 hours before sunset to give yourself ample golden hour time to photograph. While it’s hard to find a good foreground among the rocks and plants that sit on the side of this dramatic cliff, the view from here is incredible. Below you sits Lake Megunticook, with several islands and lots of fascinating inlets along the shoreline. Across the lake is Ragged Mountain, which hosts a ski slope in the winter. My favorite time to visit is fall, with the trees ablaze in colorful foliage below.
Blue Hill Overlook Cadillac Mt.
Come early to find parking in the summer for this location. A lot of tourists and vacationers know what a great place to see the sunset this is. Many people like putting the classic granite of Cadillac in the foreground, but the curve in the road below the overlook also makes a compelling subject for pictures from this location.
Port Clyde is another great working harbor with views to the west. There aren’t any iconic spots to stand here, which is a good thing. Take your time to explore by walking around the harbor, while being mindful of private property and the fact that people live and work here. Maine’s fishing communities are one of the most unique parts of our culture.
The Bubbles from Jordan Pond
Although it has been done thousands of times already, much like Bass Harbor Head Light, this is one of the best compositions that you can find at sunset in Maine. Put some of the rocky shoreline in your foreground, the two gently curving Bubble Mountains in your mid-ground, and a summer sunset sky in your background, and you’ll likely have a winning image.
Ocean Point Boothbay
Ocean Point faces primarily south, so you won’t get a lot of direct sunset light here, but it’s a nice place to be, regardless. Large ocean waves come in on this exposed peninsula, and a picturesque lighthouse sits just offshore. Watch for lobster boats plying the waters in front of the lighthouse for a nice photo op.
Sand Beach Deer Isle
Sand Beach on Deer Isle is a great location to enjoy a sunset. The west-facing shoreline features large, sculpted rocks and a sandy beach, and the horizon is studded with picturesque islands.
Kettle Cove in Cape Elizabeth is the rare open-ocean location with a great view to the southwest. It’s best to visit in the fall or winter, when the sun sets at a lower angle, but come here any time of year for rocky foregrounds, dramatic surf, and the possibility of great sunset light.
Height of Land
The Height of Land near Rangeley is a dramatic overlook of Mooselookmeguntic Lake and the mountains of Western Maine. You can’t beat the view, but I always find it hard to make a compelling foreground in this location. In June, lupines can help with this, and year-round there is an assortment of trees on the mowed lawn below the overlook.
Fort Foster Kittery
At the extreme southern end of Maine, Fort Foster features some great seascape opportunities at sunset. Come at high tide to avoid most of the the rockweed that can ruin many photos. There’s also a long pier that juts out to the southwest, making a nice subject.
Pine Point Scarborough
Pine Point in Scarborough features an awesome working lobster harbor and plenty of opportunities to capture the trapping of the trade in great light at sunset. This is definitely a summer sunset location, due to the north facing shoreline here. Look for skiffs pulled up on the sand for a great foreground subject.
Land’s End Bailey Island
Land’s End on Bailey Island is strictly a fall and winter sunset location for getting the best light for photography from its south-facing shoreline, but it’s a nice spot to visit any time of year. Look for the great striations in the rocks pointing out to sea here, get low and use them as leading lines. The surf can be spectacular here, as well, so don’t be afraid to venture out in the storm for some dramatic seascapes.