The Pine Tree State is home to more than four-thousand islands, give or take a few hundred depending on the tide and just how much rock you think an island makes. Regardless of its size, each Maine island offers a glimpse of a unique way of life, from the vegetation that clings to survival on a windswept sea cliff to the people dishing out ham and eggs at corner coffeshops. And with daily ferry service to more than a dozen of the largest islands, visitors can get a taste of offshore living in even a day trip. The following excerpt, from Enjoying Maine's Islands, by John Gibson, published by Down East Books (paperback; 192 pages; $12.95; www.downeastbooks.com
) edited and updated for 2006, offers tips for making the trek out to sea.The Isles of Shoals
Maine's southernmost sea islands lie within that cluster of rocks, ledges, mounds, and bars known as the Isles of Shoals at the mouth of the Piscataqua River, off Newcastle, New Hampshire, and Kittery. Shared with New Hampshire, the isles comprise Duck, Appledore, Smuttynose, Cedar, Malaga, Star, Lunging (Londoner's), and White islands, the initial five lying within Maine waters, the others belonging to New Hampshire. An article in the July 1898 issue of New England magazine avowed that "Wherever you walk or drive on the seacoast within several miles of the mouth of the Piscataqua, you are confronted, with more or less distinctness and from the most unexpected points of view, by the Isles of Shoals. In clear weather no vessel can skirt the coast without sighting them, and they cannot have failed to attract the attention of all early navigators in the vicinity." Indeed, for navigators and all those who work the sea, the Shoals have long been the lodestones of Maine's southern coast.
Accommodations and Meals
Visitors are advised to bring their own food and water with them.
There are no overnight accommodations on the isles for casual travelers. Please respect the fragile environment of these islands and carry out your trash as you return to the mainland.
The Isles of Shoals Steamship Company (ISSCO) provides regular nine-island tour service in season from its 315 Market Street wharf in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The company offers tours around the isles and trips up the Piscataqua River to Great Bay. The ticket office is on Market Street just off I-95 via the last New Hampshire exit (Exit 7) before crossing the high-level bridge into Maine. From I-95, follow Market Street eastward until you see signs. 603-431-5500 or 800-441-4620 for sailing schedules. Its Web site is: www.islesofshoals.com
Portsmouth Harbor Cruises aboard the Heritage will also tour around (but not land at) the Shoals in summer. Their base is located on Ceres Street on the Portsmouth waterfront next to the tugboats. Parking is available at the nearby municipal garage on "the hill." Contact Portsmouth Harbor Cruises at 800-776-0915 or 603-436-8084. Visit its Web site at www.portsmouthharborcruises.com
Sail Amaryllis also offers sailing journeys around the isles from Portsmouth on a forty-five-foot catamaran. Cruises that anchor offshore of the Shoals overnight are available. Contact 603-205-0630 or visit its Web site at: www.sailamaryllis.com
Local trips to the isles that offer day-trippers an opportunity to land and walk about are provided by Island Cruises. Its boat, Uncle Oscar, leaves from the town dock, off Route 1A in Rye, New Hampshire, next door to Portsmouth. Connect with them at 603-964-6446 or www.uncleoscar.com
. Also ferrying day-trippers to the isles is the Prince of Whales, out of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Its Monday cruises land on Star Island. Try www.welikewhales.com
Star Island Corporation offers boat service to Star Island for its summer conferences, which are open to everyone. Visit its Web site or call 603-430-6272 for more information.
A day around or on the isles requires a trip out in early morning from Portsmouth or Rye, New Hampshire, or Newburyport, Massachusetts, allowing plenty of time for walking along island paths and picnicking on the rocks if you choose to go ashore. A visit to the Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore Island makes an interesting introduction to current marine research.Long Island, Casco Bay
Long Island sequesters itself well up Casco Bay, but in sight of Portland, Maine's largest city. Roughly six miles up the channel, Long may seem close to the city if you gaze toward the southern horizon, but, in feeling, the island carries on in a separate world. Visited before 1600, Long Island was slow to settle, passed through a number of hands, and did not become an active island community until the middle 1700s. The mail boat from Portland stops here a couple of times a day, and one or two other ferries are on a regular passenger schedule, but Long keeps to itself otherwise. A quiet, independent place.
Accommodations and Meals
Those wishing to spend a night on quiet Long Island will find rooms at the Chestnut Hill Bed-and-Breakfast, Beach Avenue, Long Island, Maine 04050, 207-766-5272. The Spar Restaurant on Island Avenue is open seasonally, 207-766-3310.
At the foot of the Franklin Street Arterial at Commercial Street in Portland, Casco Bay Lines runs frequent daily ferry service from its terminal to Long Island. A mail-boat run stops at Long twice daily. On a seasonal schedule, the extended island tour also leaves the Portland terminal for Bailey Island, passing near Long on its way. Sailing times for all services change quarterly. Call 207-774-7871 for information.
Portland can be reached several times daily by interstate bus service (Vermont Transit and Concord Trailways) and via Amtrak's Downeaster rail service from Boston. The Portland International Jetport (PWM) is served by several national airlines from most major U.S. cities. The ferry terminal is a short taxi ride from these various facilities.Great Chebeague Island, Casco Bay
For those who will ferry up the length of inner Casco Bay, Great Chebeague, the Abenaki "isle of many springs," awaits. This more than two-thousand-acre island is the largest of the Casco Bay archipelago, a place of bays and elevations with a sizable year-round population and such amenities as shops, pleasant inn and bed-and-breakfast accommodations, and, yes, even a small golf course.
Accommodations and Meals
From late May until mid-October, visitors will find meals and accommodation at the Chebeague Island Inn in the island's northeast quarter. The inn's dining room is open to the public. The Chebeague Island Inn, 61 South Road, Chebeague Island, Maine 04017, 207-846-5155. Try also the Chebeague Orchard Inn at 453 North Road, Chebeague Island, Maine 04017, 207-846-9488, open year-round. Also open during the summer is the Sunset House Bed-and-Breakfast, 74 South Road, Chebeague Island, Maine 04017, 207-846-6568. The Sunset has moorings available to guests who are boaters. The Island Market and the Stone Pier Variety offer do-it-yourself lunch ingredients and beverages.
Great Chebeague can be visited by taking the Casco Bay Lines ferry from Portland (at the foot of the Franklin Street Arterial at Commercial Street). The mail boat offers a view of all the island communities of the inner bay as it makes its way north to Chebeague. The ferryboats tie up on the island's southwest corner.
An extended island tour also leaves the Portland terminal for Bailey Island on a seasonal schedule, passing near Chebeague on its way. Sailing times for Casco Bay Lines ferry services change quarterly. Call 207-774-7871.
Chebeague may also be more directly reached via Chebeague Island Transportation Company ferry service from Cousins Island. It is necessary to leave your car at the town of Cumberland satellite parking lot on Route 1, and then take the shuttle bus to the wharf on Cousins. The ferry lands on Chebeague's northeast shore at the Stone Pier below the Chebeague Inn.
For the Chebeague Island Transportation Company, call 207-846-3700 or visit its Web site at www.chebeaguetrans.com
, where there are directions and schedules.Peaks Island, Casco Bay
If you stand on Portland's high Eastern Promenade and look seaward, Peaks Island is visible across the broad expanse of Portland Harbor beyond the profiles of House and Little Diamond islands. Peaks is the most populous of all the isles in two-hundred-square-mile Casco Bay. A twenty-minute ferry ride away, it is a residential isle, part of the social fabric of Portland yet apart and with a chiseled personality of its own. The community on Peaks is eclectic and includes everyone from lobstermen and working people of all sorts to retirees, business types, doctors, and lawyers who commute to the mainland. For many years an inexpensive place to live, Peaks was a quiet neighborhood of small houses and summer cottages where you could purchase a cheap fixer-upper within sight of the water. Today it has been discovered, and even its old coastal gun emplacements have been converted into residences. The older community leavens the new, thankfully. The island has maintained its interesting character, and makes an excellent Casco Bay destination on a brisk late winter afternoon or hot summer day.
Accommodations and Meals
The Peaks Island House on Island Avenue has rooms for rent, 207-766-4406. Its restaurant serves meals to the public, 207-766-4400. Hannigan's Market on Island Avenue just above the ferry landing also makes sandwiches, 207-766-2351.
For bike rentals, visit Brad's Recycled Bike Shop on Island Avenue, calling ahead to reserve a bike at 207-766-2628. Kayakers will find lessons and rentals at Maine Island Kayak Company, 800-796-2373 or 207-766-2373. Public restrooms are available at the Community Center building on Island Avenue and near the ferry dock. There are no formal public picnic grounds, but walkers will find many suitable spots on the sea ledges. Please carry out any trash and respect the privacy of landowners.
At the foot of the Franklin Street Arterial at Commercial Street in Portland, Casco Bay Lines (the Casco Bay Islands Transit District) runs daily ferry service from its terminal to Peaks. Frequent direct service to the island takes about twenty minutes. General information on ferry schedules and conditions to all the islands served by Casco Bay Lines is available at 207-774-7871. All sailing schedules are subject to change without notice. Call the local ferry offices to confirm current routes, service interruptions, and schedules.Monhegan
If you stand slightly to the left of Port Clyde's Marshall Point Light and stare southward, miles beyond the ledges and a chain of smaller islands, a great lump of land rears itself in the company of a smaller mound well to seaward. Presuming a clear day when the Nova Scotia Current and the Gulf Stream are not working together to produce some foggy extravaganza, the farther two islands thus seen are Monhegan and its smaller sister isle, Manana. They lie like a great mother whale and her offspring well off by themselves in the deep waters of the Gulf of Maine twelve miles out of Port Clyde.
A lobstering community of long duration, Monhegan is also an artists' hideout, an outpost where many of the famous and not-quite-famous come to paint and seek inspiration. Historically, the island's legendary sunsets and sunrises, its rocky cliffs and sheltered harbor have provided a continuous source of ocean motifs and painterly ideas for the many who come to sketch for a day, week, or whole summer. All of the Maine coast engages the eye, but there are scenes on Monhegan that bear capturing generation after generation. Should you disembark from the Elizabeth Ann at Monhegan one day without a small easel and paints, you may find yourself in an unexpected minority.
Accommodations and Meals
Most people come to Monhegan for the day, but a fair number stay over, some renting cottages and most staying at the several hotels or guesthouses. The Island Inn overlooks the harbor; people sit on its front porch and watch the boats come and go. It also boasts a restaurant open to the public. Its rooms have electricity, and some have a private bath. The Island Inn, Monhegan, Maine 04852, 207-596-0371. Toward the south end of the island, opposite the Community Church, the Monhegan House, a tall, multistoried Victorian residence, offers thirty-three simple, lamplit rooms with shared hall, baths, and toilets. The Monhegan House also has a dining room open to the public. Daily specials are announced on a board by the front steps. Monhegan House, Monhegan, Maine 04852, 207-594-7983.
The Trailing Yew, on a rise farther southward, is an amalgam of buildings with space for sixty guests and the habit of feeding people from other spots on the island as well as its own. If you stay somewhere meals are not served, sign up for your dinner and breakfast at the Trailing Yew. Eating here is fun because everyone sits together at long tables, and you meet a bunch of interesting people. The Trailing Yew, Monhegan, Maine 04852, 207-596-0440.
The Tribler Cottage rents a single room with bath and several small apartments with private bath and cooking facilities. It nestles against the hillside below the lighthouse and is off by itself on a grassy lane above the library. Owner Richard Farrell takes excellent photographs of the island, which he sells. Tribler Cottage, Monhegan, Maine 04852, 207-594-2445. The Hitchcock House uphill on the south end of the island has several guest rooms and one cabin seasonally. The Hitchcock House, Horn Hill, Monhegan, Maine 04852, 207-594-8137.
Two small shops on Monhegan's main road offer snacks and sandwiches and a limited grocery selection, with one providing coffee and wine selections. The Port Clyde General Store, 207-372-6543, behind the ferry wharf on the mainland, is open year-round and has sandwiches, beverages, groceries, and other necessaries. People renting an apartment or cottage on Monhegan should bring the groceries they require with them.
Many visitors to Monhegan travel with the Monhegan Boat Line out of Port Clyde in St. George. The Elizabeth Ann or Laura B makes three trips daily to the island in summer, grazing some smaller islands where you are likely to see large numbers of seals resting on the ledges. Three trips daily, beginning May 26, are made in spring and fall, and the schedule drops to three trips weekly in winter. Reservations are advisable, especially in midsummer and definitely on summer weekends. Monhegan Boat Line, P.O. Box 238, Port Clyde, Maine 04855, 207-372-8848 or www.monheganboat.com
. The Balmy Days II, a tour boat out of Boothbay Harbor, also offers summer runs to the island, 207-633-2284, as does the Hardy III, a ferry making twice-daily trips from New Harbor, 207-677-2026.Matinicus
A wooded island, Matinicus measures approximately two miles long and a mile wide. The island once kept in touch with the mainland via mail-boat service, now discontinued. The trip encountered rough seas, fog, and sudden shifts in weather often as not, and the mail could be held up for days. Today the mail flies and visitors to the island get a fine airborne look at the community before setting foot here. On days when the weather prohibits flying, mail and supplies may get to the island on local fishing boats. The state ferry service runs to the island monthly, and on a more frequent schedule in summer.
People live on Matinicus to fish or lobster, typically the latter, and the island has seen all manner of both over the years. Presently, Island Lobster Company, 207-336-3985, is the sole hub of activity to seaward. Most people on the island have their own traps in waters nearby, and thirty boats in the harbor is not unusual in summer. Supply boats come out from Rockland with support for lobstering and to empty the cars in which lobsters are held for transfer to buyers ashore.
Accommodations and Meals
Some people rent a cottage for a week when they stay on Matinicus, and you will occasionally see 'For Rent' signs as you stroll around. Rentals are sometimes shown on the Web under regional real estate rentals, and an inquiry at the post office, 207-366-3755, well in advance of your stay, may produce some suggestions. Sometimes real estate brokers in Rockland handle rentals on the island, as well. A source for names of those currently offering accommodations for rent is Penobscot Island Air (207-596-7500, www.penobscotislandair.com
). For overnighters, Bill Hoadley's Tuckanuck Lodge has provided accommodations for years to island visitors who don't expect to be pampered. Here you bring your own sleeping bag, food, and whatever else you can't live without. The lodge provides access to its kitchen and sleeping quarters. Tuckanuck rests on the east side of the island not far from the harbor. Tuckanuck Lodge, Shag Hollow Road, P.O. Box 217, Matinicus, Maine 04851-0217, 207-366-3830.
Island day-trippers should always bring food and water with them, as there are no year-round eateries on Matinicus. In summer, stop at Eva Murray's house, 207-366-3695, at the south end of Route 1, turning left at the cemetery. She sells home-baked goods, ice cream, coffee, and soda in the warm months.
Ferry service to Matinicus is most frequent in summer, operating several times each week. For current information and updates on service to Matinicus, call the Maine State Ferry Service in Rockland at 207-596-2202. Crossing time from Rockland to Matinicus is two hours and fifteen minutes. Boats for the island leave from the Maine State Ferry Terminal at the north end of Main Street (Route 1) in Rockland. Parking is available here. The ferry terminal is served several times per day by Concord Trailways with connections to Bangor, Portland, and Boston. Service to Matinicus runs only monthly in the off-season.
Most day-trippers to Matinicus will wish to use the air service from Owls Head. Flight service is provided by Penobscot Island Air, 207-596-7500. Flights to Matinicus depart from Knox County Regional Airport, 207-594-4131, four miles south of Rockland and Route 1. The Knox County airport is served by commuter air service (Colgan Air) from major U.S terminals. Air transport to Matinicus may be interrupted for hours or days when the sea is blanketed with fog. When one island is socked in, another may be open. Keep your flight plans flexible and go where the weather welcomes you.Vinalhaven
Ten thousand acres in area, Vinalhaven boasts roughly 1,200 year-round residents and a substantially larger number in summer. Working islanders are often tied to fishing and tourism. The island centers its activities on Carvers Harbor, where there are shops, galleries, accommodations, and restaurants. This harbor, one might argue, was the hub of trade and transfer for this and dozens of other islands, large and small, nearly two hundred years ago. Boatbuilding and repair facilities line the waterfront. Rural roads fan out across the less settled wooded areas of the island. Walking the island roads or roaming around the several natural areas on Vinalhaven offers a pleasant escape from mainland life.
Accommodations and Meals
Travelers to Vinalhaven will find a variety of island hostelries in and around the village and waterfront, including Rusty Warren's Candlepin Cabins, which rents four log cabins year-round, 207-863-2713. The Payne Homestead, 14 Atlantic Avenue, provides bed-and-breakfast accommodations in traditional surroundings. Contact Donna Payne at 207-863-9963. Phil Crossman runs the Tidewater Motel at the bridge in the heart of the village, 207-863-4618. Or try Phil Roberts at the Libby House, 207-863-4696. For food service, visit Lonnie and Kathy Morton's Harbor Gawker/Millrace in the village, 207-863-9365. Torry Pratt runs the Haven, a seasonal eatery, at the harborside, 207-863-4969. Pam Moore serves at the Pizza Pit and sells pizza and snacks, 207-863-4311.
For local information and updates on service to Vinalhaven, call the Maine State Ferry Service in Rockland at 207-596-2202. Crossing time from Rockland is about an hour and fifteen minutes. Boats for Vinalhaven leave from the Maine State Ferry Terminal at the north end of Main Street (Route 1) in Rockland.
If you would prefer to fly to Vinalhaven, contact Penobscot Island Air at 207-596-7500. Air service is provided to Vinalhaven from the Knox County Airport at Owls Head, off Route 73, four miles south of Route 1 and Rockland. Service is available on call twenty-four hours a day.North Haven
Three miles wide and eight miles long, North Haven is a 5,200-acre community of hidden coves and pretty harbors. The island hugs the Thorofare, a major avenue of waterborne traffic, and boasts two favored harbors, Southern and Pulpit, both attractive sailing anchorages. The Maine windjammer fleet cruises these waters, and many visitors to North Haven get a brief taste of the island on a weeklong cruise out of Rockland, Rockport, or Camden. Sailboats of all sizes crowd the Thorofare in summer, and many islanders race North Haven dinghies to and fro, while the redoubtable ferry service from Rockland comes and goes, carrying cars and passengers.
Accommodations and Meals
On North Haven, Our Place Inn and Cottages at 207-867-4998 offers rentals. For meals, those visiting North Haven should try Brown's Coal Wharf Marina, a restaurant on Main Street, 207-867-4739. In summer, Waterman's Community Center by the ferry landing offers beverages and pastry, 207-867-2100. A seasonal restaurant is open in summer months opposite the Community Center on Main Street. Availability of both accommodations and meals fluctuates considerably with the seasons. It is always wise to call ahead.
For local information and updates on service to North Haven, call the Maine State Ferry Service in Rockland at 207-596-2202. Ferry service is provided three times per day to North Haven year-round. Crossing time from Rockland is about an hour and ten minutes. Boats for North Haven leave from the Maine State Ferry Terminal at the north end of Main Street (Route 1) in Rockland.
Air service to North Haven is available on call from Penobscot Island Air at 207-596-7500. Departures are from Knox County Airport in Owls Head, off Route 73, four miles south of Route 1 and Rockland. Island flight service is available twenty-four hours a day.Islesboro
Islesboro lies opposite the Camden Hills in Penobscot Bay, its long, narrow north-south dimension a familiar dark line three miles out on the eastern horizon. It is a wooded place, very rural in flavor, and with limited visible development. Given its long, thin shape, Islesboro often seems all shoreline, its perimeter a collection of superb harbors and coves. From those sheltered inlets, the views from the island's west side back to the mainland are striking, the hills forming a visual border as far as the eye can see. Except at the ferry landing, two markets, one bookstore-café, and the post office, there are few gathering places for Islesboro's roughly 610 year-rounders. The island seems notably reserved, quiet, and private. Islanders like it that way and seek to keep their domain free of the ugly, honky-tonk clutter found elsewhere.
Accommodations and Meals
The cottage-style Dark Harbor House offers traditional rooms seasonally. Accommodations are simple, television is banned, bathrooms are shared. Several rooms have fireplaces. Dark Harbor House, Jetty Road, Islesboro, Maine 04848, 207-734-6669. The Village Bed-and-Breakfast offers rooms at 119 Derby Road. Call 207-734-9772.
A seasonal lunch counter sells sandwiches and burgers by the ferry landing. The Island Market, operated by David and Linda Mahan, is in the center of the island and offers sandwiches and beverages plus other necessaries. The market is open six days a week, and Sundays as well in high summer, 207-734-6672. There's a deli and lunch counter at Durkee's Market on the northern end of the island. Toward the southern end, the Dark Harbor Shop serves light meals, sandwiches, salads, and ice cream.
Maine State Ferry Service to Islesboro departs from the terminal at Lincolnville Beach on Route 1. The Margaret Chase Smith makes seven to nine round trips daily, depending upon the season. Call 207-789-5611 or 207-734-6935 for local information during normal business hours. The short journey takes about twenty minutes. When purchasing your ticket, be sure to reserve space on a specific return trip if you are transporting a car.
On-call air service to Islesboro is available via Penobscot Island Air at 207-596-7500. Departures are from Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head, off Route 73, four miles south of Route 1 and Rockland. Air service is available twenty-four hours each day.Isle au Haut
Isle au Haut is a place of near six thousand acres, more than half of which are in lands of Acadia National Park. The island is six miles long and less than half that wide, a hilly place of low summits and wooded paths that climb from the sea to striking lookouts. Pretty Long Pond offers fresh water on the island's ocean side near Horseman Point, its waters reportedly stocked with trout and salmon.
Isle au Haut is a rather private place of attractive homes in the vernacular architecture of the Maine coast, homes often used only seasonally. A small fishing community anchors the settlement year-round; a national park center has been established here also. There's a lighthouse, too, built in 1907, that offers limited numbers of guests gourmet dining and sleeping rooms amid unusual surroundings. By reservation, hikers will find primitive lean-to accommodations or tent platforms at the national park site at Duck Harbor, four miles south of Isle au Haut's village center. There are otherwise only a couple of public hostelries on the island, and, unless you have a boat or hire one in Stonington, Isle au Haut is best visited by coming out on the first mail boat (year-round) or Duck Harbor Tour Boat (summer only) and returning on the last trip made by either later in the same day.
Accommodations and Meals
Day-trippers to Isle au Haut may wish to arrive in Stonington on Deer Isle the evening before in order to be on hand for the first boat to the island in the morning. There are a number of motels and guesthouses on Deer Isle. Most are seasonal but several are open year-round. Check with the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce at its Web site: www.deerislemaine.com
For those who wish to spend a night or two or three on Isle au Haut, there are several choices. Summer hikers and kayakers who enjoy camping will request an advance reservation form from the Acadia National Park authority, 207-288-3338. This number also provides weather and trails information. See also www.nps.gov/acad
. Isle au Haut camping reservations can be made by mail beginning on April 1 of each year. The park camping area on Isle au Haut is several miles south of the village on the west side of the island. It features five lean-to shelters. You may also pitch a tent, but it must fit under the canopy of a lean-to. These are carry-in, carry-out campsites, and campers must take their trash back to the mainland with them. Maximum stay is three nights from mid-June to mid-September and five nights in the shoulder season. There is a modest fee of $25 per permit.
Three establishments take overnight guests on Isle au Haut. Jeff and Judi Burke operate the Keeper's House at Robinson Point. This attractive lighthouse-cum-inn offers four guest rooms and a tiny cottage from late May through October. There is no electricity, and rooms are lamp or candlelit. The cottage, once the lighthouse's oil storage building, is off by itself and requires a bit of a walk to showers. Three meals are provided, and local recipes and baking are specialties. The lighthouse, around since 1907, is now a living museum. The Keeper's House has bicycles for guests to use, too. Call 207-460-0257, visit www.keepershouse.com
or write: the Keeper's House, P.O. Box 26, Isle au Haut, Maine 04645.
A fine old mansard-roofed house is the Inn at Isle au Haut, operated from June through September by Diane Santospago. The inn rents four rooms and provides breakfast, a picnic lunch, and imaginative dinners. Bicycles are available for guest use. Contact 207-335-5141, or write: the Inn at Isle au Haut, P.O. Box 78, Isle au Haut, Maine 04645.
Try also Bel's Place, a former local captain's house, which rents two bedrooms with shared bath. The inn looks out over the Thorofare between Isle au Haut and smaller Kimball Island, and serves three meals each day to guests. Bel's Place, 612 Seaside Harbor, P.O. Box 61, Isle au Haut, Maine 04645, 207-335-2201.
Sometimes when booking island accommodations rates may seem expensive. Note, however, that rates in facilities such as these include accommodation for two people plus three meals per day on an island where most foodstuffs must be transported from the mainland. Under such circumstances, rates are actually quite reasonable.
Boat service to Isle au Haut leaves Stonington on Deer Isle daily. The Isle au Haut mail boat, Miss Lizzie, carries passengers and cargo at least twice daily to the island. Extra trips may be made in high season. Reservations can be made by phoning 207-367-6516. Day visitors would do well to take the 7 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. boats outward in summer, returning to shore at 5 p.m. Paid parking is available at the Stonington Dock Company. Bicycles and kayaks may be carried to Isle au Haut for an extra fee.Swans Island
South-southwest of Mount Desert Island, Swans Island floats in the Atlantic, looking from the air like a giant dinner roll out of the middle of which an enormous bite has been taken. A largish six-thousand-acre island amid many smaller ones, Swans perches at the mouth of Blue Hill Bay, awash in muscular, conflicting currents. It is a hilly, ledgy, sometimes even marshy island with serrated north and south shores that greet regular eleven-foot tides, rising to sixteen feet on a spring full moon. Now and then, the tides around Swans have been described as violent. Periodically, they are bolstered by the swift currents that roam from east and northwest, and the wind ruffles the dense, spruce feathers of the wooded island sometimes no less energetically than the sea.
Accommodations and Meals
Many come to Swans just for the day, but, if you plan to stay over, the Harbor Watch Motel in Minturn is open throughout the year and offers accommodations more or less in the middle of the rangy island. The Harbor Watch also rents bicycles, which are an excellent way of getting around this island. Call ahead, especially in summer: 207-526-4563 or 800-532-7928.
Provisions have always been limited on Swans, and this shortage was exacerbated when the General Store in Minturn burned in July 2005. Today Claire's Kitchen on Atlantic Loop Road offers pizza, sandwiches, ice cream, and some groceries. 207-526-4425.
Maine State Ferry Service to Swans on the Captain Henry Lee departs from Bass Harbor at the extreme southwest corner of Mount Desert Island. Local information on these trips can be had by calling the local Maine State Ferry Service office at 207-244-3254 during business hours. There are multiple trips daily to Swans Island year-round from Bass Harbor. When purchasing your ticket, be sure to reserve space on a specific return trip if you are transporting a vehicle. On summer weekends, space for vehicles going to or coming from Swans is taken up quickly. Going out on the first run and coming back midafternoon, rather than waiting for the last return trip, is advisable if you are transporting a car.
Twenty-four-hour on-call air service is available to Swans via Penobscot Island Air at Knox County Airport, Owls Head, four miles south of Route 1 and Rockland, 207-596-7500.Long Island (Frenchboro)
Frenchboro is Long Island's sole community, a village served by a single road with a spur or two, the quintessential island outpost dedicated to fishing. A roundish mound about two and a half miles across, Long looks outward toward the open Atlantic and the Gulf of Maine a modest distance below Placentia and Black islands. With Swans away to the west, this whole cluster of isles rests due south of Mount Desert. Frenchboro supports approximately sixty souls, and then a bit more in summer, all dwelling around the isle's protected harbor along its west side. It has that feeling of smallness and separateness appropriate to a community whose position at sea determines much. One might say that Frenchboro is one of few examples of coastal island life where fishing occupations continue largely undisturbed, and where community life has not been shaped by tourism.
Maine State Ferry Service to Frenchboro on the Captain Henry Lee departs from Bass Harbor at the extreme southwest corner of Mount Desert Island. Local information on these trips can be had by calling the Maine State Ferry Service local office at 207-244-3254.
A single round-trip to Frenchboro departs on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays year-round. Summer day-visitors to Frenchboro should plan to take the Captain Henry Lee from Bass Harbor on a Friday at 8 a.m. and return to the mainland on a second ferry trip at 6 p.m. from Frenchboro. (This twice-a-day Friday service operates from April through November. Starting October 27, return service leaves Frenchboro at 5 p.m.)The Cranberry Isles
Offshore places sometimes take their names from eccentricities of landscape, and this cluster of islands honors that rule. A sprawling cranberry bog of some two hundred acres greeted early arrivals to the largest island here, and the entire group — Great Cranberry, Little Cranberry, Baker, and Sutton — were all soon known as simply "the Cranberries." Along with tiny Bear Island, this collection of outposts was, in 1830, formally recognized by the recently minted Maine legislature as Cranberry Isles Township. This very attractive fivesome lies close to Mount Desert Island off Southwest Harbor and has known human visitation since well before the first landing of Europeans in the region.
Great Cranberry is the largest of the isles, running to two miles in length and a mile in width. The island's 490 acres support a year-round community of about a hundred persons, which grows 400 to 500 percent in summer. There is a small commercial district around Spurling Cove by the ferry wharf on Great Cranberry's northwest corner. There is a summer take-out food service and a year-round general store on the island.
Acadia National Park maintains a museum on Little Cranberry, a 350-acre island community just east of Great Cranberry. The Islesford Historical Museum, open in summer, features sea and shore memorabilia, historic papers, traditional tools, ship models, and other relics of island life. Island shops featuring locally produced crafts are located nearby. Islesford is Little Cranberry's main center and is host to the fishing cooperative and the lobster and fishing fleet that lands catch here. The island has a bed-and-breakfast and restaurant.
At low tide, you can walk across the sandbar from Little Cranberry to Baker Island, but unless you know all the vagaries of local tides and currents, it is better (and safer) to charter a boat from Beal and Bunker, on Great Cranberry Island and Northwest Harbor. The lighthouse first manned by William Gilley still stands here.
Accommodations and Meals
On Great Cranberry, Seawich Café & Cranberry General Store has beverages and sandwich fixings, 207-244-5336.
On Little Cranberry, the Islesford Dock Restaurant provides three meals daily, and offers sandwiches and ice cream at a take-out window with picnic table seating, 207-244-7494. The year-round Aaron & Erin's sells a variety of sandwich fixings and snacks, 207-244-7667.
Lodging is available on Little Cranberry at the Braided Rugs Inn in Islesford, 207-244-5943, and at several seasonal guesthouses.
For those arriving on their own boats, there are rental moorings by the Islesford Dock Restaurant on Little Cranberry; water, gasoline, and diesel are available at the fisherman's co-op dock near the ferry landing. On Great Cranberry Island, Beal and Bunker sells gasoline and diesel. The Cranberry Island Boatyard does repairs and offers yacht storage.
The Cranberry Isles are reached several times daily by Beal and Bunker from Northeast Harbor on Mount Desert Island. Their boat Sea Queen makes a twenty-minute run to both Little and Great Cranberry. The boat offers several trips daily throughout the year, increasing to six trips daily in the high season. Beal and Bunker also runs historic tours to Islesford on Little Cranberry seasonally. For schedules and information, call 207-244-3575.
The Cranberry Isles are also served by Great Harbor Tours on the Elizabeth T out of Southwest Harbor. Contact Captain Storey King at 207-460-5200. Cranberry Isles trips and charters are offered seasonally by Downeast Windjammer Cruises at 207-244-5882, as are trips by Captain John Dwelley at Delight Water Taxi, 207-244-5724.