Oh, Monhegan Island, where do I begin? I love traveling to Maine for so many reasons, but what stands out the most for me is what I’ve always known: I love being by the sea. I grew up on an island, fifteen minutes from the Long Island Sound and forty minutes from the Atlantic. Me and islands always get along well, and Monhegan Island was no different.
My parents, Andy, Juno and I started the day in Boothbay Harbor, where we boarded the ferry along with about twenty-five other people (and a few other dogs!). It sounds cliché, but the weather was perfect and we were so grateful. No chance of rain, epic skies, and just chilly enough on the water that I felt justified in bringing along an extra layer (oh, Maine in early summer, I love you).
I love the boat’s brass and wood trim!
The ferry had an upper and a lower deck, but almost everyone remained on the upper deck: that’s where the views were. The captain acted as tour guide during the ninety minute ride through the Gulf of Maine south and west to Monhegan. He pointed out things like Squirrel Island, some dolphins in the distance, and Pemaquid Point Lighthouse.
The bow of the ferry, incidentally, was a nice spot for taking selfies:
Juno wasn’t sure what to think about her first time on a boat, but she laid down for most of the ride, sitting up and getting a bit anxious whenever Andy or I would leave our bench.
After some people napped and others took their fill of photos, we finally arrived at Monhegan Harbor, in the larger Gulf of Maine, which is essentially the Atlantic. The two islands before us were Manana, which is uninhabited (below), and Monhegan, with a population around 70.
Monhegan Island is just 1.75 miles long and .75 of a mile wide, with no cars or paved roads. The closest land is Pemaquid Point, ten miles away, and its isolation makes up a large part of the island’s appeal.
As you can see, the natural beauty of the rocky coastline doesn’t hurt, either.
Monhegan has extremely limited amenities; there is a café and small lodging options, but it’s quite expensive. We packed our lunches and brought in all the water we would need for us and for Juno– in fact, I’m glad we brought a large Thermos of water in addition to four water bottles because our hike certainly worked up everybody’s thirst!
Monhegan has 17 miles of hiking trails. Though we didn’t cover nearly half that, we did climb up to the Headlands and were rewarded with gratifying views of the ocean and the rest of the island.
Our lunch was the perfect midday break. We parked ourselves on the flattest bits of rock we could find and admired the view as we are our homemade sandwiches and some fruit.
The village is the small part of Monhegan where most of the buildings are: homes, artist studios, shops, galleries, and fish markets. We passed by the Lighthouse, which was built in 1854 but has been unmanned since 1959 (lighthouses controlled by computers, tsk!), and opted not to explore the Monhegan Museum of Art and History since it was such a gorgeous day out that who could bear to be indoors longer than necessary?
A favorite sign:
Besides the sea air and be able to see the water from everywhere on the island, I loved how untouched it felt: no billboards, no gas stations, no crowds. I often find that it’s hard to appreciate a destination when it’s got too much going on. The fact that Monhegan is so laid back and quiet just made me wish that we could have stayed longer.
Alas, only one ferry a day operates to and from the island. We hiked, we lunched, we went down to the shore and took in more gorgeous scenery, and then it was time to leave.
Our day on Monhegan was an experience I won’t soon forget. Thanks to my parents for treating us, and thanks to Mother Nature for such a beautiful day!
Planning a visit
*Three different cruise lines arrange rides to Monhegan Island: Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde, Hardy Boat Cruises from New Harbor, and the Balmy Days II from Boothbay Harbor.
*Ticket prices vary depending on your departure point. Dogs are allowed on the Balmy Days II and cost $5. There are restrooms and a snack bar on board the Balmy Days. We departed at 9:30 am and left Monhegan at 2 pm.
*Monhegan Island is a carry-in, carry-out destination. There is no smoking outside of the village.
*Good walking shoes, sun protection, and plenty of water are a must!