Friday, June 7, 2013

Island Hopping in Mid-coast Maine


Island Hopping!
It is soooooo much fun to hop a ferry and imagine what life would be like living on an Island.... whether you take your car along, plan to bike the island, or are an avid hiker, you will find Maine's islands to be full of fun and adventure. Some are well populated while others are not. Some have year-round communities while others swell with visitors "from away" during the summer months. If exploration is your goal then traditional Maine harbors, island lore, and small shops await you .... or a cup of coffee with someone obscure or someone famous... hop onto one of the Maine State Ferries and head to an island.
Along the mid-coast of Maine there are thousands of islands - off the coast and within the bays. Penobscott Bay is where most of the "midcoast Maine" islands are found. Some are quite large while others only big enough for a tiny shack. There are mansions worth tens of millions of dollars to homes for sale at a mere $50,000! What one soon discovers is the economic diversity of island dwellers. The salty fisherman trapping and selling lobsters, hermits escaping the world, wealthy businesspersons, and Hollywood celebrities inhabit Maine's islands. Homes like that of John Travolta/Kelly Preston can be seen online at Architectural Digest magazine. Or homes for sale like that of Kirstie Alley can be viewed on
The best reason to hop to an island is the ride itself - passing sailboats, fishermen, buoys and lighthouses, a 15 min to 1.5 hour ferry ride makes it all possible for a reasonable cost.
If you elect to "Island Hop" be sure to check the Maine State Ferry schedule in advance. During busy summer season, tickets may be harder to come by especially during popular times of the day. Reservations can be made for those desiring to take a car to/from an island at busy times. If you don't need to have your car along, just park it at the ferry terminal and hop on the ferry (ticket in hand). Bring a bike, bring your dog, bring your sense of adventure, but most of all bring your camera!
Each island has it's own character and features. Most have lighthouses. Many have shops and restaurants. Some have trails. Some have villages close-by where the ferry docks though some do not (making hiking, biking, or bringing the car more important).
Where to catch a ferry to island hop?
Midcoast Maine:
Port Clyde -
Penobscot Bay and Altantic Ocean - ferry or mail boat to Monhegan Island (see Monhegan Boat Lines). Monhegan Boat Lines also has nice day trips and 2-hour trips to island-watch for amazing nature (birds, puffins, seals, dolphins). Overnight lodging is available but reservations are essential (with some places booking up years in advance!).
Rockland - Penobscot Bay - two options - ferry to Vinalhaven and ferry to North Haven. For day-trippers who wish to walk (versus hike), go to Vinalhaven. Vinalhaven has small shops, restaurants, and galleries in town close to the ferry dock. For the more "outdoorsy" folks - try North Haven. Overnight lodging available on each island but reservations are essential.
Lincolnville - Penobscot Bay - ferry to Islesboro. Take a bike, a car, or plan to hike (there are no sidewalks or trails so you are "on the road" throughout the island). Overnight lodging is unavailable so plan ahead.

Stonington - Penobscot Bay - mail boat to Isle au Haut (half of which is in Acadia National Park). Plan to walk/hike or take a bike along. Much of the island is unpaved roads and trails. There are a couple of shops. Overnight lodging is typically unavailable - plan ahead!
Southern Maine:
- Casco Bay - Block Island, Bailey Island, and others - some reached by Maine State Ferry services and others by Casco Bay Lines and the local "mail boat" - another great option! Each island has different options so it's best to check for lodging/restaurants/shops/galleries in advance.
Remember that medical services, food, fuel, and other resources are limited on the islands. Plan ahead and plan for changing weather. Do your homework, get the ferry/boat schedule, make reservations, and have tons of fun!!


Cycling Around Mid-Coast Maine

Whether you like to join an organized bike ride like Pedal to the Port (shown above) or Lobster Ride and Roll, mid-coast Maine is a good destination for road bikers and trail bikers. If you don't wish to bring your bike along and decide to cycle once you get here, there are bike rentals available in Belfast, Camden and Rockland. Rent by the hour or by the day (or longer) with touring and trekking bikes available.
Mid-coast places (or nearby destinations/daytrips) to cycle or trek:
Camden Hills State Park (trails)
Acadia National Park (carriage roads or Cadillac Mtn. or Schoodic Peninsula)
Islesboro Island
Vinalhaven Island
St. Georges Peninsula
Blue Hill Peninsula
Camden-Rockport Harbors
Rockland working waterfront
Belfast downtown and ecovillage
Winery to Winery (there are 5 in the area)
Thomaston to Friendship (and back)
Country Roads - Lincolnville to Liberty, Lincolnville to Belfast, Lincolnville to Hope (or Appleton or Union)
Lighthouse to Lighthouse (Rockland Breakwater-Owl's Head-Marshall Point)