A Day on Monhegan Island

by Barb, writing on her porch while gazing out at Boothbay Harbor

I’ve already done one “Day In” post for Boothbay Harbor where my husband and I spend our summers, but I couldn’t resist doing another. It’s hard to believe that we’ve owned this house for twelve years and been coming here for almost thirty, and yet we’d never been to Monhegan Island. Monhegan sits just twelve miles off the Maine coast, and Boothbay Harbor is one of three places–in addition to New Harbor and Port Clyde–where you can catch the ferry to Monhegan during the summer season.

This year, we resolved to do more touristy things while we’re in Maine. Plus our daughter and her husband visited Monhegan on their honeymoon and told us we were crazy if we didn’t get ourselves out there.

Our day started with a ride on The Balmy Days II out of Boothbay Harbor. The ride takes an hour to an hour and a half depending on conditions, and it’s one of those situations where your vacation starts the moment you step on the boat–not when you arrive at your destination. The crowd on the boat was lively and excited–a group of women celebrating a friend’s birthday, a group of men going fishing, and plenty of couples, families and dogs.

Monhegan from the water

Monhegan from the water

You can go to Monhegan for the day, taking the morning ferry out and the mid-afternoon ferry back, but that only leaves you about three and a half hours on the island, so Bill and I had a reservation to stay overnight at the Island Inn, one of two hotels on the island. (There are also several B&Bs and lots of weekly rental cottages.) As it happened, we made our reservation for two of the most glorious days of the summer. In fact, we’ve been joking that we can never go back, because it will never be that perfect again. Though there are very few vehicles on the island, the hotels and cottages send a pickup truck to schlep your luggage from the dock. Even more wonderful, when we got there at 11:00 our room happened to be ready.

The Island Inn

The Island Inn

Lunch: Monhegan has more than twenty artists who will welcome you to their galleries or studios, but only four places to eat. We chose the Fish House Fish Market where you place your order at the counter and sit at picnic tables on Fish Beach. The food was fresh and delicious and the view superb.

The schoolhouse

The schoolhouse

Two-thirds of Monhegan is undeveloped due to the efforts of Ted Edison, the son of the inventor, and the Monhegan Associates. In the 1940s and 50s, Edison began buying up land already divided into house lots and now Monhegan Associates’ land encompasses more than 380 mostly wild acres on which they maintain twelve miles of trails. Being humans of the mostly non-hiking variety, we took the easy walk out of town, visiting galleries and shops as we did and then on out to Lobster Cove where Bill explored and photographed the hull of the D.T. Sheridan, shipwrecked off the coast in 1948. While he did that, I sat on the rock promontory, enjoyed the views of the sea, the rocks and the Rockwell Kent-Jamie Wyeth house.

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On the way back, treat yourself to a cold one and a seat in the shade at the Monhegan Brewing Company, the island’s micro-brewery. Or have an ice cream cone at The Novelty behind the Monhegan House. Everywhere you look will be a delightful feast for the eye, I promise.

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From there we headed back to the Island Inn whose deep front porch and rockers were calling to us. I sat and read a book, looking up to enjoy the views of Manana, the uninhabited island across from Monhegan that forms its protected harbor, as well as the boating activity. We had wine on our room’s little deck, followed by a fabulous dinner at the Island Inn accompanied by a glorious sunset. (You can buy wine on the island, but the liquor laws are convoluted and dinner is BYOB.)

The Lighthouse

The Lighthouse

Our room at the inn had breakfast included and then we set off again. We walked up to the lighthouse, which has an excellent museum as well as a gallery. Bill continued on across the island to Whitehead while I sat outside, admired the stupendous views, and solved several knotty plot problems.

The view from the lighthouse

The view from the lighthouse

Caveats: One thing to keep in mind. Monhegan is actual nature, not a Disney simulation of same. There’s a big sign when you get off the dock warning you that there are no formal emergency services on the island. Many of the trails are challenging, the rocks slippery. Stay above the high water mark, watch for moss, bugs and poison ivy, and don’t go in or near the water anywhere but Swim Beach, since the undertow and currents around the rest of the island mean no one will even try to rescue you if you fall in.

View from Whitehead

View from Whitehead

After we descended from the lighthouse, we had lunch at the Barnacle on the dock and then took a tour around the island on the Balmy Days II before we headed back to Boothbay.

All together a relaxing, visually stimulating and magnificent day in Maine.

[All photos in this post are by Bill Carito. If you like them and want to see more, you can friend him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bcarito and follow him on Instagram at billcarito and bill.carito.colorphotos.]

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About Barb Ross

Barbara Ross is the author of the Maine Clambake Mysteries: Clammed Up, Boiled Over, Musseled Out, Fogged Inn and Iced Under. Her holiday novella featuring amateur sleuth Julia Snowden was published along with novellas by Leslie Meier and Lee Hollis in Eggnog Murder from Kensington Books in October 2016. See her website at http://www.maineclambakemysteries.com
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14 Responses to A Day on Monhegan Island

  1. Lea Wait says:

    Love Monhegan! A small touch of paradise. So glad you were finally able to get there! Once in late August Bob and I were there and saw a bush COVERED with monarch butterflies … taking a rest from their migration. And the fairy houses are magical. So glad you had a great time!

  2. I love Monhegan. Great blog posting, Barb! And great pictures, Bill!

  3. Vida Antolin-Jenkins says:

    How spectacular! Thank you – both for the narrative and the pictures.

  4. jane johnson says:

    What a lovely reminder of very special days on Monhegan. It is a truly magnificent place. Thank you.

  5. Now I want to go! I thought those pictures were paintings. So pretty.

  6. Kim Davis says:

    Absolutely spectacular and Bill’s photos are stunning! I’ve never heard of Monhegan Island but now I want to visit!

  7. I feel like I’ve just been on a vacation! Thank you!

Comments are closed.