The islands off the coast of Maine have always intriqued me. After finishing graduate school I seriously considered moving to an island off midcoast Maine. And even though circumstances were such that I made my way to an island of a slightly more urban persuasion, those pine laden rocks has always appealed to my romantic side.
James spotted Mongehan on a map while we were planning our trip to Maine and on closer investigation we realized it was the magical place that my parents had spent a few days visiting last summer. The island is ten miles offshore and just pure magic, as every single person visiting will tell you. In our three-day stay nearly everyone who we met—and you do meet just about everyone on Monhegan—told us that they were repeat visitors, some of them coming year after year for decades. We’re delighted to report we might have also been bitten by the bug.
Here are a few of our favorite stops from our first trip:
Boats leave from a number of different spots along midcoast Maine. We left our rental car behind and took the Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde.
The only traffic you’ll find on Monhegan is an occassional flock of chickens crossing the road. There are no cars on the island, save a fleet of island pickup trucks, so be prepared to be carless for a few days and do plenty of walking. The carlessness is one of the very best parts of Monhegan and signals a slower pace right from the minute you set foot on the island.
PLACES TO VISIT:
Hiking: On an island that’s only about a square mile, you can explore practically every inch without over-extending yourself. We spent most of our time hiking around. Faye took “hiking naps,” strapped into the carrier while we scrambled around on the island’s hiking trails.
You can pick up a trail map when you get to the island and make your way along all of the shady, beautiful trails maintained by the Monhegan Association. Trail #1 takes you along the craggy coastline. We weren’t sure if we’d be able to take Faye along with us on that hike, but there were only a few spots that we decided to turn back and take slightly less steep trails. If fairy houses are your thing (and I hope they are) you can see the best ones on the Cathedral Woods (#11) trail.
Monhegan Brewing Company: We made two stops into the tiny and delightfully delicious brewery on the island. We tried a sampling of their beers, but I returned for the seasonal Berliner Weisse served with blueberry syrup.
Monhegan Light Station & Monhegan Museum: There’s a small museum inside the Mongehan lighthouse that’s worth a stop even if you don’t have a soft-spot for scrappy local history museums like I do. Head back up to the lighthouse at sunset for a beautiful view of the sun setting across the water. $5 entry fee to museum.
Fish Beach & Swim Beach: The names of these beaches are literal—at least for anyone brave enough to brave the chilly water or cast a line. A walk down fish beach will get you fresh fish and lobster to bring home for dinner—or eat beachside. There’s lots of good seaglass hunting to be done, too. Swim Beach was packed with warm-blooded humans in the under-ten set every day that we were there. Faye delighted in the cold water. I nearly got frostbite.
We were too busy hiking on this visit to duck into many galleries, but there are small artist studios—and tons of plein air artists—all over the island. A vibrant community board has notices on just about anything you might want to do, from visiting galleries to taking a yoga class to visiting the adjacent teeny-tiny Manana Island.
Aimless Rambles: Monhegan is a place to explore. We made our way up and down every dusty dirt road that we could find. I have a new-found love of cosmos and black-sashed windows after our trip to the island.
PLACES TO STAY:
The Island Inn: There are a bunch of places to stay on Mongehan, but we really enjoyed our stay at the historic hotel, The Island Inn. It’s a rambly old hotel that sits on a bluff overlooking the harbor. The accomodations themselves were simple and clean. We had a room with a shared bathroom for part of our stay, and it was a slightly more affordable and totally pleasant way to stay at the inn. A delightful breakfast is included in the cost of the room and every morning I indulged in lobster scrambled eggs, blueberry french toast, and peppery roasted potatoes in the beautiful, sunny dining room.
PLACES TO EAT:
Since we were staying at the hotel, we enjoyed dinners out for the three nights that we spent on Monhegan. (We brought our trusty basket with a loaf of bread and peanut butter and jelly for daytime lunching.) For such a tiny place, the dining options are really terrific. The restaurants on the island are all BYOB, so either pack a bottle or two of wine and bring it over or buy at one of the shops on island and tote it along with you to dinner.
The Island Inn: We tried to get in as much Maine seafood as possible on this trip. I had amazing Maine scallops here with potatoes and kale that was crisped to perfection. And James and I shared local mussels. Faye stayed in her highchair for all of ten minutes, which felt like a triumph.
Monhegan House: The dining room at this old inn is gorgeous in its simplicity. James and I both opted for lobster and it did not disappoint. Fresh-from-oven bread stole the show.
The Novelty: To break up the fine dining, we opted for pizza at The Novelty on our second night. It was delicious, affordable, and inventive. This is also the island ice cream spot.
The Barnacle: The Island Inn runs this small shop where you can pick up a bottle of wine before dinner or scones for a quick breakfast.
Reservations at restaurants on the island end on the early side, so don’t plan for anything too late in the evening. But you won’t want to be inside at that hour anyway. We enjoyed beautiful dusky walks around the island after dinner every night. (It gets a little blustery on Monhegan in the evening, so we were glad that we made the last-minute decision to bring along sneaks in addition to our sandals.)
More about our trip to Mount Desert Island, HERE.