Visiting one of Penobscot Bay’s many islands makes for a spectacular and memorable day any time of year. Islesboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven, and Matinicus are accessible by regular ferry service, departing from either Lincolnville or Rockland. Monhegan Island, a famous artists’ haunt, is accessible via the mailboat from Port Clyde, at the tip of the St. George Peninsula. All of the ferries have indoor and outdoor seating options. The scenic ride out to the islands is part of the adventure; seeing the Maine coast from the water is not to be missed!
The closest island of the five is Islesboro: ferries depart from Lincolnville Beach several times per day, seven days per week — with greater frequency from spring through early autumn. Only three miles off the coast, getting to Islesboro is a quick and scenic 20-minute ride, and less than $10 round trip. Islesboro includes the villages of Dark Harbor, Pripet, North Islesboro, Warren Island State Park, and Spragues Beach — located near Turtle Head. Islesboro is also home to the Sailors’ Memorial Museum — located in the former keepers’ house at Grindle Point Lighthouse. Biking is a fabulous way to see more of the island; rent bikes on the mainland and bring them over on the ferry (there’s usually an extra charge for each bicycle).
Ferries depart daily to Vinalhaven and North Haven, two of the Fox Islands, from the ferry terminal in Rockland. Both rides are a bit over an hour. Vinalhaven is a noted lobster fishing community and also home to Brown’s Head Light. Heron Neck Lighthouse, Saddleback Ledge Light, and Lane’s Island Preserve are also nearby. The Tidewater Motel, located near the ferry terminal, rents single-speed bikes ($15/day) as well as canoes and kayaks ($25/day). If you’re interested in a bit of history, the Vinalhaven Historical Society has an extensive collection of photos and genealogical records, as well as artifacts from the Civil War era. Notable on North Haven are the Calderwood Hall Gallery, nearby Goose Rocks Light, and the North Haven Historical Society & Museum.
Ferries to Matinicus from Rockland are less frequent, three to four times per month from April through October. Twenty miles from Rockland, Matinicus means “far-out island” — the ferry ride is two hours and fifteen minutes. There are ten major fishing grounds around Matinicus Isle and Matinicus Rock Light and Criehaven are nearby. Weather on Matinicus is notably unpredictable.
Monhegan is both an artists’ haven and a highly active fishing and lobstering community. Ten miles from the nearest mainland, Monhegan is the definition of tranquil: there are no cars or paved roads on the island and the population seldom exceeds 65. Although Monhegan is scarcely a square mile, visitors can access 17 miles of hiking trails, one of which traces the parameter of the island; also look for Monhegan’s infamous fairy houses as you hike along the trails. Passengers board the mailboat in Port Clyde, which departs between once and three times daily, depending on the season.