Introducing Monhegan Island
This rocky outcrop is a deservedly popular summertime destination. The small island (just 1.5-miles long by a half-mile wide) was known to Basque and Portuguese fishers and mariners before the English cruised these waters, but it came into its own as a summer resort in the early 19th century. When the cities of the eastern seaboard were sweltering in summer’s heat, sea breezes cooled Monhegan and those fortunate enough to have taken refuge here.
Early in its history as a resort, Monhegan became popular with artists who admired its dramatic views and agreeable isolation. To this day, the island village remains small and very limited in its services. Residents and visitors are drawn to plain living and traditional village life. The few unpaved roads are lined with stacks of lobster traps.
With few motor vehicles on the tiny island, Monhegan is laid out for walking and has 17 miles of trails. Children, in particular, enjoy the southern tip of the island, with its wrecked ship rusting away, lots of rocks to climb, and cairn-art (stacks of stones and driftwood made into fantasy sculptures). The views from the lighthouse are excellent, and its little museum is an amusing diversion.
The island’s environments – natural, social and commercial – are fragile and thus subject to strict rules: smoking and mountain biking are not allowed, and it’s a good idea to carry your garbage with you when you leave (bring a bag).
Unless you’ve made reservations well in advance at one of the island’s few lodgings, don’t plan on finding a room upon arrival. Make sure you take a day excursion from Port Clyde or Boothbay Harbor, and allow yourself at least a half-day to walk the trails over the rocks and around the shore. Stop at the 1824 lighthouse museum for a look at the keeper’s former house.
Be sure to bring a sweater and windbreaker, as the voyage and the coast can be chilly even in August. Browse Monhegan Commons (www.monhegan.com) for more information.