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Summer Idyll on Monhegan Island, Maine


The view from the Island Inn on Monhegan towards Manana Island. Credit the Island Inn.

Everett Potter
It had been 10 years since I last set foot on Monhegan Island, so on a sunny morning last summer, with my  wife, daughter and niece in tow, we took the ferry from Boothbay Harbor on the 90 minute trip 10 miles out to
sea to the quintessential Maine island. Monhegan is shaped like a whale, a tidy little island of granite, evergreens and stony beaches with 160 foot cliffs. The handful of inns and guesthouses, shops and homes – just 75 people
live here year-round — are clustered on the sheltered side of the island, looking out at the bare Manana Island. There is a fine little shingle-clad library and maybe a dozen battered trucks on the island, used to haul lobster pots and to transport the luggage of “rusticators” like ourselves from the ferry, on the narrow, gravel roads that double as footpaths.



Monhegan painters at work. Photo by Gayle Conran.

In summer, lobstermen and their families tend to fade into the background as flocks of Sunday painters and a few serious artists arrive, many staying for weeks at a time in those tiny cottages with sea views.

Monhegan cliffs

The sea cliffs on Monhegan. Photo by Gayle Conran.

And why not? The island is one of the most beautiful places on the Eastern Seaboard, offering postcard views everywhere you turn. And it’s colorful — those lobster buoys, the 400 species of wildflower, set against gnarled white pine trees and fields of waving grass, with a backdrop of rolling Atlantic. The houses have picket fences and gardens filled with flowers that have benefited from the morning fog. Lobster pots are stacked against 19th century homes, the sea turns colors you can’t imagine, and the light is sharp ocean light – you are 10 miles out to sea, after all. From the compact hub of humanity on the island, you can branch out on half a dozen paths that bring you to the edge of those cliffs, to ledges where seals bask and make noises, to promontories where you can look for whales. The Monhegan packing list is short: bring a stack of books, a sketchpad, a fleece and your hiking boots.



Buoys. Photo by Gayle Conran.

Monhegan  holds a special place in American art history, having been the part-time home of  Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, George Bellows and Robert Henri. Jamie Wyeth, the youngest of the celebrated Wyeth clan,
owns a shingle-clad home on the island’s southern shore that was originally Rockwell Kent’s.

We did not paint. But we hiked. The girls gathered polished beach glass and rounded stones on the beach. They walked through the darkened Cathedral Woods and found a dozen of the “fairy houses” of twigs and
moss that the island is known for. They worked hard to keep up on what they dubbed “the ruggedy road,” climbing narrow footpaths that offered views that would eventually end, given superhuman vision, on the coast of Spain.
They ate ice cream and they even went swimming in the harbor’s chilly waters, not a sport recommended for anyone over the age of 10.



The Island Inn, Photo by Gayle Conran.
We stayed at the Island Inn, the largest hotel on the island, which has a rocking chair front porch overlooking the harbor. The public areas are comfortable and redolent of the 19th century. Our room was in the annex, the Pierce Cottage, which had a meadow view. A lobster dinner in the welcoming dining room was the way to go. Sunset on the porch goes on and on. And then some. You feel as if you’ve stepped back 80 or 90 years in time here. Which is one of the better definitions of  “summer vacation” that I can think of in the 21st century.

The Island Inn, Monhegan Island, Maine. Rates in summer start at $220 per room, per night, based on double occupancy. Rates from $165 per night with shared bath. All rates include a full breakfast.

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  1. Allison McCoy
    May 25, 2010 at 8:58 am — Reply

    Thank you for publishing this article about Monhegan Island. It brings back memories of my stays there in the 1970’s when even the hotels did not have electricity so we used kerosene lamps. Isn’t it surprising that such a small island has so much variety and isolation and beauty.

  2. Andy
    May 27, 2010 at 3:41 pm — Reply

    I loved my visit to Monhegan 6 years ago. It was like a walk back in time. It was great!

  3. David Wilson
    July 21, 2011 at 9:31 am — Reply

    This brought back such wonderful memories from a trip to Monhegan in 1972. We stayed for two weeks in Port Clyde and made it out to Monhegan one day, when the seas were choppy. I recall wandering about and soaking it all in….

    Need to get back!

  4. July 21, 2011 at 1:27 pm — Reply

    The Island Inn does sometimes offer even better deals. My husband and I went in June, had an immaculate, attractive small room and used either of two bathrooms nearby in the hall. We were able to pay under the prices quoted –and extended our stay because…you know what, a clean bathroom in a hall is not that bad after all. And the whole experience was almost too lovely to describe. We are now scheming how to be able to afford (both time and money) to go back. Oh, and the breakfasts, included in the price,are amazingly good.

  5. Kathie Hoffer
    July 22, 2011 at 8:54 am — Reply

    My husband’s family had a summer home on Monhegan and I was fortunate to have visited for the first time in the 70’s before the house was sold. There was no electricity at the time and I recall some cold showers, but all well worth it to experience the beauty and tranquility of the island. We revisited in the 90’s staying at the Island Inn and had a wonderful time. We did have treacherous crossing from Booth Bay. I would advise waiting for good weather and calm seas.

  6. July 25, 2011 at 12:13 pm — Reply

    How interesting, my brother lives in Maine and mentioned a trip there! Now i’m looking forward to planning for it! Looks and sounds absolutely gorgeous. Thanks for the post!

  7. August 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm — Reply

    My husband made a day trip to the island in the early 90’s then spent 2 nites the following 2 summers and 2 nites the summer after that at the Island Inn . . . what a beautiful and relaxing time we had hiking all over the island to see woods with fairy houses and cliffs that overlook the ocean and the other end of the island with a ship wreck displayed from decades before with views of the water and Manana Island that take your breath away . . . wildflowers galore and lots of birds, visitors each day leaving and enjoying the stunning sunsets from a spot half way up the hill and cheering as the sun set, then sitting on the steps of the store enjoying an ice cream as we people watched and chatted with strangers that weren’t strange ! A treasure of memories and beauty are on this island always waiting for anyone who wants to enjoy.

  8. September 19, 2011 at 2:29 am — Reply

    I truly appreciate this post. I’ve been looking all over for this! Thank God I found it on Google. You’ve made my day! Thx again.

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