The only way to get to this island that lies ten miles off the coast of Maine is by boat. Three ferry lines operate daily in high season, roughly June through August, one line running all year. No cars are allowed. Monhegan Island is approximately one-and-three-quarters-miles long and half-mile wide and features seventeen miles of rugged hiking trails that traverse private lands that meander across meadows, onto natural bogs, through tall spruce and fir woods and out to dramatic headlands on the east side of the island.
Do you enjoy the wind whispering through a forest, or love standing on high, rocky headlands above the open Atlantic? Hiking trails out to Burnt Head and White Head are within easy distance for a day visitor and these cliffs tower 160 feet above the ocean. Birds and wild flowers abound and so do the bugs, so bring bug spray.
PLAN YOUR VISIT
Getting there is easy. Monhegan Boat Line runs a 60-minute trip from Port Clyde to Monhegan all year www.monheganboat.com. The seasonal Balmy Days www.balmydayscruises.com from pier 8 in Boothbay Harbor takes 90 minutes, giving you over three hours on the island before the return trip. Hardy III www.hardyboat.com at New Harbor gets passengers there in one hour and offers two trips daily. Parking is provided on the mainland and you need to reserve passage ahead. Lodging opportunities on the island include rooms, suites, apartments, cottages, a couple of B&BS, and many provide breakfast.
Pack a lunch or purchase at Barnacle Café on the dock or North End Market at the village center, which sells groceries, deli-style fare, beer and wine. Monhegan House is open to the public for breakfast. Other dining opportunities include outdoor picnic tables at Shermie’s Fish House on Fish Beach, or sit-down fare at The Scruffy Dog or Island Inn. Packaged lunches to take on your hike are available from Island Inn at the top of the hill where passengers disembark.
The only public toilet facilities on the island are pay toilets located behind Monhegan House, so use the facilities on the ferry boats and, as there are no public garbage cans, plan on packing out your refuse.
TAKE A HIKE
Monhegan Associates www.monheganassociates.org preserves and protects the wild lands; their trail map is available online and from island shops. Because most of the woodlands are thick and uncut, visitors need the map to follow designated trails. Most of the eighteen trails are marked by small numbers on trees and sometimes on rocks at the beginnings and intersections of trails. Trails passing over ledges and cliffs are often marked only with cairns – piles of stones.
Swim Beach beside the wharf is the only safe place to swim, but water temperature is only about 60 degrees in summer. Tides run hard and there is a strong undertow, so visitors are cautioned not to attempt to swim or wade at Lobster Cove or anywhere on the backside of the island.
The trail map lists eighteen trails, showing distance starting at the village, and the level of difficulty for each. A day visit to Monhegan allows ferry passengers about four hours between arrival and departure, plenty of time to take a hike and visit a gallery, shop or the Monhegan Historical & Cultural Museum located beside the old lighthouse built in 1824. Favorite hikes include the moderately difficult Whitehead Trail across the island to the high cliffs on the backside, about 30 minutes from the wharf.
Burnt Head trail is also within easy hiking distance. Beginning with a short, steep climb the trail becomes an easy walk mostly across open meadows to high ledges on the southeast side of Monhegan 140 feet above ocean crashing far below. Other short hiking possibilities include walks to the museum, shops, restaurants at village center and Lobster Cove where lies the wreck of the tugboat D.T. Sheridan.
www.monheganassociates.org – trail map available