One of my favorite adventures while visiting Maine is taking the ferry out to Monhegan Island. While Monhegan Island is only about ten miles off the coast, if feels like you are a world away. It is wild, rocky and rugged.
It is a place where artists go for inspiration, people go to be in nature and where writers go for quiet.
Monhegan Island is just one square mile and is a year-round home to fewer than 65 residents. Cars are banned and the roads aren’t paved.
How to get to Monhegan Island
There are three options to get to Monhegan Island:
- Boothbay Harbor:
- Ferry: The Balmy Days II
- Duration: 1.5 hours each way
- Round trip cost: Adult – $46.00, Child – $13.00, Pets – $???
- At 2:00, they offer a half hour trip around the island (weather permitting), additional $5, cash only
- Port Clyde:
- Ferry: Monhegan Boat Line
- Duration: 1 Hour each way
- Round trip cost: Adult – $42.00, Child – $28.00, Pets – $7.00
- New Harbor:
- Ferry: Hardy Boat Cruises
- Duration: 50 minutes
- Round trip cost: Adult – $50.00, Child – $50.00, Pets – $20.00
We left from Boothbay Harbor on a Balmy Days II cruise. Our ferry left at 9:30 AM and arrived back at 4:15 PM. While that seems like a lot of time, the boat ride was 1.5 hours each way which only gave us about 3-3/4 hours on the Island.
Whichever cruise you take, remember to arrive at the dock 45 minutes prior to departure. Bring an extra layer, as it can be windy and chilly on even the hottest of summer days.
The ride can be bumpy, so if you get motion sickness easily, be sure to prepare. If you would like homeopathic relief, try Sea Bands or chewable ginger. Over the counter drugs include Dramamine (opt for non-drowsy) and Bonine. As a marine biologist, my sister has spent years on boats. Her trick is to take Bonine the night before and the morning of a trip.
You may want to bring binoculars on your trip, because the ride to the island is an opportunity to see quite a bit of sea life! It is common to see Minke Whales and Harbor Porpoises on the journey.
As you disembark the ferry, there is a small general store called the Barnacle where you can get water, snacks and ready made sandwiches.
What to do on Monhegan Island
- Visit the Monhegan Museum of Art & History
- Monhegan Lighthouse
- Monhegan Brewing Company
- Peruse art at the Lupine Gallery
- Look for fairy houses on the Cathedral Woods Trail
- See a real shipwreck on Lobster Cove
- Search for sea glass on Fish Beach
- Take a dip at Swim Beach
- Take a hike!
Hiking Monhegan Island
The best thing to do at Monhegan Island is to go to go on a nature walk. When you disembark the ferry, there will be an opportunity to purchase a trail map. I highly recommend doing this. The cost is $1 (cash only).
There are 17 miles of trails on the island and the map will give recommendations for what you can accomplish during a day trip. The dotted line trails are hikes you can do while making it back to the dock in time to catch your ferry. If you miss your ride home, you will be sleeping on the island.
The Monhegan Associates recommends these hikes for day trippers:
Whitehead (Trail 7): Moderate trail with some climbing, rewarded by panorama of headlands. Take Main Road past the Library and the school, bear right at fork up steep Lighthouse Hill road. Continue past Lighthouse and Museum buildings (see left), across the ball field, into the woods. (about 30 min. steady walking from Wharf.)
Burnthead (Trail 4): Easy trail but difficult climb to get to it. The closest headland to reach from the Village. Ascend steep Horn Hill next to Monhegan House. At top, follow signs on fork to right. Level trail, mostly in meadows, to panoramic views from 140 foot headland. (about 45 min. steady walking from Wharf.)
Lobster Cove: Follow Main Road south to narrow trail which leads to rocky coast and the wreck of the D.T. Sheridan, an old tugboat. Beautiful views, picnic on rocks, but stay well back from surf. (about 30 min. steady walking from Wharf.)
If you are staying over night, there are longer hikes you can take. The Cliff hike, while challenging, will give you magnificent views.
Our kids really wanted to look for fairy gardens and we wanted a view off the cliffs, so we walked up the Cathedral Woods Trail, down a bit of the Cliff Trail, and back down Whitehead Trail. That route ended us right at the lighthouse with a beautiful view over the village. We were able to do it with a comfortable time to get back to the ferry and have lunch.
The Cliff Trail was very steep but the views were amazing. It was the kid’s favorite part of the hike. They said they wanted to stick to “dangerous trails.”
Where to eat on Monhegan Island
The Barnacle– located right on the Wharf, they sell drinks, ready made sandwiches, soups and pastries
The Novelty– located behind the Monhegan House, they sell pizza, salads, sandwiches and ice cream
Monhegan Brewing Company– has a food truck on site, open every day for lunch
The Fish House– casual beachfront lunches and dinners
The Island Inn– opens their dining room to the public for breakfast and dinner. Fine dining with beautiful views.
Where to stay on Monhegan Island
The Island Inn– The most well known hotel on Monhegan, located near the wharf, gorgeous views of the harbor, fine dining
Monhegan House– located in the village center, offers 27 bright, comfortable rooms on four floors with beautiful views of the ocean
The Cracked Mug– lovely guest house on the waterfront
Trailing Yew– a quintessential New England room and board style inn catering to artists and travelers for 90 years
What to pack
Warm layers for the ferry ride, hat, suntan lotion, bug spray, sea sickness medication, binoculars, good walking shoes, water bottles, snacks, cash, trail map, hand sanitizer
While there is a cafe on the island, a backpack style cooler with a picnic lunch and drinks would be ideal. If you are day-tripping, you will be short on time.
Important things to note:
It is a Pack in/ Pack out island. That means that whatever you bring with you, you will be carrying home. Any trash you create will be with you for the day.
Bathrooms on the island are limited. The only public restrooms available on the island are located behind the Monhegan House and there is a fee to use them. I would recommend using the bathroom on the ferry just before getting off. The public restrooms do not have a sink, so bring hand sanitizer.
There are no bikes allowed.
No drones are allowed on the island.
Please clean up after your dog.
Visiting Monhegan Island is such an adventure. The dramatic cliff sides with seals basking in the sun create the most magnificent views. I hope this guide helps you with your trip planning!