Monhegan Island

Monhegan Travel Blog

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The beautiful Monhegan cliffs.

Another splendid island community off of the coast of Maine exists on Monhegan.  This wee speck about ten miles from the mainland is only about one square mile of terra firma, but every inch is beautiful.  Only about a hundred folks live here year round, dominated by lobstermen, lobsterwomen and their families.  During the summer the population climbs significantly due to part timers --- mainly artists who are drawn to this island like a magnet.  Jamie Wyeth has a summer home here and notables such as James Whistler, Edward Hopper and Rockwell Kent all set up easels to capture the aura of Monhegan.

What draws the artists is the back side of Monhegan, where some of the most dramatic cliffs on the East Coast exist.

This is johnnyk's wife on the cliffs of Monhegan...despite his comment, you will note that he brought Jody here after our wedding! *** John Keener photograph, all rights reserved ***
  While only about 150 feet high, the beauty is unsurpassed.  I have a special attachment to these cliffs, because this is where Kim & I got married (yeah, I confess my marriage was on the rocks...).  This is also where we fell in love, as I took her to this island to share one of the few places on the East Coast where you can watch the sun set over the water.  I realize this was a l-o-o-o-ng time ago, but to reinforce how little known this destination is, Kim had been living in Maine for ten years and never heard of this place before I suggested a visit together (I wasn’t living in Maine at the time, just came up occasionally for business, but like any good TravBuddy was always seeking these destinations and had already been out to the island).

You can get out to Monhegan by catching one of three ferries, departing from Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor or Port Clyde.

The cliffs of Monhegan are the perfect place to take the plunge!
  It’s roughly an hour ride from each, although I prefer taking the Hardy Boat Cruises from New Harbor (it was the cheapest, and New Harbor is a pretty spot that gets overlooked).  The ride can sometimes be rough, but never perilous.  When our crew sailed out for the wedding, two Minke whales breached water and frolicking sea otters delighted our friends and relatives --> for most of the party this was their first time to Maine.

One thing that you will miss if you get to Monhegan was the native deer population.  Because there was no hunting, a small population of deer wandered the island without fear of humans.  Encountering these deer during our hikes was one of the endearing traits for Kim & I, and as our wedding procession wound its way through the woods to the cliffs, a doe actually passed through our line and several people got to stroke her muzzle to their utter delight!  Alas, the deer population became infected with lice and for health concerns were wiped out about ten years ago.

Reciting my wedding vows on Monhegan. Note that our wedding official (my buddy Jamie) is suitably attired in his favorite reggae t-shirt and sneakers (with no socks)!

There is no doubt that the island’s allure will immediately capture you as your ferry approaches the town dock.  The harbor is sheltered by a teensy island, Manana, rising starkly just next to Monhegan.  There remains a dilapidated shack on Manana which was the home for a hermit who was this neighbor’s sole resident for many years a long time ago.  From the dock Monhegan rises steeply to the Island Inn, perched beautifully over the harbor. This is the island’s ‘classy’ lodging, and has a nice restaurant, though I have never stayed there.  I have always stayed at the Monhegan House, a delightful ramshackle building with an atmosphere in keeping with the vibe of the island.

You won’t argue with the rates, which are dirt cheap, and I hope you won’t be bothered that there are no locks on the doors.

Further back to afford a glimpse of the stunning setting
  Crime is certainly not a concern on the island.  We had the entire wedding party stay here and held the reception in their breakfast room.....featuring lobster of course!

Pastimes on the island consist of visiting artist shops (pretty much a room in the house of the residing artist) and hiking.  There are actually several miles of trails, but as small as the island is you don’t need to worry about getting lost and they are all easy.  As alluring as the cliffs are, there is magnificence to the island’s interior, dominated by Cathedral Woods.  A mighty pine forest, the locals enhance its charm by building ‘fairy homes’.  A fairy home is a vignette constructed from twigs, rocks and other natural bits lying around.  I can’t begin to share the delight of spying these as you stroll through Cathedral Woods - there are many around, but very subtle and easy to overlook.  Some are quite elaborate and you will likely be lured into adding your own before you exit the woods.

A very special place that remains relatively obscure, even though my friends tell me that a lobsterwomen from Monhegan was on one of those ‘survival’ shows several years ago and almost won (I don’t watch TV so I’m pretty clueless about all of that).  You can absorb the splendor in a day trip (all the ferries arrive around 11AM and depart back to the mainland around 4PM, which affords enough time to hike and peek at some of the artist shops), but an overnight is recommend to truly savor the peace and recharge your soul.

Petra2111 says:
Posted on: Feb 06, 2009
genetravelling says:
thankyou for sharing. i love the way u live/have lived you life. so full of new adventure. and what a great way to get married. in a place where u dont have to lock the doors and eat fresh lobster! sounds like you could have had your 'stag' party here as well....
Posted on: Jul 12, 2008
johnnyk says:

Like driving out into the boondocks and running out of gas. Poor girl would do anything you said to get off that forsaken rock. You must have tricked her into marriage. If I had not seen it with my own eyes.......

Posted on: Mar 05, 2008
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The beautiful Monhegan cliffs.
The beautiful Monhegan cliffs.
This is johnnyks wife on the clif…
This is johnnyk's wife on the cli…
The cliffs of Monhegan are the per…
The cliffs of Monhegan are the pe…
Reciting my wedding vows on Monheg…
Reciting my wedding vows on Monhe…
Further back to afford a glimpse o…
Further back to afford a glimpse …
photo by: vances