Thursday, August 23, 2012

Monhegan Island, Maine

It was my British nephews first visit to the USA, and we wanted to take them someplace special. Visiting Monhegan Island is like stepping into a Hopper painting (who did indeed once work there). In the two decades since my first visit, the remote island hasn't changed beyond acquiring a cell phone tower and wifi.

The only way to reach Monhegan Island is by boat. Ferries leave twice daily from New Harbor and from a few other ports in Maine. Our 10-mile journey took about an hour. I spotted a couple of minke wales, schools of harbor porpoises, gray seals and seabirds. At the dock, pickup trucks waited to deliver luggage to the inns. The only other vehicles were golf carts as the island is less than 2 miles long.

Most of Monhegan is rocky shore and woods, with 12 miles of trails of varying degrees of difficulty. There are fairy houses and Cathedral Woods. Two thirds of the island is protected as a nature reserve.

Monhegan was once a fishing and trading post for Native Americans and the earliest settlers from Europe. Its remote simplicity now draws artists and vacationers in summertime. The year-round population, including lobster fishermen, is only 60 people.

There is a small school house for island children.

And even a library! 

The Barnacle sells wrapped sandwiches and drinks by the dock. Henry's sister was very pleased with the afternoon tea and her husband found a good sunhat. The kids liked the frappes.

There are only three hotels. The Island Inn, which dates from 1816-1907, is the largest and the most luxurious. Even so, the rooms were small, but compensated by expansive views. Only a few had private baths, and there was no air conditioning. Sea breezes more than sufficed. A covered deck with rocking chairs and sitting rooms with leather armchairs offered pleasant places to read. The restaurant served fresh local fish and lobster, overlooking the harbor at sunset. Even if you don't stay at the Island Inn, it's well worth eating there one night. The Island Inn is a dream hotel from another era.

I woke early to the cry of seagulls and slipped outside to greet the sunflowers. The light has a special clarity to it that has drawn artists to the summer colony for decades. I would love to return with my artbag and time to paint.

With 4 energetic teenagers in tow, we came to Monhegan to hike. The 5 or 6 mile cliff trail took us nearly as many hours to complete. There were easier bypasses, but we wanted a challenge and the panoramic views. The first time my husband and I visited Mohegan, I heard a swooshing sound. Looking down from this cliff, I saw a whale. A second softer swoosh announced her calf. This time we only spotted seals, seabirds and a rotting leatherback turtle corpse. Odd things wash in from the sea.

Under clear blue skies, the ocean sparkled like sapphires, aquamarines and emeralds. This pounding surf has adorned many a canvas, but it's even more stunning to behold in person. Hiking the cliffs felt like flying, but it wasn't scary. The highest point on the island is only 160 feet above sea level.

At the end of the trail, we drank sundowners back at the Island Inn. Can you imagine a better place?


Les said...

Wow, I want to go! I hope your nephews had a good time.

Carol said...

Thank you Sarah for these wonderful images of this magical place. I too want to go . . . and when I do I will follow your lead.

Jacoba said...

Absolutely gorgeous! Such beautiful environment.

☆sapphire said...

What a lovely island! The hotel is very atmospheric. I suppose the whole island and the hotel can star in films. I'm sure you saw lovely sunsets there too. Love the first photo!!

tina said...

You should surely be an ambassador for Maine. Lovely island and beautiful pictures!

troutbirder said...

Now way! What a beautiful and romantic place. I'd love to hike the trails camera in hand....:)

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

No, I cannot imagine a better place. Each photograph looks like a postcard! Beautiful.

Cat said...

Simply gorgeous. I can just imagine your delight at seeing a whale and her calf. That would have lured me back for another vacation too. Beautiful shots of your trip.

Booksnyc said...

I have never heard of this island but it looks absolutely charming. Your photos are gorgeous!

Rose said...

When I saw your first photo, before I read the narrative underneath, I thought immediately that it reminded me of a painting I've seen somewhere. What a beautiful place! I can see why artists would be drawn to this island. Hope your family had a great time!