At the turn of the 20th century, 300 of Maine’s 3,000-plus coastal islands hosted thriving year-round communities. Today, just 15 true island communities remain, and six of them are right here in Penobscot Bay — that’s the greatest concentration of ferry-accessible islands in the state. These communities, along with scores of smaller islands that may host a OUR single private cottage, a summer colony, or seagulls, cormorants, and seals, but not a single human soul, distinguish our slice of Maine’s coast.
So do lighthouses, most of them built more than 150 years ago to safely guide sailors through the island-dotted waters and along our jagged shoreline. Our region represents about 10 percent of Maine’s coast, yet it’s home to one-quarter of the lighthouses — 16 in all, and seven are open to the public at least part of the year.
For islanders, life’s rhythms are governed by the tides, the weather, and, especially, the comings and goings of the ferry. For visitors, what might seem at first to be constraints prove to be surprisingly freeing, offering a refreshing escape from the day to day, even if it’s only for a few hours.
➤ Ease of access to the region’s lighthouses varies. Owls Head Light, for example, is the centerpiece of a mainland state park, so getting there is a breeze. The same is true for Marshall Point Light in Port Clyde. Rockland Breakwater Light is at the end of a mile-long granite pier, but that’s half the fun. You take a short ferry ride to Islesboro (about 20 minutes) to see Grindle Point Light and its Sailor’s Memorial Museum and a longer one to Monhegan (about an hour) to see Monhegan Island Light.
➤ Our island communities are pedestrian and bike friendly, and ferries typically disembark just steps from the village. If you’d like to take your car, state-operated ferries to Islesboro, North Haven, Vinalhaven, and Matinicus have limited spaces for vehicles; reservations are highly recommended. Privately operated ferries to Monhegan and Isle au Haut cannot accommodate cars.