Scrimshaw recently covered some serious ground over a quick two-day/one-night weekend in Southern Maine, spending a jam-packed 36-hour whirlwind exploring island trails, cobblestone streets, and eating as much seafood as possible along the way. There’s a lot to see in New England’s largest state, but this summer we sunk our teeth into coastal Maine, scouring thousands of islands, searching for that perfect wanderlust getaway. An island was settled on for the first destination, a loose planned return itinerary was mapped out, and we were on our way.
After two trains, no planes, and one willing Prius, I hit the road for a little town called New Harbor, in pursuit of a 9:00 AM ferry out to the North Atlantic oasis of Monhegan. Covering nearly one square mile twelve miles out at sea, Mohegan Island boasts a year-round community of less than 65 people. Known traditionally for its lobstering trade, the island has more than 17 miles of hiking trails, a rusting shipwreck, Maine’s only island brewery, plus a thriving artist’s colony that blossoms during the summer months. After a fifty minute voyage, the ferry pulls up to the sole dock nestled in a quiet harbor. The much smaller island of Manana (pronounced like banana) hugs the Western side of Monhegan, creating a narrow channel, safe for boats to moor and people to paddle about. With no cars – nor paved roads – on the island, four pickup trucks await to deliver luggage (if you so choose) to passenger’s destinations; opting not to use the trucks, I headed up the dirt road on foot for my home for the night, the Mohegan House. Getting a room on the fourth floor, I quickly changed into my trunks, dug out my goggles, and sprinted back off the main town dock plunging into the blue ocean below. I swam furiously across to Manana attempting to ignore the 58 °F water. The neighboring rock historically housed a Coast Guard station (now uninhabited), but a rambunctious drove of goats (the local landscapers) run the place. The alpha-male goat wasn’t warming up to me as much as I’d hoped, so I quickly took in the picturesque view of Mohegan from across the bay, and dove back in swimming for a barnacle lined ladder fastened to the town dock.
After an al fresco lobster roll down at the Fish House, I spent the day leisurely strolling around. I stopped by the Memorial Library, caught a boat tour aboard the Balmy Days II around the island highlighting great views of the eastern cliffs, participated in the village’s live-auction to support MISCA (the Monhegan Island Sustainable Community Association), then finished the afternoon at the Mohegan Brewing Company. While sampling the island's ales in the brewery's side yard, I befriended a couple of seasonal regulars who’ve been coming here for years. As the stories began flowing and the pints kept pouring, we soon discovered we had mutual friends back in Groton Long Point! To make such a connection out at sea, reaffirmed that the world really isn't that big after all, and proved once again that life truly is good. I rang out the evening toasting G&T's over steak tips on my new friend's deck, followed by one of the most colossal Milky Way gazing sessions I’ve had in years; ZERO LIGHT POLLUTION!
Before I knew it, I was on my last grapefruit wedge of the complementary breakfast at the Monhegan House’s restaurant, tucked my most recent copy of AFAR magazine under my arm, and was running down to catch the ferry back to the mainland. My new friends met at the town wharf to bid their farewell, and introduced me to the awesome tradition of casting a handful of wildflowers over the side of the ferry into the ocean, as those staying wave goodbye! The amazing power of community out on Monhegan resonated over the sound as I watched the whale-shaped island disappear in the distance.
Back behind the wheel, I headed down Route 1 towards Portland, but had a few stops to make along the way. First stop was a tasty half dozen oysters on the porch at Schooner Landing Restaurant & Marina in Damariscotta. Followed by a wicked good flea market just south of Wiscasset, I then bought some fresh roadside blueberry jam from a happy toothless couple! I had a quick obligatory stop at Freeport’s Patagonia Outlet store, across from L.L. Bean, then descended into one the east coast’s best cities, Portland. I somehow found a parking spot with an hour on the meter, and made a dash for my go-to locales. Had a great visit with the guys over at Maine Surfer’s Union, and chatted with them about their recent “Any Port in a Storm” store throwdown. Off to my second round of oysters at the increasingly popular Eventide, I got a seat right at the bar near the shucking team who made the annoyance of opening an oyster look utterly graceful. With two minutes to spare on the meter, I had more stop to make before crossing into New Hampshire, and that was a newer brewery in Lyman, called Funky Bow. The father/son operated company had a live band going strong with a huge yard of tables and chairs (bustling with customers), brick oven pizza, puppies galore and a damn fine “So Folkin’ Hoppy” IPA! Their gracious hospitality, delectable brews, and laidback atmosphere only had me wanting more; everyone should make them a priority on their next New England micro-brewery tour!
Alas, the trip had come to end as I drove south along I-95, heading back to “reality.” The great state of Maine offers endless activities, incredible people, and lots of room to explore. So take up some of our suggestions on your next trip north and make sure to get a long pour of the incomparable Vacationland.