Taking A Ferry Ride To Explore This Stunning Maine Island Should Be On Your Bucket List

Looking for an experience that 99.9% of the US population will never have?  A trip out to Maine’s scenic Monhegan Island offers just that.

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The rugged one-square-mile terrain of Monhegan Island protrudes from the Gulf of Maine and ranks as one Maine’s best island destinations.

You can enjoy a brief day visit or an extended stay on this quaint island community, home to 64 permanent residents, all of whom are eager to share a quintessential slice of Maine’s heritage with you.

About Monhegan Island

Monhegan Island’s name comes from the Algonquin term “Monchiggon,” meaning “Out-at-Sea Island.” Positioned 10 miles from the mainland, the island is noted for its mountainous landscape.

Initially mapped by the British as part of their North American expansion, Monhegan attracted various explorers, including the notorious Captain John Smith.

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When the British established the settlement in the early 17th century, they founded a bustling fishing village and trading post, engaging in commerce with the mainland’s Indigenous Abenaki people. Descendants of the original European fishermen and traders still populate the island.

NOTE: Presently, Monhegan thrives on its fishing industry, though lobster fishing is halted during summer. The island also welcomes overnight and day visitors arriving by ferry and tour boats.

How to Get to Monhegan Island

No roads or bridges link Monhegan Island to the mainland, and its size doesn’t support a commercial airport. So your only option is going by boat.

Monhegan Island Ferry

The Monhegan Island ferry operates regular routes from Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor, and Port Clyde, with journeys lasting between 1.5 and 2.5 hours. Seasonal schedules are available online.

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Hardy Boat Cruises offers two trips per day from May to October and is one of the more popular Monhegan ferry options.

For picturesque travel, choose the Monhegan Boat Line from Port Clyde, offering specialty cruises such as lighthouse, sunset, and puffin tours.

NOTE: As of April 2024, round-trip adult tickets cost $50, children under 12 pay $33, and a pet ticket is $10. Vehicles and bicycles are prohibited on these ferries.

Things to Do on Monhegan Island

Monhegan may lack conventional tourist attractions, but the Monhegan Lighthouse and the Monhegan Museum of Art & History attract significant attention each year.

Explore The Local Art Community

Monhegan Island is well-known for its prestigious artist colony, a major attraction for many who visit this locale in MidCoast Maine.

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Established in 1890, the colony has been a haven for top-tier artists from the East Coast, particularly landscape painters affiliated with the New York School of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Notable alumni include Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, and Rockwell Kent.

Monhegan Museum of Art & History

Check out this museum to discover artwork that captures the island’s inspiring beauty, showcasing pieces from the early 19th century onward.

Monhegan Artists’ Residency

Founded in 1989, this residency supports and develops local artistic talent, offering free accommodation and a stipend in its studio.  You can visit the studio to check out the latest and greatest from Monhegan’s art scene.

Visit The Monhegan Lighthouse

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Constructed in 1824, the granite lighthouse serves as a historic beacon over the Gulf of Maine and the Atlantic. Visitors can explore its grounds, though the tower itself is off-limits due to its active Coast Guard role.

Hiking Trails

Explore nearly 12 miles of trails, like Lobster Cove Trail and Whitehead Trail. These paths promise stunning ocean views and refreshing sea breezes, with nighttime stargazing opportunities. Dogs are permitted but must be leashed.

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TIP: Grab an island trail map from Monhegan Associates, Inc. at the ferry landing for a guided hike to scenic points like Black Head.

Rugged Cliffs & A Shipwreck

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Monhegan Island is well-known for its scenic cliffs at both White Head and Black Head.  You should make time to check these out.  

And there’s a southern shipwreck on the rocky shoreline near Swim Beach and Fish Beach that’s quite interesting as well.

Where to Eat & Drink on Monhegan Island

Options abound for dining, including The Barnacle for cozy café treats, The Novelty for casual meals, and The Fish House for diverse seafood offerings.

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The Island Inn

Dine at The Island Inn for excellent seafood and ocean views, with meals available throughout the day.

Monhegan Brewing Company

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Quench your thirst at Monhegan Brewing Company, a family-run establishment serving unique craft beers on their outdoor patio.

Picnic Lunches & Dinners

Set up a picnic by the harbor or pack a lunch for a scenic trailside meal.  You’re welcome to pack a lunch onto the island if you don’t want to visit either of the on-island dining options.

Where to Stay When Visiting Monhegan Island

While day trips are popular, staying overnight at places like The Island Inn enhances the experience.

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This historic hotel, dating back to 1816 and known as “The Pink House,” offers stunning sunset views over the Gulf of Maine.

Other Lodging Options

Other hospitable accommodations include Monhegan House, Trailing Yew, and John Sterling Harbor House.

What Else You Should Know About Monhegan Island Before Visiting

Is swimming allowed on Monhegan Island?

Yes, at Swim Beach, though be mindful of the cold water and strong tides.

Are cars necessary on Monhegan Island?

Cars are prohibited; walking is the primary mode of transportation.

What should I bring to Monhegan Island?

Essentials include a camera and sturdy footwear for the unpaved trails.

Is there cell service on the island?

Yes, cell service surprisingly exists here.

Are you able to drink alcohol on Monhegan Island?

The island allows brought-in alcohol, though local venues do not sell it. Monhegan Brewing Co., established in 2013, serves various beer options on its patio and is your only option for booze outside of bringing your own.

How do you get to Monhegan Island?

Ferries from New Harbor, Boothbay Harbor, or Port Clyde provide access to this serene escape.

Who lives on Monhegan Island?

Approximately 70 residents live on Monhegan, maintaining its long-standing fishing tradition and welcoming visitors during the summer.