A trip to Monhegan Island off the coast of Maine is an experience you won’t forget! This idyllic gem features a quaint village, scenic hiking trails, numerous art galleries, and even fairy houses.
Monhegan Island is a magical place well worth a day trip or overnight stay.
There’s so much to love about this island – the idyllic scenery, dramatic cliffs, gorgeous hikes, numerous art galleries, and charming miniature fairy houses that pop up along wooded trails.
Time moves differently on Monhegan. As you step off the ferry, you’ll immediately feel transported. Cars are few and far between in the tiny village of 64 people. And residents and visitors prefer soaking up the natural scenery over retail therapy and phone screens.
So much of this island embodies quintessential Maine – from boats swaying in the harbor, cottages surrounded by beautiful gardens, and the sea air in the breeze.
Here’s everything you need to know to visit Monhegan Island and make the most of your trip.
Is a day trip to Monhegan Island worth it?
Yes. In fact, many visitors visit the island for the day.
And since the island is relatively compact – only 4.5 square miles – it’s easy to see most, if not all, of it in just a few hours.
A typical day trip itinerary to Monhegan includes:
- Hiking its many trails that lead to its rugged eastern coast.
- Walking up to the lighthouse to take in the view.
- Getting a bite to eat in the village.
- Stopping into a few art galleries.
- Relaxing along the shore.
To really soak in the unique ambiance of Monhegan, though, you may want to stay overnight. The island features several accommodations that range in quality and size (see more below).
Advantages of an overnight excursion include seeing the stars at night, attending evening events, and spending more time basking in the scenic beauty and calm of the island.
Where is Monhegan, and how can I get to it?
Monhegan is ten nautical miles off the coast of Maine, making it one of the state’s most distant islands. It consists of two islands, Monhegan and smaller Manana. The latter of which is uninhabited.
Visitors can get to Monhegan Island by ferry from New Harbor or Port Clyde. The ferries are small and are an adventure unto themselves out in the open sea.
Visitors’ cars are prohibited on the island, and many residents don’t own cars. Upon arrival, you’ll realize why – the island is easily accessible on foot.
New Harbor Ferry: Hardy Boat Cruises operates out of New Harbor from mid-May to mid-October. It takes one hour to travel to Monhegan and one hour and fifteen minutes to return, allowing day trippers to have five hours on the island. The cost is $25 each way for anyone over two years old. Check the website to confirm details.
Port Clyde Ferry: The Monhegan Boat Line operates out of Port Clyde, a quaint town worth a trip of its own. The ferry runs frequently from the beginning of May to the end of October and more sporadically during cold weather months. The trip takes between 70 and 55 minutes, depending on the boat. Tickets are $45 round trip for adults and $30 for children 2-12. Departure days and times change throughout the season, so check the website before planning your trip.
Things to do on Monhegan Island
Surprisingly, there are several things to do on this tiny island!
And better yet, it’s relatively easy to do all of these in a day. Of course, an overnight stay allows for exploring the island at a more relaxed pace.
Wander through the village
Monhegan’s village takes charm to a new level and captures the pure essence of Maine’s ruggedness and natural beauty.
Fortunately, getting to the village isn’t a problem as the ferry dock is adjacent. The Island Inn, the most prominent building on the island, will be on your right as you climb the hill from the water. From there, quaint cottages line the few dirt roads that comprise the village. And you can expect to see an artist or two sitting at their easel, painting the idyllic landscape.
Cars are few and far between on the island, so most people wander in the middle of the rustic dirt streets as they explore, stopping in the handful of art galleries and retail stores along the way. Wandering through the village is less about shopping and more about soaking in the idyllic charm of this remote community.
Hike the trails
One of the best things to do on Monhegan is to hike the many trails that traverse the island. There are twelve miles of trails in total. They wind through magical pine forests to rocky cliffs on the island’s eastern shore. And a few trails lead alongside the ocean, providing spectacular views.
The serenity of hiking in such a remote area is priceless. Also notable is how docile the wildlife is out here. Click here to see a map of the island’s trails.
Seek out Monhegan’s fairy houses
Monhegan Island’s fairy houses are legendary. Tradition has it that fairies stop on Monhegan to rest their wings before heading to the mainland.
These mythical homes, made of sticks, stones, moss, and other forest treasures, can be found along select wooded trails, typically on the island’s northern half. It’s fun for children and adults alike to seek out these whimsical creations while hiking.
Find the shipwreck
Another popular destination while hiking the island is to find the fabled shipwreck. This iron structure, officially known as the D. T. Sheridan Shipwreck, is on the island’s southern tip near Lobster Cove.
On November 7, 1948, a dense fog surrounded the island, causing the tug boat to run aground. Fortunately, a local seaman, Raymond Pix, rescued all crew members in time.
In the 1970s, however, a large storm caused the rusted carcass of the D. T. Sheridan to shift inland. Today, island visitors climb and sit on the wreckage while taking in the views of the rocky coast and ocean in the distance.
Visit Monhegan Lighthouse
Another popular thing to do on Monhegan Island is to climb up to the lighthouse. This lighthouse, built in 1824, features a stone tower and was the first colored light in Maine.
While the lighthouse is charming, the view to the west is the real attraction. From up high, it’s possible to look down at the village, taking in the many gardens and cottages below. Further in the distance is the Island Inn, ferry dock, and Manana Island – making for a picture-perfect scene.
Explore the Monhegan Museum of Art and History
After viewing the lighthouse, another thing to do nearby is to explore the Monhegan Museum of Art and History. The museum’s mission is to “preserve and display objects of historical and cultural significance to Monhegan Island”. It also features various exhibits, both historical and current, from artists who inhabited the island.
The museum is mainly open from 11:30 AM to 3:30 PM in July and August, with a few times also available at the end of June and September. Check the website to confirm the days and times.
Eat at a restaurant or cafe
Inevitably, you’ll want a bite to eat while visiting the island, and Monhegan has a few eateries to choose from.
Note that since the island is so small, addresses are usually unnecessary. If you need help determining where a restaurant is, ask a local; they’ll be happy to help.
- The Barnacle: One of the first buildings you see as you step off the ferry is The Barnacle. This small restaurant, run by the Island Inn, features baked goods, prepared sandwiches, chowder, and salads.
- The Island Inn dining room: Just across the street from The Barnacle is the grand Island Inn. Its dining room is open to guests and the public and serves breakfast and a sit-down dinner.
- The Novelty: Located behind the Monhegan House, The Novelty is the perfect place to pick up pizza, sandwiches, wraps, and salads. You’ll also find drinks and ice cream here.
- The Fish House: Head here for a quintessential Maine fish house experience. Pick up your sandwiches, soups, or salads in the shack and eat them at picnic tables near the water’s edge.
- Palette Crêperie: For something a bit different, this food truck offers crepes and smoothies.
Stay at The Island Inn
The most prominent building on Monhegan is The Island Inn. It’s a stunning building that looks west over Manana Island and is the perfect spot to view sunsets in the evening.
The original building was constructed in 1816 and was extended in 1907 & 1910. Each of the thirty-two rooms now has its own private bathroom and has been updated for modern luxuries, but the building maintains its original charm.
The inn features ocean view suites, standard rooms with private baths, rooms with shared baths, and rooms in the nearby Pierce Cottage. Note that there’s typically a minimum day stay during the high season.
Other places to stay on the island include:
- Monhegan House: a short walk from the dock with various rooms; breakfast & dinner are included.
- Trailing Yew: multiple rooms and a cabin for rent in a circa 1850 building; breakfast included
- John Sterling Harbor House: standard rooms, a guest house, and a single-level flat available
- Shining Sails Bed & Breakfast: a standard B & B with rooms, apartments and cottages for rent
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Stop by the Monhegan Brewing Company
A relative newcomer to the island is the Monhegan Brewing Company, a family-run small brewery near the end of Lobster Cove Road.
The taproom always has five beers on tap and two hand-crafted sodas. Outside the taproom is a lovely space to sit in the shade under tents and umbrellas.
You can also pick up lunch here at the Bait Bug, a food truck offering fried seafood baskets, sandwiches, and vegetarian options.
FAQs about Monhegan Island:
Sixty-four people live on the island year-round. Three-quarters of those residents are self-employed, and the median age is 52. Many residents catch lobsters in the winter and work in retail during the summer tourist season. The island’s one-room schoolhouse has one teacher and four students.
Visitors are prohibited from bringing cars to the island, and once you arrive, you’ll understand why. The island has only a few streets. The village is easily accessible on foot, and most visitors enjoy hiking along the island’s extensive trails.
Artists have flocked to Monhegan Island for over a hundred years, and an artist colony is still alive and well today. The idyllic beauty of the island is inspiring, and the light, as it reflects off the ocean surface, is simply different here. If you visit Monhegan on a warm sunny day, you’ll likely see one or two artists at their easels.
Yes, most cell phones do work on the island. But the best way to enjoy the relaxed pace of the island is to unplug.
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About Kerry Flatley
Kerry Flatley has lived in New England for the past 26 years. She has roots in Maine & Massachusetts, family in New Hampshire, and grew up close to the Connecticut border. She loves all that this region has to offer – the ocean, mountains, islands, history, villages, and cities. When she’s not writing about New England, she’s relaxing at home in the Boston suburbs with her two teenage daughters and husband.