You don’t HAVE to take a 50-minute ferry ride to Monhegan Island to enjoy a day of spectacular hiking along high cliffs and rocky coastline followed by a cold beer in the sunshine at a local brewery.
But it’d be a lot cooler if you did.
The boat ride to and from the island is the perfect wave-breaking bookend to a Monhegan day trip. In the middle there will be miles of hiking through woods and along rocky coast, gawking at flowers and cool houses and an Atlantic that looks like it might go on forever, and possibly a shipwreck, a sandwich, and a beer.
The adventure begins when your board the ferry from the mainland. There are a few to choose from. There’s Monhegan Boat Line out of Port Clyde and Balmy Days out of Boothbay Harbor. I like the Hardy Boat ferry from New Harbor, which docks at Shaw’s Fish & Wharf.
Tickets cost $38 round trip (although you’ll need to purchase the ticket each way separately). There’s also a $5/day parking fee at the lot up the road from the ferry (cash only and it’s a few minutes walk to the ticket counter and boat – so take note if you opt to take this ferry).
The ferry ride is close to an hour, but you won’t be bored. Staring at the ocean is akin to staring at fires and freshly made babies – it’s a time-flies kind of mesmerizing. It helps that the captain of the ferry does a great job point out things of note along the way, like a sunfish floating near the water’s surface or a northern gannet diving for lunch.
Monhegan Island is home to nearly 70 people, but like so much of Maine’s coast and islands, those numbers swell in the summer months. Still, even on a busy summer weekend, you can find plenty of quiet here, particularly on the lesser-traveled trails.
The island is a draw for artists who visit or live on the island and there are many studios you’re welcome to visit. Even if you have zero artistic inclination, you can’t help but be charmed but the homes and gardens and shops and coastline.
There are 12 miles of trails on Monhegan Island through woods and past marshes and along the coast. And while it’d be lovely to hike every path on Monhegan, you’d need more than just a day for that. If you’re just arriving for the afternoon (and you’re hoping to leave some time to get a sandwich/beer/do some shopping in town) choose a loop that doesn’t send you too far afield. Besides, it would also really stink to miss your ferry back to the mainland.
Monhegan Associates publishes maps of the island, which you can grab while you’re on the ferry. Or print out a PDF here.
Last summer, the Fit Maine Social Club ventured to Monhegan on one of those ridiculously hot days. The cooler island breeze was a huge improvement from the sweat-inducing maineland, but it was still HOT. But the temps weren’t deterring us: We’d been planning a hike and yoga island adventure for weeks.
The hiking was supplied by the aforementioned trails. For the yoga we turned to local Tara Hire. Tara is a health coach, yoga instructor and the founder of Monhegan Wellness. A few years ago, I attended one of her one-day island retreats and wrote about it. She no longer hosts a regular schedule of retreats, but is available for private group events. It’s wildly handy to have a local to lead the way, plus she was going to lead us in some outdoor yoga and cliffside meditation.
From town we walked up to Lighthouse Hill, the viewpoint enjoyed by Monhegan Island Lighthouse since 1824. From here you can look down toward town and the dock and Manana Island beyond.
This was our first yoga stop, and Tara led us in some deep breathing and stretches in the grass, under the lighthouse’s gaze. We may have perplexed some passersby.
From there we hopped on the trail headed toward White Head.
White Head is an eye-catching spot, with its dramatic cliffs and expansive views of the Atlantic. Many hikers take a long while to stand or sit here to watch seabirds and crashing waves.
We took a few minutes to gawk at the view and then Tara led us in a cliffside yoga session, where we got to reach toward the sky and sit back in chair pose to the sound of gulls and the rhythm of the water. We breathed in the ocean air, as toasty as it was, and felt the sun warming our faces.
Once our limbs were feeling rightly stretched, Tara had us all find a comfortable place to sit on the rocks and close our eyes. Her voice led us in a calming meditation – a chance to let the day’s thoughts drift by on the wind and off toward the horizon.
After we had ample opportunity to enjoy White Head, we got back on the trail, following the coastal path south toward Burnt Head. The terrain on Monhegan is wonderfully wild. The trails are fairly easy to follow (most trails are noted by numbered signs) but these aren’t flat walking paths. There are roots and rocks and steep sections all along the way, the footing uneven and easy to trip on. But that’s part of the charm of the trails here – the way the trees lean in over the path like they’re hiding a secret.
After we’d spent a few hours on the trails, we were hungry. So we wandered back into town to hunt down some sandwiches. We ended up at The Novelty, which serves up pizza, wraps, sandwiches, ice cream, and other desserts. They also sell beer and wine. There are some dine-in tables and outdoor tables, but you can’t drink the beer or wine there. So we took out food to go and headed up the road to Monhegan Brewing Company.
The road to Monhegan Brewing Company isn’t far from The Novelty, which made it the logical choice. Once we’d gotten our grub, we followed the signs.
Monhegan Brewing Company is a laid back place, offering beers and flights and outdoor tables under umbrellas and a backdrop of lobster traps. It’s low key all around – there’s a porta-potty tucked behind the wall of traps, sometimes there’s a food truck, and you’re welcome to bring something to eat from elsewhere and just hang out.
Before we made the trek back toward the dock to catch the ferry back to New Harbor, we decided to check out the nearby shipwreck.
“On November 7, 1948, a dense fog around the island caused a diesel-propelled tug boat to run aground. The crew of the D.T. Sheridan was in the process of transporting two barges of soft coal from Norfolk, Virginia to Bangor, Maine when the wreck occurred. Thanks to the quick actions of a local seaman, Raymond Pix, all members of the crew were brought in safely,” according to Atlas Obscura.
And finally, it was time to return to the dock to catch the ferry back to New Harbor
As is tradition, several people jumped from the dock into the water as the ferry pulled away, including Tara. Must’ve felt amazing on such a hot summer day.
Monhegan Island day trip
Hardy Boat out of New Harbor
The boat departs twice a day during peak season – 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. – and leaves Monhegan at 10:10 a.m. and 3:15 p.m. Cost is $38 per person ($19 one way), children $20, under 2 free. Dogs $5. There’s also a $5 parking fee at the lot up the road from the ferry, which is cash only.
Monhegan Boat Line out of Port Clyde
Balmy Days out of Boothbay Harbor.
– Monhegan Associates publishes maps of the island, which you can grab while you’re on the ferry. Or print out a PDF here.
– To connect with Tara Hire of Monhegan Wellness about a private group hike + yoga session: monheganwellness.com
– Stop at the brewery: Monhegan Brewing Company
– More info about visiting: monheganwelcome.com