A view through two fence posts of green grass and a cloudy sunset in the distance.

Discover The Allure & Charm Of Monhegan Island Maine

A Complete Guide To Visiting This Enchanting Maine Island

My first glimpse of Monhegan Island was from the bow of a ferry boat on a very cold, gloomy day.

The island, which is located 10 miles off the coast of Maine, slowly took form, looking gray and barren until houses and buildings began to materialize from out of the heavy mist.

As the ferry navigated its way around large rocky masses and glided into the dock, I took in the sight of the dirt road that rose beyond the landing and the large historic hotel on the hill.

So this was Monhegan Island.

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The view from the Lighthouse on Monhegan Island. You can see Manana Island, as well as the large historic Island Inn, as well as the cemetery.
View from the Lighthouse on Monhegan Island shows Manana Island across the water. The large building is the historic Island Inn. The island’s cemetery, which is still being used, can also be seen.

Lots of special activities are planned for the 250th Anniversary of the Boston Tea Party in December of 2023.

White flowers line a dirt road with buildings in the distance and a blue sky with hazy clouds.
This is the road down to the wharf with Manana Island in the distance..

About Monhegan Island

Never heard of Monhegan Island, Maine?

Neither had I. But when I learned that the island has no paved roads and no cars, I knew it was a place I wanted to visit.

In doing some research, I found that Monhegan Island attracts visitors from all over the world. Some of them come to paint or photograph the rugged, coastal scenery. Others want to see the migrating birds, rare wildflowers, or sea life (whales and seals).

And still other are interested in hiking the trails or just escaping for a few hours or days from their busy lives.

This small island is just 3/4 mile wide and 1-1/2 miles long, but it is a haven for those seeking beauty, quiet and a reconnection with Nature.

Lobster cages are in the foreground, with blue water and a harbor in the background.
View of the harbor on the island.

How To Get To Monhegan Island

If you’re wondering how to get to this magical island in Maine, you have three choices.

I spent the night in Boothbay Harbor (a town I highly recommend visiting), and took the Balmy Days Ferry II to Monhegan.

I stayed in a waterfront room at the Tugboat Inn and highly recommend it.

The 16-mile trip takes about 1.5 hours, departing from Boothbay at 9:30 a.m. and returning at 4:15, for those who are just taking a day trip.

Parking is a bit of a problem in Boothbay, so make your arrangements ahead of time, especially if you need overnight parking for a long visit to Monhegan Island.

The Ferry to Monhegan costs $46 round trip for adults and $23 for kids. Once on Monhegan Island they also offer a 2 p.m. cruise around the island for $5 cash. (We saw a whale and tons of seals, so well worth it).

Blue water with the black heads of seals sticking up, and a white seal lying on a rocks near monhegan island me.
We got quite a show during our ferry ride around Monhegan Island with these curious seals.

Other Ferries To Monhegan Island

Altogether there are three ferries that make the daily trip to Monhegan Island, Maine.

In addition to the Balmy Days II Ferry to Monhegan, you can take the Monhegan Boat Line out of Port Clyde. Their price is $44 round trip for adults and $28 for a child. (And $7 for a pet). Since this port is a little closer, the ferry ride is only an hour.

The northern most port that has a ferry to Monhegan Island is New Harbor, home to Hardy Boat Cruises. Their ferry ride to Monhegan is only 50 minutes and costs $50 round trip for both adults and children, and $20 for pets.

Monhegan Island History

The name “Monhegan” roughly translates to “Out-at-Sea Island,” from the Algonquin word “Monchiggon.”

The mountainous island is nestled about 10 miles off the rocky coast of Maine, but was about 16 miles from Boothbay Harbor, Maine, which is where I caught the ferry.

A small boat sits on the ground with a tattered American flag above and lobster traps stacked up behind.
A scene on Monhegan Island.

Monhegan was first charted by the British during the early stages of expanding into North America, and various explorers—including Captain John Smith who ventured to the island in 1614.

When the British settled the colony in the early 17th century, they built a thriving fishing village and a trading post to conduct business with the Indigenous Abenaki peoples on the mainland.

It’s fascinating that many of the island’s residents to this day are descended from these early fishermen and traders.

Since the 1800s, the island’s two primary economies have been fishing and tourism. Coming from a place where apple crates are a common sight, it was interesting to see rows of stacked lobster traps lining the unpaved roads in the village.

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Monhegan Island’s Artist Colony

You can’t walk far on Monhegan Island without coming across an artist working on a painting and trying to capture the beautiful scenery that abounds.

A woman in a blue coat paints on a canvas while overlooking Manana Island on Monhegan Island.
Monhegan Island is full of artists trying to capture the beautiful scenery.

There are a number of artist studios on the island as well as the Monhegan Museum of Art and History, which is housed in the former keeper’s house on the Lighthouse grounds.

The Keeper’s House is devoted to the Island’s long history that began with the arrival of the Red Paint People 6000 years ago. Exhibits include island flora and fauna, fishing and the lighthouse.

Some Monhegan Island artists have viewing hours in their studios, times and locations of which are listed in a flier available at bulletin boards around the Village.

A small building with papers and flyers all over the side and the sun setting behind.
This is where you find out what’s happening on Monhegan Island.

After visiting one of the artist’s studios, you can go home with a beautiful piece of original art to remind you of your visit rather than a traditional souvenir.

The Monhegan Island Lighthouse

The Monhegan Island lighthouse, which is a gray granite cylinder along with a white building with a red roof.
Monhegan Island Lighthouse

Built in 1824, the granite Monhegan Island Lighthouse aided ships navigating the treacherous waters and rocky shores along the coast.

Damaged by storms, that lightouse was replaced in 1850 by the present 48 foot granite tower, with a fog bell station built in 1855 on nearby Manana Island.

Later, in 1859, a fourth-order Fresnel lens replaced the previous lighting system, enhancing the lighthouse’s effectiveness.

The light continues to shine from the Lighthouse, but it has not been manned since 1959 and is now automated. 

According to their website, visitors are sometimes allowed to tour the tower. That would be an awesome treat.

A dirt road winds down a hill with trees on each side and buildings in the distance.
The road that leads to the “downtown” of Monhegan with the church in the distance.

Things To Do On Monhegan Island

Even though the island is small, there is still plenty to do.

In addition to visiting the Lighthouse or visiting artists studios, you can enjoy a cold brew at the Monhegan Brewing Company or search for sea glass on Fish Beach.

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Here are some other things to do on Monhegan Island:

  • Explore the art at the Lupine Gallery
  • Shop for gifts at the Black Duck Emporium. (I loved this place)!
  • Take a dip at Swim Beach (The beach is small and the water is cold).
  • Check out the Ice Pond, where ice was harvested for more than 100 years. The last harvest was in February, 1974. This is a great bird watching spot and skating area in the winter.
  • Visit the Monhegan Island Cemetery. Some of the oldest stones are from the 1700s.
  • Visit the Shipwreck near Lobster Cove. (This was one of my favorite trails).

Ready To Spend The Night On Monhegan Island? Check Out Places To Stay.

More Things To Do On Monhegan Island

Monhegan Island’s Walking Trails

Monhegan Island’s walking trails are the main attraction, offering commanding views of the Atlantic Ocean from the highest cliffs in Maine.

The island has more than 15 miles of trails, including Lobster Cove Trail, Whitehead Trail, and Burnt Head Road Trail.

(I walked 10 miles in one day, mostly because I was lost, but the views were spectacular).

The views were different, but just as stunning as those found at Mohonk Mountain House in New York. If you enjoy hiking, you should check out a Mohonk Day Pass, which gives you access to miles of walking of trails.

A view from one of Monhegan Island's many walking trails showing rocks and the ocean.
A view from one of Monhegan Island’s many walking trails.

The trails include some steep climbs over rocky cliffs, dense forests of stately pines and rough terrain over rocks and roots.

But the effort is worth it because you get spectacular ocean, forest and meadow views. My trip in mid-June was right when flowers were blooming, which added to the beautiful landscapes.

The highest point on the island is Black Head, which towers 160 feet above the sea.

Dogs are allowed on the trails, but must be kept on a leash at all times.

See a Monhegan Island Map here.

The map shows the many trails on the island. If you’re visiting, keep your eyes open for one of the many places where maps can be purchased for $1.

A view of boulders on the Maine coast with the ocean beyond.
Some people venture out onto this rocky cliff as part of one of the harder trails on Monhegan Island.

Pro Tip: I wore sneakers but recommend hiking shoes because the paths are rugged. Also wear long pants because there is a lot of poison ivy.

Visit Manana Island

Another thing to do during your trip is visit Manana Island.

Located just across the Monhegan Harbor, it is where the hermit Ray Phillips built a house and lived until his death in the 1970s.

The ruins of his homemade house remain on the island.

There are also rocks on Manana Island that are purported to contain Norse or Phoenician inscriptions.

Transportation by skiff across the harbor to Manana Island can be arranged through one of the Inns or at Fish Beach.

An island, that looks like a huge rock, forms a barrier for the harbor of Monhegan Island. Salil boats are sitting on blue water.
Manahan Island forms part of the harbor for Monhegan Island.

Monhegan Island Fairy Houses

One of the highlights of my trip was the time I spent on Cathedral Trail looking at the Fairy Houses built by other visitors.

Some of them are elaborate, and some of them are quite simple. Many of them are easy to spot, but if you keep your eyes open, you will find Fairy Houses hidden in stumps and under ferns.

It gets to be quite an engrossing game to look for them.

An elaborate "fairy house" with shells and twigs and moss.
One of the more elaborate Fairy Houses I saw on Cathedral Trail

Monhegan Island FAQs

Is There Cell Service On Monhegan Island?

Surprisingly, I had no problem with cellphone reception in the village itself. I heard other people saying they didn’t have service so it depends on your carrier. Both places I stayed also had a good Internet signal.

Monhegan Island ME Restaurants

For a place the size of Monhegan, there are a surprising amount of delicious places to eat. In fact, I really wish I could have stayed longer just to try out some dishes at other places.

A roll overflowing with chunks of lobster meat, with a pickle and melted butter on a plate. A bag of chips  and bottle of tea behind it.
A Lobster Roll from the Fish House on Monhegan Island.

Where to Eat on Monhegan Island

  • The Barnacle: Down by the wharf. Grab a bite to eat or something to drink here.
  • The Novelty: This is a casual lunch spot that serves pizza and sandwiches.
  • Fish House: Lots of seafood dishes. I ate a Lobster Roll here that was great!
  • The Island Inn: Their dining room serves three meals a deal. Great food and views.
  • Monhegan House: Free breakfast and dinner with an overnight stay and open to the public.
  • Nite Nite Fatty’s at The Cracked Mug: When there’s nothing else open and you want something sweet! (6-8 p.m.)
A menu for the Fish House Restaurant is hung against lobster tracks with an American flag hanging above.
The menu for the Fish House hangs on some lobster traps.

Monhegan Island Hotels

While you can definitely see most of what Monhegan has to offer in one day trip, I am so glad I stayed two nights in order to really soak in the island’s unique culture.

If you’re wondering where to stay on Monhegan Island, you have plenty of choices. Despite its small size there are lots of Monegan Island lodging options.

Here are just a few of the most popular Monhegan Island accommodations.

The view through a window shows a handful of gray houses with a rocky island in the background and blue water in between.
The view from the bedroom window in The Cracked Mug Inn Monhegan.

The Cracked Mug Monhegan

I am so glad I stayed at this lovely guest house that offers spectacular water views and a mouth-watering 5-STAR homecooked breakfasts by the host, Melanie.

The bed was wonderfully comfortable and getting to have a “pillow menu” to pick the type of pillow you want is an added bonus.

The Cracked Mug is one of the only rentals that stays open all year.

Melanie is also the creator of the Nite Nite Fatty’s dessert bar that takes place very night from 6-8 p.m. People line up to get a piece of her delicious cakes, pastries and Friday night pies.

Monhegan Island Inn

Located down by the wharf, this is an iconic place to stay on the island and is the first landmark you see when arriving on the island.

The main house of  The Island Inn dates back more than 200 years to when it was first completed in 1816. Known simply as “The Pink House” at the time, the structure was expanded multiple times during the early 20th century to accommodate its increasing popularity.

Its west-facing views overlook the Gulf of Maine feature stunning sunsets.

Monhegan House Inn

Located in the village center across from the church, this is an 1870s Inn with ocean and meadow/lighthouse views.

The Monhegan House Inn a 4-story gray building with a wrap-around porch.
The Monhegan House Inn was built in the 1870s.

For an extra treat, they offer free breakfast and dinner with an overnight stay.

The massive wrap-around porch is the perfect place to relax and get out of the sun or rain. You can also grab a rocking chair and watch the foot traffic in the center of Monhegan village.

Note that most rooms do not have attached bathrooms and some rooms are very small with no air conditioning or fans.

Colorful boats are in the foreground and a blue harbor with sailboats in the background.
A view of the harbor of Monhegan Island.

What To Pack For Monhegan Island

Make sure you take a camera and wear sneakers or hiking shoes for the sometimes rugged rigorous hiking paths.

I’d recommend wearing warm layers for the ferry ride and consider sea sickness medication or Sea-Bands if the water is rough. (I wore Sea-Bands, just in case, and had no problems).

Other Usual Items: hat, suntan lotion, bug spray, binoculars, water bottles, snacks, cash, trail map, hand sanitizer.

If you have limited time on the island, you may want to bring a backpack style cooler with a picnic lunch and drinks to save time on sitting down to eat.

Where To Stay Near Monhegan Island

Monhegan Island Weather

If you’re like me, you have no idea what the weather is like in Maine. June is the beginning of Monhegan’s tourist season with temperate weather in the 70s.

The most pleasant months of the year are June, July and August. Summer temps range from 70 degrees to 85 degrees and there are few days during the summer when the humidity becomes unpleasant.

July is the hottest month for Monhegan with an average high temperature of 74.9°. (Ranking it as one of the coolest places in Maine).

January is the snowiest month in Monhegan with an average of 18.7 inches of snow.

Important Notes On Visiting Monhegan

One of the most important things to know before your visit to Monhegan is that there are no trash containers. It is a Pack in/ Pack out island, meaning whatever you bring with you, you will be carrying home.

Be prepared to do a lot of walking. There is a golf cart taxi service if you need to get somewhere and don’t want to walk.

Bathrooms on the island are limited. The only public restrooms available are located behind the Monhegan House and there is a fee to use them. (It would be wise to use the bathroom on the ferry before getting off).

No bikes or drones are allowed on the island.

You must clean up after your dog.

A white picket fence with red flowering shrubs and a white house beyond.
One of the beautiful houses in the village of Monhegan.

Is Monhegan Island worth visiting?

In my opinion, yes.

If you like visiting places that are authentic, beautiful and rustic as a way to relax, unplug and unwind, then this is the place for you.

Does Monhegan Island Have Alcohol?

Restaurants do not sell alcoholic beverages, but it is okay to bring in store-purchased alcohol. Most stores sell wine and the Monhegan Brewing Co offers beer and pints to be enjoyed on its patio during summer afternoons.

A bench offers view of Monhegan Island and Manana Island in Maine. Green shrubs, the rocky mound of Manana and blue sky.
A bench on Lighthouse Hill overlooks the island and provides views of Manana in the distance.

Wrap-Up Of Monhegan Island

Monhegan Island Maine is a true haven of serenity and natural beauty in a place that time forgot.

The pristine landscapes and sense of timelessness gives it an irresistible charm that keeps people returning year after year.

It’s so unique to find a place with such rich history and unspoiled wilderness, and where you can really feel like you’ve stepped back in time.

If you’re looking for a way to take a break from the real world and renew your connection to Nature, Monhegan Island is the place to go.

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  1. Wonderful article about Monhegan! Haven’t been there for years but your article brought me right back there. I can even smell the special scent of the wooded hiking areas. Thank you! If you are ever in the Cape May, NJ area, I would love to have you over to Historic Cold Spring Village. The Village is a client of mine. They are the largest open-air living history museum in NJ. They even have their own non-profit Brewery (the 1st non-profit brewery opened in NJ). They are also designated as a Woman’s Heritage Trail site. HCSV is a recreation of what Village life would have been during the Homespun era, comprised of historic homes that have been moved to the Village from all around Cape May County via purchase and donations. During their main season (May-Sept), the buildings are manned by costumed historic interpreters who provide talks on the history of the buildings as well as provide information about the families who lived in them, the history of Cape May County, and they give the guests an idea of what life was like during that time-period through hands-on demonstrations such as spinning, knitting, cooking over open hearth fireplaces, baking in Beehive ovens, blacksmithing and tinsmithing, bookbinding, school day demos, pottery making, basket weaving, farming and more. Think, Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts but on a slightly smaller scale. The Village is a true “gem”. Anyway, thank you again for the Monhegan article – think I need to plan a trip back for this Summer.