I’ve been escaping this heat wave with trips to Vinalhaven, North Haven, and Monhegan. Not only are the ferry rides a nice way to get on the water and enjoy the views, but they take you to some fine places that are a bit cooler and breezier than the mainland.
Vinalhaven is a great day trip (even better, if you can swing a couple of nights out here). Hop the morning ferry from Rockland, and 75 minutes later, you’re on the island.
The village is about a 10-minute walk from the ferry dock. En route is Surfside, home of what may be the state’s best fishcakes . If you’re lucky, you can snag a seat outside on the deck (breakfast is served until 11 a.m.).
You can easily explore Vinalhaven on foot, but a bike makes it easier to get around (Don’t even think about bringing a car over here–very pricey, and you need reservations). You can rent just about anything you might need from the Tidewater Motel, on island, but advance reservations are key. (Bikes are $15, kayaks are $25, rental cars are $50 plus 30¢ per mile).
While in town, if you haven’t brought picnic fare, pick it up. You can get cheese and fancy goods at Island Spirits, basics at the grocery, and sandwiches to go at the Harbor Gawker, Sand Bar, and Trickerville Sandwich Shop (on Atlantic, the road out to Lane’s Island Preserve).
Where to go: Lane’s Island Preserve, one of about a dozen or so great places for walking and picnicking is about a 10-minute walk out the other side of town (turn right and keep walking). Trails ring and lace the island, which is connected via causeway to Vinalhaven.
If you’re renting a kayak, ask Phil to drop you at The Basin. If you’re biking, follow the Old Harbor Road out to it for a scenic pedal. Otherwise the usual bike route is th Round the Island Road, with perhaps a detour to Geary’s Beach or for an extended tour, to Brown’s Head Light on the Fox Islands Thorofare.
In any case, don’t miss a swim in one of the island’s two public quarries, Booth’s and Lawson’s, each about a mile, give or take, outside of town.
And don’t miss the Vinalhaven Historical Society Museum, on High Street (up the hill). Lots of info on the island’s past, including it granite glory days (in the 1880s, nearly 4,000 people lived on Vinalhaven and neighboring islands). Next door to the museum is the ARCafe, a combo java shop and Internet cafe run by island youth, where you can revive with a latte and baked good and check your email.
Pick up an island souvenir in town at one of the shops and galleries. New Era Gallery carries primarily works by island artists; Five Elements Gallery is Alison Thibault’s working glass studio (nice jewelry!); and if you need a good read for the ferry ride home, pop into Second Hand Prose, run by the Friends of Vinalhaven Public Library. And that former Odd Fellow’s Hall with the American flag-motif windows? That’s where artist Robert Indiana lives. No, it’s not open to the public, but his work is currently featured at The Farnsworth, in Rockland (check it out when you return).
Before departing, go ahead, treat yourself with a lobster roll— just look for the red umbrella on the water side a bit before the ferry terminal.
Spend the night: Top choice is the Tidewater Motel, which literally hangs over the harbor. Wake up the chugga chugga of lobster boats in the morning. Also downtown are two seasonal B&Bs, the Payne Homestead and The Libby House.