10 reasons to visit Peaks Island, Maine

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My friend Jackie Dishner—author of Backroads & Byways of Arizona, speaker, and mountain bike rider—dishes on her day on Peaks earlier this summer.

by Jackie Dishner

My first overnight stay in Portland, and I woke up to foggy windows. Rain. It was pouring outside, and I had no umbrella. More a day for museums, my friend Hilary Nangle told me. But I decided to wait it out. I had hopes to take the ferry over to Peaks Island. Her Moon guidebook to Coastal Maine suggested this would be a good idea while in town. Lucky me. By 9:30 a.m., the rain had stopped. I left the Portland Harbor Hotel and stopped off at the Standard Baking Company on Commercial Street, grabbing a cup of coffee and a danish to eat at the harbor. My plan turned out to be a great idea. Here are 10 reasons why:

1:  The ferry ride

Purchase the $7.70 (price good till October 11) ticket for a ride on the ferry from Portland Harbor over to the island. Check the schedule online, but Casco Bay Lines makes regular trips throughout the day, rain or shine. It also runs year-round.

2:  A taste of Americana

Kids still set up the lemonade stands curbside here. For 50 cents, I could have bought a cup of ice cold lemonade. I paid a dollar, instead. Young entrepreneurs deserve something extra for their ambitious drive.

3: “On your honor”

You can pick up a jar of homemade honey at the end of Evergreen Ledge from Peaks Island Honey Company. Just leave the $3 in the coffee can and take your jar home with you. I haven’t tried mine, yet, but I suspect it’s going to be good. If nothing else, you take home the satisfaction that there are people out there who still value trust.

4: Bike rentals—cheap

For $10 bucks I rented a mountain bike from Brad’s Island Bike Rentals & Repairs and rode it around the whole island, stopping off at the points Brad maps out for his customers. Brad says he’s been in business for more than 20 years, claiming to be the first to deal in “recycled” bikes. It’s a play on words; he means “used.”

The weather turned out to be near perfect, the ride was smooth, and I found a hidden cemetery along the way. I also bought two of his t-shirts. Ka-ching! Forty more bucks. Hey, I’m a sucker for small business.

5: The locals

I stopped in at a cooperative gallery on the island (GEM Island Artists Gallery) and had a chat with Dustine Price. From Maryland, she lives on the island with her family during the summers; it’s a generational thing, so you can ask her all kinds of questions about the place. Plus, you can take home something personal to remind you of your trip. She specializes in sea glass products and anything recyclable. I was personally enamored with her mermaid–made out of Diet Coke cans. It’s been several weeks since I left, and I’m still tempted to have that thing shipped out to me. Thought-provoking art can do that to you.

6: Unexpected museum

Who knew the Army had a Civil War regiment that met up on this island? They did–for annual reunions–and it’s all explained at the The Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial. Brad from the bike shop pointed me there. Dr. Richard S. Adams will talk your ear off, telling you about Maine’s part in two World Wars, all the people who ever stepped foot inside the Queen Anne cottage constructed in 1891 (because of a Louisiana Lottery Gen. William M. McArthur won), and how it once served as a dance and recreation hall. It still does. “I sure like to dance,” he’ll tell you, with a wink. The living museum also serves as a hostel, renting out rooms for less than $600 a week.

7: A quirky museum, too

You’ll get a kick out of the Umbrella Cover Museum. Yes, that’s right. Umbrella covers. Floral ones. Plain ones. Homemade ones. Domestic. International. Mostly donated. They’re hanging from the ceiling, tacked on the walls, in the bathroom! Nancy Hoffman is the director and curator of the tiny bungalow that houses hundreds of them. Also an accordion player, she’ll play her music while you look around. On your way out, you can purchase the CDs. She also has a new book out about the museum itself. I left $20, and hope I get my copy soon.

8: Kayaking

I didn’t get a chance to try this activity, but you can, if you call Maine Island Kayak ahead of time to reserve a space: 207-766-2373. They offer various types of tours, including half-day, full-day and multi-day trips. You can learn about the Casco Bay area, the ecology of the area, or simply be introduced to the world of sea kayaking if you’ve never done it.

9: Birding

You’re on an island, surrounded by water. It stands to reason there will be birds–and not just seagulls. If you walk around or bike around, plan to park your butt somewhere for a while and take a look. The peaceful sounds will relax you.

10: Eating

I wouldn’t want you to starve while on the island. You’ll have your pick of three different restaurants, and I’d pick The Peaks Island House because it faces the bay, has outdoor seating, and serves seafood, steaks and sandwiches for lunch and dinner. Plus, if you have a group with you, it’s affordable.

There’s more to see and do here, but I wanted to make the 4:15 p.m. ferry ride back to Portland and get a quick taste of the Summer Ale at the Old Port Sea Grill. After that, I had plans to relax before dinner in Room 222 at the Portland Harbor Hotel; it had a hot tub with jets calling my name.

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Want to know more about Jackie, author of Backroads & Byways of Arizona: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions? Check out her BIKE BLOG and her TRAVEL BLOG and follow her on Twitter

7 COMMENTS

  1. Ah! What a delight to see my olde island home being discovered anew every year by ‘summah people.” My family moved there to escape the evils of that mean old city, Portland, way back in 1950. My siblings and a ended up graduating from Peaks Island Elementary School (still operating) in 1952 and later. For ‘gym’ and ‘shop’ we went on the ferry to sister schools in Portland. Later, for high school, it was ferry everyday to Portland High School. We lived at the then-midpoint ferry stop, Trefethern’s Landing. After school and in-between we explored the low-tide riches surrounding the island, rowed out to neighboring islands, used our lobster and crab nets to capture dinner from the bay, toured the slightly-marked trails of the island interior, and investigated the massive concrete remnants of World War II’s defensive embattlements — camouflaged and overlooking the back bay. Like the song says:”Those were the days my friend, we thought they’d never end.” Enjoy!

  2. Another great place to visit while on the island is the 5th Maine, another civil war regiment, the gorgeous building’s porch looks out at Cushing island. The 5th Maine also hosts events all summer, weekly concerts and art shows and pancake breakfasts.

  3. I loved going through the fort and the coastline is sooooo beautiful. But walking down to get bagels and coffee in the morning, and ice cream later is the best

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