This blog post was updated on July 21, 2022.
As Maine’s biggest city, Portland can seem downright busy, even though it’s small in size. The city is loaded with historic charm by way of cobblestone streets and 19th-century architecture, and is well known for its hip restaurants and craft breweries. Sometimes, Portland can even feel a bit too cosmopolitan if you’re looking for a more laid-back Maine experience. Luckily, just beyond the city, you can reach a number of quaint islands that lend that quiet, calm, and of course, iconic lighthouses that Maine is so famous for. So get away from it all by island-hopping to these favorite Maine islands and lighthouses!
Hop aboard a ferry and in 20 minutes from Portland you can reach Peaks Island. Home to nearly 1,000 year-round residents, the island is enticing for its history and proximity to Portland. Offering up commanding views of the city and the ocean as well, Peaks Island was known in the late 1800s as Maine’s very own Coney Island, complete with hotels, theaters, shops, and an amusement park. The island even served as an important outpost during World War II. In terms of activity, the island includes museums to explore, from the wacky Umbrella Cover Museum to the history exhibits at the Fifth Maine Museum. The island also encourages more leisurely pursuits like popping into its many art galleries, shops, and restaurants along the appropriately named Island Avenue. And nature lovers will appreciate the island’s many beaches like Sandy Beach and Cairn Beach.
Great Diamond Island
Just a 25-minute ferry ride from Portland, Great Diamond Island presents a picture-perfect Maine island. Home to hiking trails and spots to picnic, the island is mostly a private island community. You can pretend you’re a part of the community living here by visiting the waterside restaurant or arranging for a trip on some of Great Diamond’s private lands. As no gas-powered vehicles are allowed, Great Diamond Island is decidedly pure and unhurried. It’s no wonder that big names like Henry Wadsworth Longfellow or Harriet Beecher Stowe used to frequent the island.
Chebeague Island has been enticing families for generations, so much so that it has only around 350 year-round residents but welcomes a whopping 1,600 visitors come summertime. The largest island in Casco Bay measures 5 miles long and 1.5 miles wide, but it’s not too big for its island britches by any means. Settled by New England colonists in the 1700s, Chebeague Island was once an important center for shipbuilding. Today, summer brings more activity, but the island still has just a handful of businesses and places to eat. The island is all about leisure these days, where you can go a few rounds at the 1920s Great Chebeague Golf Club, marvel at all the old homes on a stroll, or park yourself on a beach like Indian Point Beach. The ferry from Portland takes 60 to 90 minutes one way.
If you tend to turn green just thinking about getting on a boat, there’s still an island within reach of Portland for you that doesn’t require a ferry ride. About 50 miles from town, you can hop on a few bridges to Bailey Island. Part of the 216 miles of coastline in the Harpswell Neck, Bailey Island sits proudly as the outermost island in Casco Bay. It remains an ideal island for engaging in popular Maine pastimes, like feasting on lobster at one of the island’s praised restaurants or frequenting an art gallery or two, or merely watching the Atlantic Ocean crash onto the shore.
You may also like: What to Do in Portland, Maine, for a Weekend Trip
Cape Neddick Lighthouse
Photographers flock to this region of Maine for its stunning natural beauty and the many lighthouses that dot the landscape, including the picturesque Cape Neddick Lighthouse. Also known as Nubble Light, this charming lighthouse is located on the summit of the Cape Neddick Bubble. You will find it a short 200 feet from York Beach, making it extremely accessible to visitors to the area.
With a number of hotel and bed and breakfast options in the area, it’s easy to make a trip out of exploring the Nubble Light and its environs. The town of York also features a wide array of restaurants and other activities. You will see Nubble Light perched high above the rock island as you arrive at Sohier Park coming from Nubble Road. From Sohier Park, you will be treated to wonderful views of the lighthouse. A gift shop and restroom facilities are open from the middle of April through the middle of October. The park offers ample parking for your convenience. Visitors to the park also enjoy fishing and scuba diving opportunities, making this a complete coastal Maine experience.
Goat Island Light
The Cape Porpoise area of Kennebunkport is home to Goat Island Light. Established in 1835 to protect the harbor area, the original light was renovated in 1859 to include the 25-foot brick tower that you see today. This particular light station is still in use by the U.S. Coast Guard. Animals that you may catch sight of on your visit include Great Black Backed Gulls, Harbor Seals, Double Crested Cormorants, and Sun Fish.
You can see this lighthouse while standing on the shore of Cape Porpoise Harbor just to the north of Kennebunkport. Many visitors also take in the view of the lighthouse from a boat tour. The light station is located on the southern shores of Goat Island, an outer island that measures about 7.7 acres in size. Be sure to check with the Kennebunkport Conservation Trust for more information on tours of Goat Island and its light station. While in Cape Porpoise, you can also check out the restaurants that offer views of the water, the outer islands, and the light station.
Wood Island Lighthouse
Located in the scenic southern part of the state, Wood Island Lighthouse boasts a history that is over 200 years old. Visitors will find the charming lighthouse off the coast of Biddeford. The Friends of Wood Island Lighthouse nonprofit organization offers tours of this coastal Maine gem. Tours are available in July and August as well as a special engagement on Maine Lighthouse Day in September. Led by volunteers, the tour takes just under two hours and leaves from Vine’s Boat Landing in Biddeford Pool. Visitors ages 10 and over can also choose to climb to the top of the tower to enjoy sweeping views of the area surrounding the lighthouse. If you happen to find book now, pay later flights in search of the quintessential Maine travel outing, Wood Island has to be on your list!
What’s your favorite Maine island? Share your pick with us in the comments below!
Leave a Comment