Why Visit Maine?
Being on the east coast means that you can watch the sunrise over the ocean. Heck yeah, I’m down for that and that was my first morning on Deer Island.
I may not love getting up in the morning, but I do love the sunrise, so I set my alarm to make sure that I was up in time. I’m sad to report that it was much too grey and cloudy to get to see the sunrise either of mornings that we spent on the coast here. On the bright side, my commitment to getting up gave me the opportunity to sit down by the ocean in the early morning hours, before the rest of the world was awake. I was able to enjoy the peaceful serenity that just was. It was the best start to the day that I could have asked for.
Maine is not a place that I’d choose to move to, even after visiting, but it is a place that I would visit over and over again. There’s a different type of energy to the small communities in Maine that I’ve not experienced elsewhere. There was a sense of calm and peacefulness along with a sense of beingness in the area that is good for the soul. Anyway, I digress so I’ll make this point fast and move on. Rural Maine was on my bucket list for a long time and I was unsure why. The pre-dawn experience on this particular morning was exactly why. I hope you all get the chance to visit the state because your soul will thank you.
It was so beautiful here on the island that we decided to change our plans. We were originally going to head up to Bar Harbor to see Acadia National Park but decided to spend the day exploring Deer Isle. We had a blast and if you ever find yourself on the island, here are our top picks for things to do. The was one of the best stops on the entire trip. One of our least expensive days too. Our total out of pocket expense for the entire day was $3.14, and could have been $0 had we not stopped for a soda. That said, I am going to make some recommendations here that would require an investment.
Once again I’m going to rave about off season travel here. The area was not overly large so we did a pretty thorough exploration of the island throughout the day. We experienced the entire Island without running into hordes of other people in the process.
Eleven Must Do Bucket List Activities On Deer Isle in Maine
1. Explore a Nature Preserve
Exploring the island today was all about nature. We had plenty of adventures to choose from. Every turn seemed to lead to an inlet with access to the water or a nature preserve. We stopped to check out a few of the different preserves. Crockett Cove Woods was our favorite one of the day.
This is a 98 acre preserve that is made up of Fir and Spruce trees. The ground was covered with fern, moss and lichens. It made it a unique place to take a walk. The trail was short, only 1/4 mile but it connected with other trail systems on the island.
Deer Isle Lily Pond Beach was also among our favorite stops for the day. This is a preserve that has a pond a short hike out from the parking area. This is a local swimming hole and is filled with fresh water. In Maine, the ocean doesn’t get warm enough for recreational swimming to be common, even in the summer. Instead, people will go to the Lily Pond to enjoy the water.
Other options for nature preserves to visit on the island are:
• Barred Island Preserve
• Settlement Quarry
• Polypond Island
• Edgar Tennis Preserve
• Shore Acres Preserve
• Lisa Tollman Wotton Nature Preserve
If you plan to visit during an active hunting season, be sure to sport your bight orange gear. This is so hunters can see you and don’t mistake you for the wildlife in the area! It just so happens that early November is an open season.
Brandee, prepared as always, had some bright orange ponchos and an emergency vest with us. This meant that we had the necessary attire to do the hiking we wanted to.
2. Visit Nervous Nellies Jams and Jellies
Nervous Nelly’s is, as the name states, a jam and jelly shop located in a small cottage. They make over 300 jars of jams, jellies and chutney’s each day. Most of the fruit used in the products is locally grown fruit making this an excellent place to pick up some gifts for those back home. I always like to find unique gifts that don’t come from your standard souvenir shop. This place hits the mark.
The name doesn’t suggest this, but Nervous Nelly’s is also a sculpture garden that spans several acres. The sculptures are made from recycled materials and represents classic Americana. The sculpture garden features a general store, a saloon, a jail, and a church to name a few. This was a fun and quirky place to explore and for you budget conscious travelers the sculpture garden is as good as it gets. Free will donation is accepted but there is no entrance fee.
3. Take a Walk Through Stonington Village
Stonington Village is a quaint yet beautiful place that ends at the harbor. Taking some time to stroll through the village and see the architecture here, along with the local shops is a fun way to spend some time during your stay. Regardless of where you find yourself during your travels, I am a huge proponent of supporting local businesses. Wandering through the village and peeking in to the local places gives you an opportunity to find the hidden gems. Every community has them and it’s what makes traveling fun. While your doing that you’re also supporting the local community. Win-win for everyone involved.
4. Have a Kayaking Adventure
If you are traveling between May and September there are plenty of options available for kayaking or canoeing during your stay on Deer Isle. You can find yourself with anything from a rental to a 3 day tour that includes food and camping along the way. You can check out Driftwood Kayak or Old Quarry Ocean Adventures right on the island for the options available. Pricing varies by option.
A note of caution, the ocean water in Maine is cold all year round. You may want to look into options for a wetsuit for any kayaking, canoeing or other water adventure that you engage in during your visit here.
5. Stop in to Discovery Wharf
While you’re taking that walk through the village and harbor you may find yourself at Discovery Wharf. This stop will likely take you less than an hour. It’s another budget friendly option that’s good for families, couples or solo travelers. Here you can find a touch tank, and interactive touch wall and some VR activities. A stop here grants you exposure to the world of lobstering.
Lobstering is a huge part of the livelihood in Maine. So much so that the lobster that you find in the area is called Maine lobster and is available in restaurants across the country. Stopping in at Discovery Wharf, you can get a dose of education about the local fishing economy.
6. See a Show at the Stonington Opera House
Built in 1912 you can take in a movie or performance in a building filled with history. The opera house is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is still open for business today. They host a wide variety of events that range from new release movies to community gatherings to performance arts shows.
The wide variety of events means that theirs is always something new going on here and you can find something suitable for people of all ages. This can potentially be another one of those budget friendly options. Pricing ranges are significant with the cheapest events being free. Be sure to check out the website for more details and to book your ticket.
7. Explore the Remote Part of Acaida National Park - Isle au Haut
Isle Au Haut is a lesser known part of Acadia National Park. Acadia national park sees millions of tourists each year. However, this small part of the park averages less than 10,000 visitors. Definitely off the beaten path. The only way to access this part of the park is via a boat-ride from Isle au Haut Boat Service on the Mail Boat.
The Mail Boat is a year round passenger, freight and mail service to Isle au Haut. The rates for this trip are based on age and cargo you may be carrying on-board. As of 2020, the round trip rate for one adult to the island and back is $40.00.
In addition to being home to this remote part of Acadia National Park, there’s a small community of people that live on the island. They use this as their transportation option between Deer Isle and Isle au Haut. During peak travel season there are 2 docking destinations allowing visitors to the island more options.
*Important note, this area of Acadia National Park does not have an facilities. There are 18 miles of trails that is a hiking space for hikers looking for a more strenuous hike. Your best bet for getting started on these trails would be to take the boat to the Duck Harbor landing.
8. Attend a Workshop from the School of Herbalism
Looking for a unique experience? Take a class on herbalism or an herb walk to learn about the healing properties of the herbs grown in Maine. You can choose from a wide variety of options including herb walks, cooking with herbs, and herbal beauty workshops… Think spa day! And that’s just to name a few. You can contact the School of Herbalism for more details.
9. Go on a Lighthouse Tour
Your visit to Maine would not be complete without a stop at a lighthouse or two. But why stop there? Deer Isle has many lighthouses. At least 8 within a 12 mile stretch of the shores according to the Deer Isle Chamber of Commerce. Three of the 8 lighthouses are visible from shore and the other 5 are visible by boat.
Four of the eight can be viewed year round by land or sea, the other 4 can be viewed year round by air on Penobscot Island Air. Information can be obtained Island Heritage Trust; located at 420 Sunset Road, Deer Isle; where you can also purchase a lighthouse passport. There are several other locations to buy your lighthouse passport at if this locations doesn’t work. Just know, your tour wouldn’t be complete without getting your passport stamped.
Lighthouses on the trail
• Pumpkin Island Light
• Eagle Island Light
• Mark Island Light
• Isle au Haut Light
• Goose Rocks Light
• Brown’s Head Light
• Saddleback Ledge Light
• Heron Neck Light
10. Take a Boat Ride to Seal Island to See the Puffins
This is a guided tour where you’ll take a boat ride from the shore of Stonington to the shore of Seal Island. Along the way you will learn about the birds and sea creatures that call this space home, including the Puffins. No one is allowed to land on Seal Island so you’ll be viewing the island from the comfort of the boat. Once you get to Seal Island, you’ll observe the shores where the Puffins nest.
This ocean adventure takes between four and five hours. As of the time of this post, in 2020, the price is $75.00 per adult and reservations are recommended.
11. Take a Lobster Fishing Scenic Tour
This tour lasts just over an hour and along the way you’ll get to see real lobster traps pulled up from the ocean floor. This is a catch and release program. You’ll get that up close and personal look at the sea life found at the bottom of the ocean off the Downeast Maine coastline.
Along the way you’ll learn about the history of this industry in the area, some fun folklore, and view some of the lighthouses on the aforementioned lighthouse tour. The price for this adventure is $24.00. More information on making reservations can be found here.
All in all this is a hidden gem that holds a little bit of something for everyone. This off the beaten path destination gets 5 stars in my book.
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