Cliff Island

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Photo: Zdenka Griswold

Cliff Island, shaped sort of like an H, is not very far from Portland but feels like a different world. The community is small - the smallest year-round island in Casco Bay - and welcoming. The lack of services or amenities for visiting yachts adds to an appealing sense of remoteness. There is usually plenty of room to anchor, the beach is an easy place to pull up your dinghy, and the walking is lovely. Much of the island is permanently protected from development. Local transport includes cars, bicycles, and golf carts.

For more information on Cliff, see the Island Institute profile

Approach & Cautions

Photo: Barbara Keshen - flickr

The approach to the anchorage from the west, between Cliff and Stave islands, is straightforward, with a wide entry and plenty of depth. The eastern side, between Cliff and Bates, is also easy, but be sure to stay close to green can #5. When maneuvering in the anchorage, watch out for the charted 3- and 6-foot spots.

Cliff Island cove with lobster boats moored, houses in the backgreound, seaweed in the foreground

Click the chart to open Navionics.

Not to be used for Navigation.

Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings

The anchorage itself is on the northeast side, between the arms of the H. It is bisected by a ledge. The western side features plenty of room and depth to anchor with good holding in mud. The eastern side is mainly filled with private moorings. Transient visitors often pick up these destination moorings but if you do, be ready to vacate should the owner arrive (don’t leave your boat unattended!). The anchorage is pretty and a Casco Bay favorite for many – but beware: at high tide, the ledge is covered, and for a couple of hours on either side, the western side can be uncomfortably rolly. The eastern side also experiences a roll, especially at the deeper, outermost moorings. Fishermen’s Cove, at 43.41.68 N/070.06.18W, is used by local fishing boats and is full of moorings, with little or no room to anchor. Southwest Cove, at 43.41.58 N/070.05.77W, is completely exposed to the southwest and ranges from inadvisable to untenable in most circumstances. While it can be a good option in northerlies, note that the bottom is kelp.

Cliff is also an alternative to anchoring at often-overcrowded Jewell Island, providing access to Jewell’s hiking trails if you’re up for a long-ish dinghy ride.

Getting Ashore

Photo: Cliff Island ferry dock by Dana Pico (unsplash)

Take your dinghy to the beach on either side of the ledge.

PROVISIONING – The Cliff Island Store and Café, located by the Casco Bay Lines ferry dock, has amended its hours, and it is best to check its website for the latest. It hopefully still serves excellent ice cream and sandwiches, along with basic grocery and household essentials. For any meaningful provisioning, go elsewhere or, in a pinch, see if you can arrange a delivery from one of Portland’s grocery stores (see Portland) on the ferry.

There are no restaurants on Cliff Island.

looking down the ferry dock towards the ferry office

HIKES – Walking along the roads is an excellent way to explore the island and get a feel for what it’s like to live here. One road comes down to the beach by the ledge that divides the anchorage, and Church Road runs to the ferry dock and store on the west side. There are walking trails along the eastern side of the H, and you may come across others elsewhere on the island.

sign boards pointing to various places on the island

Walking on Cliff Island, photo by Zdenka & Jack Griswold


What CCA Members are saying:

Cliff Island is a great place to relax, take a walk, have a picnic on the beach, and enjoy some nice scenery. And if the store is open, definitely have some ice cream!

Zdenka and Jack Griswold

Jack & Zdenka Griswold

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