Star Island offers a series of walking trails that meander out to the southern tip of the island. The rather grand Oceanic Hotel, numerous outbuildings and the granite Gosport Chapel offer a picturesque contrast to the wild, windswept southern shore. A marker denotes the event in 1848 when island school teacher Nancy Underhill was washed off the rocks and into the sea; her body would be found a week later in York, Maine.
On Smuttynose one can proceed up from the beach to sign in at Roz’s Cottage and then walk trails out to the far end of the island. Many who walk these trails come with an interest in the 1873 murders of two women on Smuttynose. However, it is equally worth pondering the rich history of these islands that were once among the earliest fishing settlements on the New England coast. These granite isles were sighted and named “Smith’s Isles” by English explorer Captain John Smith in 1614; the name was later changed to Isles of Shoals.
On Appledore trails crisscross the north and south portions of the island with beautiful views of the sea and shore. The rocks at “the Devil’s Dancefloor” near the northern tip are among the most stunning.
Other Things To Do:
The Oceanic Hotel, rambling and classic, on Star Island permits crews of visiting boat to have lunch, family style, in the dining room if you make a reservation (603-474-0441). Inside the hotel is a small gift shop with arts and crafts items as well as good books on the island’s rich history. There is also a snack bar with hot dogs, ice cream, frappes and other goodies. If you want to step back in time, just try sitting in one of the chairs on the hotel’s expansive porch and daydream of the days in the 1800s when the Isles of Shoals were a getaway spot for artists and writers, among them were Childe Hassam, Celia Thaxter and numerous others. The shady porch on a sunny summer afternoon is blissful!
The Gosport Chapel is a quaint, granite church built around 1800 and still used regularly by island visitors.
The Vaughn Cottage beside the Gosport Chapel houses a small library and museum focused on life on the Isles of Shoals from the early fisheries to the grand hotel era.
Celia Thaxter’s Garden is seasonally maintained and can be found a short walk north along the shore from the dock on Appledore Island. Celia grew up on the islands and her father built a hotel frequented by the likes of authors Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Sarah Orne Jewett and painters Childe Hassam and William Morris Hunt. Celia’s garden, bursting with poppies, delphinium, morning glories and wildflowers provided inspiration for these noted artists. The Shoals Marine Lab staff and students maintain the garden as it appeared in Celia’s time. The blooms and contemplative air merit a visit.
Shoals Marine Lab is perched in the buildings on Appledore’s shore. If you explore Celia Thaxter’s Garden and walk the trails of Appledore, you may also have a chance to chat with one of the scientists or students who work and study at this remote field station operated by Cornell University and the University of New Hampshire. For over half a century the Shoals Marine Lab has been exploring the waters, wildlife and islands of the surrounding Gulf of Maine.