As one heads eastward along the Maine coast, Monhegan is the first true, year-round out island community. Visited by early European explorers, it was one of the first fishing settlements. Today the island continues a century-old tradition of an artist colony with galleries, all on an island with endless hiking trails, a lighthouse, and a museum. It is best visited in fair weather. You will long remember this charming place.
Approach & Cautions
Photo: Bill Barton
The harbor is formed by the water lying between Monhegan Island and smaller Manana Island. One can enter Monhegan Harbor either from the seaward, southwest side of the harbor or from the inland, north end of the harbor. Entering from the seaward is very straightforward. Coming from the west, simply round Manana Island and head northward up the center of the harbor. Gull Rock Ledge is off the southeast end of the island and must be kept clear when approaching the from the east.
If entering from the inland or northern end of the harbor and coming from the west, be sure to leave Duck Rocks to port and Manana to starboard. Round Manana and also leave tiny Smutty Nose Island to starboard and enter through Herring Gut, the passage between Smutty Nose and the ferry pier on Monhegan. If coming from the east, be sure to round gong buoy “3” north of Eastern Duck Rock before making for the entrance at Herring Gut. The Gut is narrow but has good depth.
Click the chart to open Navionics.
Not to be used for Navigation.
Docking, Anchorages, or Moorings
The harbor at Monhegan is formed by the body of water nestled between Monhegan Island and neighboring Manana Island. It is exposed to the southwest, facing the Atlantic. The other end of the harbor is protected by tiny Smutty Nose Island. Being exposed, the harbor is best in typical, light summer southwesterlies, or winds from other quadrants. It is best avoided in bad weather as it can have a significant roll. Anchoring is not possible, due both to the nature of the substrate and the amount of debris on the bottom from centuries of use.
The good news is there are a limited number of moorings available through the Harbormaster, Sherman Stanley (VHF 19 or 207-542-9345). On occasion, a friendly island fisherman may also direct you to an available mooring. If you cannot raise the Harbormaster, pick up an open mooring, leave somebody aboard the boat and take a dinghy into “Fishing Beach,” the right-hand of the two small pebble beaches. At the head of the beach are the Fish House, the island fish market, and a picnic table restaurant. They can connect you with the Harbormaster, and collect the mooring fee. It is best to arrive earlier in the afternoon rather than later to assure mooring availability. This also allows for time to run to Port Clyde or another harbor if all the moorings are taken.
If the weather turns bad, or the harbor is full, make for Port Clyde about ten miles to the north where ample moorings and anchorage area is available. Another option is Tenants Harbor.
Monhegan and Manana Islands are both beautiful from the sea; however, the true magic of each is best experienced by venturing ashore.
Monhegan: Monhegan has a wonderful mix of a quaint village, a variety of eateries, and art galleries along with some of the most stunning hiking through forests and along granite shores and cliffs, complete with a shipwreck. There is even a lighthouse to visit with a museum alongside.
Getting Ashore: There are two small beaches to the right of the ferry pier; the first is a swimming beach. Row into the right-hand beach, known as Fish Beach. At the top of the beach is the Monhegan Fish House restaurant with the Harbormaster on the second floor. Go into the Fish House and ask about paying for your mooring.
Hiking: Trails meander through dense forests, rocky shores, and high atop granite cliffs on the backside of the island. Allow plenty of time for exploring the trails and gazing out across the Atlantic. Trail maps are usually for sale on the island; you can view a copy here.
Monhegan Trails by Zdenka Griswold
Wreck of the D.T. Sheridan: On November 7, 1948, while steaming in a dense fog and towing two barges, the tug boat D. T. Sheridan lost her way and crashed into Monhegan’s unforgiving shore. Head to Lobster Cove at the southern end of the island to climb atop her rusting hull and ponder the turmoil of the shipwreck.
Shipwreck photo courtesy of Downeast Magazine
Lighthouse and Museum: Walk from the village up the road to the lighthouse at one of the island’s high points. From here you get a magnificent view of the island, Manana, and the harbor. In part of the old keeper’s cottage, you will find a fun museum dedicated to island history. Just next door is the Monhegan Museum of Art & History, which each year stages an exceptional exhibition drawn from the works of the many painters who made trips to this magnificent island. Rockwell Kent, Andrew Wyeth, Jamie Wyeth, George Bellows, Edward Hopper, and others all brought paint and canvas to Monhegan.
Museum photo by Zdenka Griswold
Galleries & Shops: Artists and craftspeople still produce a wide array of arts which can be found in island shops including Winter Works, Elva’s Old P.O., Edison Studio, and the Lupine Gallery. In addition, many artists have their own small galleries; a list and map can be found here.
Eateries: After a day of exploring, hiking, and browsing you will need refreshments. Whether you are looking for lunch or dinner there are multiple options. Have lunch at The Novelty behind the Monhegan House, The Monhegan Brewing Company on the way to Lobster Cove, the Monhegan Fish House on the harbor where you left your dinghy, The Barnacle on the ferry wharf, or the Black Duck. For breakfast or dinner, you can try the classic Island Inn dining room overlooking the harbor.
Restrooms: There are public restrooms located behind The Novelty, please make a donation if you use them.
Manana: Manana Island also merits a visit. Row your dinghy into the small dock in the northeast corner of the harbor, at the base of the old Coast Guard steps and supply railway. Clamber up the steep steps to the high ridge of Manana which offers the best views of Monhegan. You are likely to see several goats roaming about or sunbathing on the granite outcrops. Follow the trail and boardwalk to the southern end of the island and the old Coast Guard Sound Signal Station at the far end of the island.