Downtown Monhegan, 8"x10" oil on canvas panel
I don’t have a good count of the number of islands in Maine you can visit by ferry (no bridge). There are quite a few in Portland Harbor, and many more as you head downeast. Of those, I’ve been to Isleboro, Vinalhaven, North Haven, Swans, Isleford (Little Cranberry), Isle au Haut, and Frenchboro Long Island. Every one was a special treat. One of the most iconic and farthest out, is Monhegan, ten miles off the midcoast Maine shore. It's nicknamed "The Artist's Island", so it's no surprise that I'm a big fan. In the summer, you can visit for a day, or stay a while.
Monhegan Skyline from the Lighthouse
"Monhegan" comes from the Algonquian Monchiggon, meaning "out-to-sea island." It was first visited by Europeans in the early 17th century and became a British fishing camp and trading post. The island was caught in the conflict between Britain and France for control of the region, but even during the times when the island was not inhabited, the protected harbor was a stopover for ships. The current lighthouse was built in 1850, after its 25 year old predecessor was damaged by storms. There is a wonderful museum in the Lighthouse Keeper's cottage.
White house, Monhegan - 4"x5" watercolor on paper
By 1890 the island was established as an artist's colony, which continues to today. Edward Hopper, Rockwell Kent, and Jamie Wyeth are names you've probably heard. What inspires artists to paint here? The light and the subject matter. Many places that are surrounded by water are wonderful for painters because the light bouncing off the water is everywhere, sparkling and giving life to the shadows. As to subject matter, the island is made up of the village, the harbor, forests, meadows, and the dramatic cliffs on the ocean side facing the Atlantic. There's plenty there to paint, photograph or simply enjoy.
Black Head, Monhegan Eastern Shore - 8"x10" oil on canvas
Monhegan is .7 mile wide and 1.7 miles long, and is not developed like the rest of the Maine coast. There are less than 100 year round residents, a working lobster fishing village, and a thriving artist's community. The island has no paved roads and visitors cannot bring cars, but if you are willing to walk, you are in for a treat. Two thirds of the island is protected as a nature preserve by the Monhegan Associates, "an island trust which has accepted the responsibility of holding and maintaining the land in its natural form, for all future generations to enjoy". Seventeen miles of natural trails encircle and crisscross the island, through meadows and forests, onto the headlands, and along the coves and ledges. Birdwatchers, nature lovers, and photographers will all find something to interest them. You'll likely see painters in both the village and on the ocean side cliffs. You can download a trail map of the island, courtesy of the Monhegan Associates, here.
House on Monhegan - 8"x10" oil on canvas
My recommendation for a day trip is to take a walk through the village and then visit the lighthouse, where you'll get a fabulous view of the village at your feet and the island of Manana, which makes up the far side of Monhegan's harbor. If you have time, continue past the lighthouse and walk through Cathedral Woods to White Head on the backside. To get a beautiful view of White Head, turn right on the trail and walk to Gull Cove. Alternatively, the walk to Lobster Cove is beautiful, and your rewards is the rocky cove and the remains of the wreck of the D T Sheridan. And FYI, these walks are somewhat rugged.
Red House, Monhegan - 8"x10" oil on canvas panel
How can you get there? Monhegan is served by ferries from three Maine harbors, from southwest to northeast, BoothBay Harbor (Balmy Days Cruises), great for a day trip, and for a longer stay, Round Pond (Hardy Boat Cruises), and Port Clyde (Monhegan Boat Line).
Me, enjoying painting on Monhegan Island
Bobbi - Painter. Sketcher. Teacher. Boat and Dog Lover.