What to See on Monhegan

Plan your day to suit your capabilities and the time available. Keep in mind that the Island is hilly, many trails are rough, and the time required to cover a distance is much greater than that for level ground.

Around the Village
and the Harbor

The Lighthouse was built in 1824. Though it still shines, it has not been manned since 1959 and is now controlled by computer. You can’t go up inside the light, but from the site one has a superb view of the Village, harbor, Manana Island, and the mainland, including the Camden Hills. You might see a freighter or tanker waiting at the Manana Buoy to take on a coastal pilot, and if the time is right the ferry from Portland to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, may be seen on the southern horizon.

The Monhegan Historical & Cultural Museum is housed in the former keeper’s house on the Lighthouse grounds, recently added to the Registry of American Historic Sites. The Museum is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in July and August, and from 12:30 to 2:30 in June and September. The first floor is devoted to the Island’s long and colorful history. The second floor has bird and wildflower pictures to help you identify that specimen you just saw. Across the way is the "new" assistant lightkeeper’s house, with an annually-changing tribute to one of Monhegan’s many past artists.A small donation is encouraged.

The artists’ colony on Monhegan is still alive and well, as it has been for over a hundred years. Some artists have viewing hours in their studios, times and locations of which are listed in a flier available at bulletin boards around the Village, and galleries around the Island show works of local artists. More than a traditional souvenir, art from Monhegan is a constant reminder of this special place.

Clustered around Fish Beach are the fish houses which serve as workshops for many of those who fish and lobster. In summer lobstering gear is piled up about them because Monhegan has a closed season on lobstering running roughly from June to the following December.

Swim Beach is the only safe place to swim on the Island. The water is cold; the beach is very small and tides run hard. Always be sure that someone on the beach knows you are in swimming.

Manana Island helps form Monhegan Harbor. Here may be found the rock purported to contain Norse or Phoenician inscriptions. The fog signal station of the Coast Guard was active here for many years. Transportation by skiff across the harbor can usually be arranged with an Island child at Swim Beach.

The Meadow, in the heart of the Village, is the source of the public water supply. Years ago it was dammed and used for ice-boating and skating. Look on the bulletin board on the rope shed by the meadow for announcements of current events.

The Tercentenary Tablet, on a rock in the yard of the one-room schoolhouse, commemorates John Smith’s voyage to Monhegan in 1614.

Ice was harvested at the Ice Pond for about 100 years. The last harvest was in February, 1974; the old equipment is displayed in a shed behind the Museum at the Lighthouse. The pond is an excellent spot for bird watching and a favorite skating area in winter.

Please be a responsible visitor and respect the rights of the island's citizens and land.
* Water resources are limited; conserve as much as you can.
* Take your garbage ashore with you, but please do NOT take Island flowers.
* Don't trespass on private property; Monhegan is NOT a theme park!

Natural Attractions

The woods are chiefly spruce and fir balsam. In Cathedral Woods, tall slender trees interlace their branches in gothic arches, as in a cathedral. Quiet aisles are carpeted with deep-piled needles, adorned with ferns, wildflowers, tiny new trees, and mosses.

Unusual and rare flowers and plants grow on the Island, but because it is so far out to sea there is a limited chance for reseeding by wind or birds. Some species are in danger of dying out. Many visitors – and there may be 200 in a day during the summer – play ‘botanist for the day’ and frantically gather specimens, but the living plants and their flowers are necessary to produce the seeds for next year’s beauty. Stop and look, photograph or paint, but please do not pick or dig up any living materials. The long-standing custom of presenting departing visitors with bouquets of flowers is charming if the flowers are gathered by Islanders from their own yards, but distressing to see if they’re from the wildlands or roadsides.

Lobster Cove and its meadow are at the southern tip of the Island. This area is excellent for bird watching, particularly shore birds, and has spectacular surf during a southerly storm. Take a picnic lunch to eat on the many flat rocks, and if you're a photographer, try to get a new angle on the old shipwreck there.

Don't try to swim or wade at Lobster Cove or any area on the back side of the Island. Undertows there are unpredictable and dangerous, and high surf can sweep you away if you're too close to the sea. No one has been saved who has gone overboard from Green Point to Lobster Cove.

The Headlands, on the back side of the Island, thrust their bulk majestically out of the sea, and are among the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine coastline. No able walker should miss visiting at least one of them from which, on a clear day, one can see Isle au Haut, Matinicus, Criehaven, and Matinicus Rock. Nova Scotia lies due east, then the broad Atlantic and eventually northern Spain and southern France.

Find your way to the headlands using the Associates' map, not the design on a flier! White Head and Burnt Head both are within easy hiking distance for a day visitor, and the vistas from them are rewarding.

Harbor seals may be seen best at half-tide on the many rocky outcroppings near the Island: take a round-the-island trip to get a good look at them, or watch for them on your return voyage.

Gull Cove, on the back side of the Island, is a rocky shore at sea level, a fascinating place to visit without climbing the headlands. But be careful: Wear sensible shoes, don't climb alone, and beware of wet rocks at all times. An almost invisible moss grows on rocks wet by the surf and stains them black. People venturing onto such rocks have slipped, fallen into the sea, and been lost. During and after a storm, or even when there has been a storm far out to sea, 'combers' (huge waves) come without warning and sweep away anything in their path. Always keep a bulwark between you and the surf!


return to the Introduction


This is part of the Visitor's Guide to Monhegan. For copies of the booklet contact one of the merchants who sponsor it.

Clare Durst 2004