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July 1, 2022

The 10 Best Things to Do on Monhegan Island, Maine

The History of Monhegan Island

Located about 12 miles off the coast of mainland Maine, Monhegan is a small island that, as of the 2020 census, is home to about 64 year-round residents. Just across the harbor lies its neighboring island of Manana, which is uninhabited by humans and was designated a national natural landmark in 1966.

Despite having a less-than-optimal internet connection, the island does have the occasional DSL network, all thanks to the 1999 establishment of the Monhegan Plantation Power District, which was the first time the island had electricity.

I first had the privilege of visiting Monhegan, Maine back in 2018, and have since been obsessed with every aspect from its small-town culture to its quaint architecture, which is why I put together this list of the 10 best things to do on Monhegan Island.

By the late 19th century, Monhegan Island was known as an artist colony, which attracted many famous painters and photographers. After seeing the island with my own two eyes, it became evident why so many before me had been drawn to the island and its immense natural beauty.

Best Things to Do on Monhegan Island
Monhegan Island Harbor. Photo by Matt Grandbois

So, What Are the Best Things to Do on Monhegan Island?

As a mildly-seasoned photographer and traveler, I was extremely inspired by this quaint artist colony in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and wanted to put together a list of the 10 best things to do on Monhegan Island in hopes of inspiring others to visit this amazing place.

My biggest words of advice to anyone looking to visit the island are this: understand that the island consists of a small community of honest, hardworking people who deserve to be treated with respect. The same goes for the fragile ecosystem—stay on marked trails, don't litter, and most importantly leave everything the same way you find it. Following those guidelines will ensure that you and the locals will have a positive experience during and after your visit. So, without further ado, let's get into the 10 best things to do on Monhegan Island.

1. The Monhegan Island Ferry Ride

The first highlight of visiting Monhegan Island starts before even setting foot on the island. The Monhegan Boat Line is the only commercial transportation service that takes you to and from the island, and while some may see this as a downside, I found the ferry ride to be an extremely peaceful and exciting part of the journey.

I was fortunate enough to ride the Elizabeth Anne, which offered comfortable seating and a mere 55-minute travel time, as opposed to the 70-minute travel time if taking the Laura B. Being from Massachusetts originally, I've always loved the ocean and traveling by boat, which is why this stage of my trip made it onto this list.

PSA: if you easily get seasick, you may want to avoid visiting Monhegan, as the boat was rather rocky at times during our voyage.

If you're like me, however, and LOVE boats, I highly recommend this trip; just make sure you use the bathroom before departing and grab something to eat because the food and bathroom situation on the boats are, well, less than ideal.

When I visited, I lucked out with the weather, which made the ferry ride even more enjoyable, but I should mention that they won't run the ferry lines in the event of bad weather for obvious reasons. Although you cannot visit the island by skipping this step, I included it on my list because of how peaceful and beautiful it was sailing from the coast of Maine to the isolated island nearly 12 nautical miles away.

2. Eat at the Barnacle Cafe

The Barnacle is a café and coffee shop located at the very base of the island and is a part of the Island Inn, which is the largest place of lodging on the island with 32 rooms and suites. The Barnacle offers local Monhegan Coffee Roasters coffee and the most delicious brownies and cookies imaginable. Make sure that after you grab your food and drink of choice you find yourself a seat on the front porch so you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Best Things to Do on Monhegan Island
Overview of Monhegan Island and the Island Inn. Photo by Matt Grandbois

3. Check in to the Island Inn

It wouldn't be a proper trip to Monhegan without staying at the Island Inn. As I mentioned previously, the inn has a whopping 32 rooms and suites to accommodate tourists and sightseers, which book up fast during the summer months. Aside from the charming rooms and historic architecture, the dining room serves some of the freshest lobster and tastiest pancakes. I wouldn't recommend eating both in the same sitting, but I digress. To top it all off, there is a stunning front porch where you can sit and watch the sun set beneath the horizon each and every night.

Monhegan Lighthouse - Monhegan Island, Maine
Monhegan Lighthouse. Photo by Matt Grandbois

4. Visit Monhegan Lighthouse

As someone who loves studying the various styles of architecture across the world, it was a treat to visit one of the original landmarks on the island, which is why this activity made the list of the best things to do on Monhegan Island. There is a super cool museum of art & history inside the lighthouse, which you can tour between the late June and September months of the summer—if you try to visit during any other season, you will be disappointed because it is closed.

Cliffs at Whitehead - Monhegan Island, Maine - Matt Grandbois
Cliffs at Whitehead. Photo by Matt Grandbois

5. Hike the Cliffs at Whitehead

One of the most scenic spots on all of the Island are the cliffs at Whitehead. If you are lucky enough (or unlucky enough, depending on your outlook), to make this hike on a hot summer day, you will instantly remember why you rarely hike in the hot summer months. But, if you're determined enough to keep going, you'll be rewarded with the gorgeous views of the waves crashing into the steep cliffs, along with a supreme view of the rest of the island.

6. Visit the Local Shops

Are there any shopaholics in the crowd? Well, luckily you can find a handful of quaint gift shops and stores that sell some great Monhegan merch and trinkets. Supporting local businesses is essential when visiting small communities!

D.T. Sheridan Shipwreck - Monhegan Island, Maine - Matt Grandbois
D.T. Sheridan Shipwreck. Photo by Matt Grandbois

7. Explore the D.T. Sheridan Shipwreck

In 1948, a diesel-propelled tug boat met an unfortunate fate as a dense fog caused it to bottom out near the coast of the island. Nearly 30 years later, a huge storm pushed the abandoned vessel onto the shore of the island, leaving rusted remnants for visitors to admire and wonder about.

8. Have a Beer at Monhegan Brewing Company

Monhegan Brewing Company is the only brewery on the island, but despite having no competition, it does not disappoint. I loved the atmosphere and low-key vibes offered by the staff and the décor. Do yourself a favor and get yourself a souvenir t-shirt so you'll always remember the time you had a Balmy Days Citra Kölsch 12 miles off the coast of Maine.

Monhegan Church, Monhegan Island - Matt Grandbois
Monhegan Church. Photo by Matt Grandbois.

9. Visit Monhegan Church

Despite being an atheist myself, I always find it fascinating to learn about various religions in addition to visiting their places of worship. Undoubtedly, people have historically put the most effort into constructing their places of worship, which makes for some really interesting architecture.

Best Things to Do on Monhegan Island
Monhegan Island Harbor. Photo by Matt Grandbois

10. Watch the Sunset at the Harbor

The highlight of my trip to Monhegan Island was on the last night of my trip when I was able to sit and watch the sunset over the harbor. I was able to capture a frenzy of photos and spend some quality time with the people I love. Sometimes in life, it is important to focus on the little things that we often take for granted, like the sunset.

Conclusion

Let's face it, you've probably never considered visiting Monhegan Island up to this point. It is a small island in the middle of nowhere, and the water in the hotels can sometimes have a yellow tint to it.

But what was it about the island that inspired me to write this blog post? I think as humans we sometimes lose touch with what's really important, but to be fair, the little things are often easy to overlook. But for the first time in years, I finally felt like I was "connected" with my surroundings.

My cell service was so weak that it forced me to leave my phone in the room and actually be present during this trip, which allowed me to feel more alive than I had in a long time. Sometimes we need to take a step back and remember that life is finite; we aren't here forever.

But at the end of the day, the biggest things that matter to me are the little ones: family, friends, good food, pretty sunsets, and all the fresh air my lungs can take. If you decide to visit Monhegan Island, do yourself a favor and allow yourself the freedom to reconnect with all the little things you're so eager to ignore in your day-to-day life.

Photos From My Trip

Scroll down to take a look at some of my favorite photos from my trip to Monhegan Island in 2018. You will see most of the spots mentioned in my list of the 10 best things to do on Monhegan Island. Please note that all images are copyright protected and I am the sole owner of the intellectual rights.  If you would like to see more photos from my adventures, please view my adventure gallery.