Once you’ve fallen in love with the idea of seeing Monhegan Island for yourself, you have to figure out how to get there. And, as you might expect, it’s easier to get there during tourist season (May to Columbus Day in October) than it is off-season. Since we were coming from Castine “up north,” we asked people who had been there for their best advice. Then we went online to see what they had advised was even available in mid-October. With only one ferry per day, leaving at 10:30, we knew we had to spend the night before near Port Clyde, and then boat over the next morning. So here’s what we did.
Head to Rockland, down Route 1
No arm twisting needed to get us drive south on Route 1 for true Maine scenery on a fairly uncrowded (at that time of year) major highway. We timed the trip to land during early evening hours at Cafe Miranda, a place known for its award-winning (Down East Magazine‘s 2015 Chef of the Year) Chef Kerry Altiero and his dedication to serving locally sourced foods. AND the best wood-fired pizza anywhere.
If you get the option of a table or stools overlooking the kitchen, choose the latter. Watching two cooks hustle in a tiny space while sprinkling quality ingredients on homemade pizza dough and plating up fresh kale salads will make you practically lean over the counter for a better view. Two cooks. High energy. All the way.
This pizza is thin enough to be crispy yet thick enough to hold up under a pile of bacon, mozzarella, romano, peppers and tomatoes. They call it The Rock. We call it Fabulous!
Stay at Craignair Inn, Spruce Head
Just a short 7-mile distance away is Spruce Head, Maine, home of Craignair Inn. But on the way to sweet sleep at this larger-than-life restaurant/bedandbreakfast, you get to enjoy the scenery.
Peaceful, out-of-the-way residences made us wonder if we had taken a wrong turn. But the Craignair loomed large in the background and offered a restful night in the country.
The next morning, we almost couldn’t see through the fog. But in front of Craignair lay a small road, some private residences and a view of boulders along mud flats that most likely fill up and empty out with the tides.
A quick walk around the neighborhood revealed more New England charm.
And then we were off to catch the ferry at Port Clyde.
Board the ferry at Port Clyde
If you booked ahead (and by all means do that!), you pick up ferry tickets at the office of Monhegan Boat Line. Going after Columbus Day means that you have one and only one option: the 10:30 ferry. So call ahead or order online, pick up your tickets at the station, park you car, and head to Port Clyde General Store for the last hot cup of coffee of the day. (Remember: No restaurants are open on Monhegan. In fact, you may even want to add a Linda Bean’s lobster roll or a blueberry muffin to your order and “pack it in,” as we were told to do.)
The General Store has what you’d expect — Maine souvenirs and food for traveling. But just sitting at the counter sipping coffee puts you on a level playing field with people from all over the country along with a few Mainers. Listening to conversations is entertainment in and of itself!
Then you board the Laura B that runs the morning route to Monhegan. Built in 1943, this heavy-duty boat spent WWII in the Pacific carrying troops and supplies. But after arriving in Maine in 1946, she hauled lobsters from Vinalhaven to Boston and NYC. We felt privileged to ride in the Laura B — and safe. (But not immune to the queasy feeling you get when waters are rough. That’s a first-hand experience talking to you!)
Arrive at Monhegan Island
And that’s how we got there: from Castine to Rockland to Spruce Head to Port Clyde to Monhegan. It’s beautiful country by land and even better scenery by boat.
Here’s hoping you get there, too!
For more information:
Cafe Miranda, 15 Oak Street, Rockland, ME; 207-594-2034d
Craignair Inn & Restaurant, 5 Third Street, Spruce Head, ME; 207-594-7644
Monhegan Boat Line, Route 131 to Port Clyde, ME; 207-372-8848
Port Clyde General Store, 4 Cold Storage Road, Port Clyde, ME; 207-372-6543
Shining Sails, 346 Main Street, Monhegan, ME; 207-596-0041
For more on our travel adventures to Maine, click here.