Matinicus Island Maine
Matinicus Island - a small, scenic and working island community on the outer reaches of Penobscot Bay
If you really want to get away, if you really want to travel back in time, if you really want to live the way Mainers lived a hundred years ago, you might consider a trip to Matinicus.
Don’t be intimidated by the island’s tempestuous history. The first visitors to Matinicus were the Penobscot Native Americans, who visited the island to collect the eggs of seabirds. The first European settler was Ebenezer Hall, who made his home on the island with the intent to farm and fish. However, he burned land on a nearby island in an attempt to create better pasture, and this angered the Native Americans. Legend has it that after issuing multiple warnings to Ebenezer to leave the island, the Native Americans scalped him and kidnapped his wife and four children.
However, ask any of the 60 year-round inhabitants, and he or she will tell you things have settled down now.
In years past, Matinicus Island has been listed in yacht guides as a “hostile harbor.” Matinicus is one of the last harbors in Maine that is home to almost exclusively working vessels. Matinicus was even nicknamed “Pirate Island” thanks to its reputation of eccentricity, independence, and intolerance. But today, there are even a few places for visitors to stay on the island.
And even though the islanders finally do encourage visiting, Matinicus still isn’t a major tourist attraction. Matinicus is the most seaward of Maine’s islands. It lies 22 miles from Rockland, in the outer reaches of Penobscot Bay. It is very rural, accommodations very rustic, and the island is somewhat difficult to reach.
There are no restaurants on the island, and no organized entertainment geared toward a tourism audience. There is one (102-year-old) church (which was recently updated with indoor plumbing), a small general store, an even smaller bakery operated out of someone’s home, a small clearing used for an airport, a power company (a shed filled with diesel powered generators) and a K-8 school (the island’s high school students board on the mainland). There are no public restrooms on the island.
There are two choices for lodging:
Matinicus Island Get Away has apartments available for nightly or weekly rental. They also guarantee transportation to and from the island. A one-bedroom apartment costs $535, while a two-bedroom apartment costs $735. Nightly rates are available. Each unit includes a full kitchen, bedding, and towels. Lobster is available upon request. Call (207) 366-3937 for more information.
Your other option is Tuckanuck Lodge, which you’ll find in a quiet spot on a dead end road. Some of the rooms in this bed & breakfast offer ocean views. All include a complimentary breakfast. Dinner is also available. Renting a room for one week will cost between $350-$450. A night at the Tuckanuck runs between $60 and $100. The Tuckanuck Lodge is open year-round and is family and pet friendly. Call (207) 366-3830 for more information.
How do you get there? There are a few options.
The Maine State Ferry Service offers a ferry out of Rockland. This ferry runs only 4 times a month in the summer, and only once a month in the winter. The trip takes over 2 hours. Call (207) 596-2202 for more information.
There are two private ferries on the island: Matinicus Excursions (207) 691-9030 and Penobscot Ferry and Transport (207) 691-6030.
If you have your own boat, moorings are available for rent. Call Josh Ames at (207) 366-3128.
Once you are there, most people choose to get around the island by foot. This is highly feasible, as the island is only 2 miles long and about a mile wide. However, if you plan to walk at night, bring a flashlight, as there are no streetlights. You can also utilize Mermaid Taxi (207) 366-3161. Bikes are also available for rent from Matinicus Bike Rentals (207) 366-3113.
What to do on Matinicus? Not much that you couldn’t have done a hundred years ago. Stroll on the dirt roads (there are no paved roads on the island). Stare at the stars (there is no light pollution on the island). Enjoy the unadulterated ocean views. Enjoy the lack of cell phone service. In June and July, you can go visit the Puffin colony that makes its home on nearby Matinicus Rock. Year-round, you can bird watch. There are two sandy beaches on Matinicus, though the water’s a bit chilly year round. Children and the brave at heart don’t seem to mind.
Just be sure to bring enough to eat. The small general store has a limited inventory. For a fee, Shaw’s Supermarket in Rockland will deliver groceries to the island via airplane.
Photos by Jim Kuhn. We would like to thank Jim Kuhn for granting us permission to use his images of Matinicus Island. You can view more images of Matinicus and Maine by visitng Jim's Flickr page.