If you’ve been a longtime reader, you know that we love the islands of Maine. With over 3,000 beautiful options strung up along 3,500 miles of coast, the island vibes in Maine are strong. With so many to choose from, planning a trip can be overwhelming. To help you stop planning and get traveling, we’d like to share Only in Maine’s favorite island: Vinalhaven!
The name Vinalhaven is actually a bit of a misnomer. The island is actually one of the Fox Islands and Vinalhaven is the name of the largest town on the largest of the two Fox Islands. Today, many people refer to the island simply as "Vinalhaven." The area is a thriving, working lobster community and much of the local activity focuses on this key industry.
Vinalhaven sits in West Penobscot Bay, about an hour and a half ferry ride from Rockland. Our favorite thing to do is arrive slightly early and give ourselves an excuse to stop in at the Wich, Please Food Truck before leaving.
Serving up insanely delicious sandwiches, burritos and wraps, Wich, Please is a natural last mainland stop before spending the weekend eating fresh lobster at every meal.
The ferry runs 6 times daily through the summer. The first ferry leaves Rockland at 7am and the last leaves at 4:30pm. See the end of this article for helpful travel links including a ferry schedule.
Vinalhaven was first inhabited by the Red Paint People about 3,000 years ago. Next came the Abenaki. Europeans finally made their way to the island in the 1603, followed by the first permanent English settlement in 1766. The town of Vinalhaven was officially incororated in 1789, named for John Vinal. Interesting fact: Mr. Vinal did not actually live on the island, but was actually the agent who petitioned the Maine General Court to make it a town.
Vinalhaven has a small year-round community, with a population that swells slightly in the summer. And, for good reason. The island is home to two beautiful nature preserves:
Lane’s Island Preserve which is within walking distance of the town center and The Vinalhaven-North Haven Archipelago preserve which includes Big Garden, Big White, Sheep, Smith, Brimstone and Little Brimstone islands.
If you're looking for an easy, convenient and incredibly scenic walk through the area head to Lane's Island Preserve, which is a part of nearby Lane's Island. To get there, head out of the main village and make a right on Water Street. You'll find yourself on Atlantic Avenue.
Next, cross over a lovely causeway which leads directly to the area. Once there, you'll find lots of little trails that lead through grassland, over hills and provide sweeping views over the water. We met a local lobsterman who told us about the changing face of the lobster industry on the island. Be friendly and ask questions to learn more about the area and how it's changed.
The island's namesake is Captain Timothy Lane and his family has a small cemetery plot on the preserve.
You can easily get around by walking in Vinalhaven, but biking is the best way to take it in. There are a few rental options in the center of town with reasonable day rates. Renting a bike will also allow you to get to some of the further off places, such as the almost 20 hiking preserves. A great one, near town is
The Vinalhaven Land Trust has done an amazing job of creating various hiking paths that meander through the forest, eventually leading to the Basin and the water area.
We recommend making your way to the water and then spending some serious time practicing your rock skipping.
Along the way, you'll see remnants of granite quarries for which the islands were once famous. In some areas, this just means huge rock slabs with unnaturally flat edges. But, in other areas, evidence of quarries comes in the form of actual excavated lakes.
Search these out! They make for some awesome summer swimming. And group jumps!
If you get lucky, you may even spot some seals in the bay.
After enjoying the natural bits of the island, make sure to grab a filling meal. During the summer, there are a variety of options - though, not tons. Try the Harbor Gawker at 26 Main Street for some classic Maine seafood. It's on the pricey side compared to some others, but consider it for a splurge. We've listed some other options at the end of this article.
For an overnight stay, you can't go wrong with
The Tidewater Motel. With a location directly overlooking the harbor you'll wake up to the sound of lobster boats heading out to work.
One of the best features of The Tidewater is the water that rushes under the building during the tidal change. Twice daily, you'll hear the incredible sound and watch as Maine's dramatic tidal system unfolds before your eyes.
Vinalhaven is close enough to Portland to make it an easy weekend trip, but far enough away to warrant that weekend trip. But, if you’ve got the time – spend a week! Below are a few places to check out that will help make the trip one of the best of the summer: