Maine islands are beautiful, restful — and struggling. My wife Linda and I wrote many travel columns about our favorite islands, and we found the people on these islands to be very friendly and helpful.

Peaks Island, just off of mainland Portland, was a favorite. It’s a small island so we didn’t need our car, and we enjoyed the walks along the ocean and through the woods. We always stayed at the Inn at Peaks which has nice rooms and a great restaurant and pub.

Peaks residents do not like being part of Portland and have twice tried to secede, unsuccessfully both times. Now they are in a controversy about a proposal to significantly increase the size of the ferry that takes people from Portland to Peaks. Residents are afraid that it will result in many more tourists and vehicles on the small island, which has only two restaurants and not much public parking.

Monhegan Island became a favorite after a day trip with Maine Audubon to see all the migrating birds, which became our focus as we traveled to Monhegan every spring. We enjoyed being there before everything opened and the island became full of tourists and summer residents.

We always enjoyed the trip from Port Clyde to Monhegan with Monhegan Boat Line. It was fun to see folks loading supplies for the trip to the island that they purchased on the mainland. Everybody was friendly and talkative.

We always stayed in one of the apartments at Shining Sailes Bed & Breakfast. The Murdochs are great hosts, and our apartment included a full kitchen and a deck overlooking the ocean. You can spend all day hiking the trails and enjoying the stunning ocean views on the island. In the spring, migrating birds are everywhere. The island is a haven for artists, too.And of course we enjoyed the local brewery owned by Matt and Mary Weber. 

Today islanders are in a dispute over a proposed wind power tower just off shore. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there.

On North Haven we stayed at Nebo Lodge, owned by U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-1st District, and managed by her daughter Hannah, a former speaker of the Maine House of Representatives. Hannah put us in the Matinicus room — very appropriate! And she loaned us her truck so we could travel the island, which is stunningly beautiful.

The other island that we fell in love with is Swans Island off Mount Desert. There are only five rooms on the entire island that you can rent by the night. We settled into the Carter House bed and breakfast, where Nancy Carter, a retiree and wonderful hostess, lives in her grandfather’s house right on the shore. Nancy only has two rooms and allows guests to use her kitchen, dining room and living room. Nancy’s stories of growing up on the island were amazing.

The island offers wonderful hikes, remote beaches, and super friendly people. Every Saturday the community gathers for breakfast, and you sit at large tables visiting with everybody. I even did a couple book talks at their wonderful library. On our first visit, we wrote about the island’s two restaurants and food truck. On our visit the next year, we were sorry to learn that both restaurants had closed.

One time Candy Joyce, who was the librarian at the time, decided she’d like to start a bus tour that would take visitors from Acadia on a day tour of the island. But the local commercial fishermen and women — and the summer people — didn’t want it, and it never happened. The islanders have dealt with a series of challenges from the cost of electricity to delivery of mail, but they have worked together to solve all problems.

One year while staying on Swan’s, we were boated over to Long Island for the Frenchboro Lobster Festival, a fantastic event. Dean Lunt, the owner of Island Port Press in Yarmouth, grew up in Frenchboro. He was the only kid in his class, so instead of going to school he went to his teacher’s house each day. Yes, island life is very special.

Some of Dean’s family are still on the island, and during the festival he took us on a car ride around the island. It only took about 10 minutes because there aren’t many roads. We enjoyed a long and beautiful hike all around the island before chowing down on the lobster feast.

On several islands, big deer herds and cases of Lyme disease are a serious concern. Monhegan, which had suffered the highest per capita cases of Lyme, in the late 1990s killed all the deer on the island and eliminated Lyme disease.

Most of our islands are challenged these days to maintain year-round populations and services, from groceries to ferries. But they are all very special places, deserving of our support.

 

George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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