Recommend a day trip by boat from Portland, Maine.
September 16, 2011 4:32 AM   Subscribe

Recommend a day trip by boat from Portland, Maine.

We are leaving tomorrow to spend a week in Maine! We will be in Portland for three days and want to spend part of one of those days on a boat, probably a ferry of some sort. A day trip to Monhegan Island sounds wonderful, but I'm not crazy about having to get up early enough to drive 60 miles to New Harbor for a 9am ferry.

What are my best alternatives if I want to see some nature on the water (puffins!?!), do some easy hiking, and maybe visit a cute small town. Will I get those things by going to Chebeague Island? What about the mailboat run cruise?

My first ask ever was about a trip to Maine, but that trip never happened. This one is real, I promise.
posted by Xalf to Travel & Transportation around Portland, ME (13 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Peak's Island. It's small enough to walk or bike around in a day, has a cute downtown with little shops, and is generally awesome. Access by ferry. Easy to get around by bike.
posted by Adridne at 5:10 AM on September 16, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Check Casco Bay Lines. They go out to a bunch of Islands just a short trip away. Great Diamond Island doesn't have cars! People get around by golf cart.

There are also cruises to Eagle Island, which may be more scenic for your tastes.

And Peak's Island is, well, just a classic little Maine island. So, you'll get classic little Maine shops, beaches, scenery, etc.
posted by zizzle at 5:12 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: Easy to get around by bike
And there's a cheap bike rental shop right off the Ferry - walk up the street and hang a left.

The ferry ride itself, while nice, is quite short - 15 minutes really. So if you are looking for more boat time and less island time you might want to consider the whole mailboat thing or one of the other islands. You might see some seals, but no puffins in Casco Bay.
posted by mikepop at 5:50 AM on September 16, 2011

A friend just tweeted that he's spending the day on Long Island.

Enjoy your time in Portland - this is is such a nice time of year to visit. Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like more recommendations.
posted by suki at 5:53 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: For a day trip to see island life, I would probably go to Peaks. It is a quick ferry trip on the Casco Bay lines and they run often. Wherever you go you definitely want to make sure you have bikes, either by renting them there or bringing them with you. For a day trip with more time on the water I would probably be inclined to go to Eagle Island, though I have been on the Casco Bay lines mailboat run many times for transit purposes and it is fun on a nice day. I love Chebeague quite a bit and have been going there for years for vacation and know it well, but it is not so great for a day trip. It would be more fun to go and stay overnight at the Chebeague Island Inn and then explore a bit by bike as well. One final note re ferry trips, it is always cool on the water so bring jackets, etc..

Re Portland, if you are near the waterfront be sure to grab a pastry (they also have coffee or tea) from the Standard Baking Company (it is right across the street from the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal.)
posted by gudrun at 6:09 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: Peaks is a good suggestion but I do have a soft spot for Chebeague - drinking dark and stormys and eating delicious appetizers in rocking chairs on the porch of the Chebeague Inn? Yes please! But there's no downtown to speak of and not really any hiking.

If you want to spend more time actually on the boat, the mailboat is great (might want to play that be ear depending on the weather).
posted by mskyle at 7:44 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: Yes, the list of Casco Bay Lines Scenic Cruises and other info on the CBL site is what you want.

I'm a big, big fan of the mailboat cruise if you want to spend time primarily on the water.

If you want to actually visit an island for the day Peaks Island has the most "small-town" feel, but the ferry ride there is very, very short.
posted by anastasiav at 7:55 AM on September 16, 2011

The mailboat is all boat and only runs once per day I believe. So you'd see a lot of islands in passing but it might be too much of a good thing and not much to do when you get to the end (Bailey's, just Cook's restaurant, right?) because you have to get the return boat.

There are also tours and charter boats from Long Wharf on Commercial St in the Old Port, like this guy which might fit your schedule better. Normally they don't stop on islands however, unless it's for a lobster bake.

Dress warm.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 8:03 AM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for all the recs folks. Still haven't decided, but I'll be sure to report back (and pick best answers!) once we do.
posted by Xalf at 11:53 AM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: oh my bad, the Mailboat run and the one that ends up at Bailey's are two different ones.

But summarized, your options are lots o' boat time; short boat ride to Peaks but most island-town-like; or to try to combine a longer ride with time off on one of the islands.

The CBL website (posted upthread) is a bit confusing and presents a simplified picture of the actual routes. Some boats go to an island and then turn around and come back. Some continue up bay (or is it down bay?) stopping at other islands. For example, you could catch the 2:45 boat to Long Island (stops at Gt Diamond on the way), walk around until 3:20 and catch another boat that is going further out to Big Chebeague and Cliff before returning to Portland around 5 pm.

I think your best bet is to call the office once you decide which island to explore.

Dressing warmly still applies.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 3:17 PM on September 16, 2011

Best answer: I haven't done this in a while, so check the ferry schedule. You could go to Little Diamond or Great Diamond Island, walk around and admire the cottages, eat lunch on the shore, etc., then get a boat back towards Portland, and get off at Peaks for dinner. There are several nice restaurants there, whose names I forget right now. Peaks is really fun to visit. When you buy a ferry ticket, you use it on the outbound trip, and on the back-to-Portland segments they don't check tickets. For puffins, take a whale-watching or similar cruise.

I haven't been to Monhegan, but most people recommend an overnight, to get the feel of it. In the Portland area, go to Mackworth Island, which is connected to Falmouth, just noirth of Portland, and you can take a nice walk. It's very popular with dogs and their owners, and Gov. Baxter's dog cemetery is there. Also, the Maine Audubon Society site in Falmouth is nice for walking.
posted by theora55 at 3:22 PM on September 16, 2011

My sister got married on Long Island. If I remember correctly, there's a small general store at the ferry dock and a shuttle that will take you around the island. I stayed at the Coveside B&B which was perfectly lovely. If you'd like to spend a night on an island, I think Long Island would give you plenty to explore.
posted by bendy at 11:54 PM on September 16, 2011

Response by poster: Unfortunately, I didn't listen to any of these recommendations, and we went out on a schooner run by the Portland Schooner Company. Being on a 100-year-old sailboat was cool, but I guess because the boat is at the mercy of the wind, it didn't really go anywhere except back and forth around the harbor. Oh well. Happily, the rest of our week in Maine was so great that this mistake was easily forgotten.
posted by Xalf at 2:56 PM on September 25, 2011

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