For those who desire charming beaches, walks through fern and moss covered woods, fresh seafood and more all in one location that allows you to feel like you’re truly getting away from it all, Swan’s Island, off the coast of Maine, may be the destination for you.
Before You Get to Swan’s Island
One of a handful of smaller islands only accessible by ferry or smaller boat, there are a few things to see before you even get onto the water to get to the island.
The Tremont Historical Society “Country Store Museum” is free to enter, set up as a 19th century country store, and filled with both historical and contemporary exhibits of how the locals in the area lived and are still living today. From products you could have bought on the store’s shelves, to artifacts from the area, to photos and genealogy, there’s plenty to see in the small space. It’s open July through October, and a research room is open by appointment.
One of the best cups of “chowda” to be had in the area can be found at Maine-ly Delights. This casual restaurant is a local favorite, with an inexpensive menu of fresh foods including shrimp, clams, homemade chowders and bisques, and fallbacks for the kids including delicious hot dog and grilled cheese options. They’re also famous for their “Oh-Boy Doughboy Dessert.” While eating, you can sit on the deck and watch the ferries come and go in the harbor across the street. There are other restaurants in the area offering some swankier options, as well as C.H. Rich Co. Inc., selling fresh seafood seven days a week out of its warehouse.
The Bass Harbor Ferry, one of the Maine State ferry options, will take you straight to the Island. Walk on, bike on or drive on, as you take the approximately thirty minute ride, you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands of colorful lobster trap markers, and if you’re lucky, you may see porpoises or harbor seals in addition to other bird wildlife.
Once on Swan’s Island you’ll have the option of visiting one of the intimate beaches, hiking spots, some of the few food spots or the lighthouse, a historic monument. There’s not much more to it—very few of the typical mainland “amenities” can be found besides a small store and a post office. If you’re staying overnight but don’t have a place with a water view, there’s a good chance you may have a spot that offers beautiful forest views, with acres of overgrown woods that look like they’re right out of a fairytale.
Contrary to the name “Swan’s Island,” there are no actual swans, as the kids had asked about. Rather, the island was named after a Scottish Colonel, James Swan of Fife, who bought and colonized the island in the 18th century.
The Beaches of Swan’s Island, Maine
From Fine Sand Beach, to “Beautiful Beach” (otherwise known as Iris Point), you may find lovely sands, plenty of rocks and rock formations, pebbles, streams, and more assuming you find the various beaches. They are often accessed only by foot paths, identified by small, sometimes hard to see, hand-made wooden signs, or via private roads and paths where owners have permitted day trippers to walk through. For instance, to get to Iris Point, we first took a private road through a mossy forest, leading to a smaller footpath to the beach. While en route, we came upon a perfectly preserved small graveyard with tombstones dating back to 1881. We were one of six people that made it to the beach during the hours we were there. With only a few footprints in the sand, our kids collected plenty of sand dollars in unusual patterns and darker colors than we’d seen before
The Quarry on the Island
A special place on the island is The Quarry, where, according to locals, “generations” of kids have spent summers swimming in the dark waters of its quarry hole, and winters skating on its surface. The quarry was opened in 1901, and provides a cool (but actually warmer) alternative to the beaches for swimmers. Outfitted with a dock and ropes, as well as some jumping points, it’s invigorating for the young and old alike. While we were there, we were treated to a bald eagle flying overhead by not more than 50 feet.
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Swan’s Island Tea Room
At the Swan’s Island Tea Room, customers are invited to come in and take a break from the “hustle and bustle of your day,” while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee and assorted baked goods. Be sure to check into their hours before you stop in for a spell.
For those that do visit Swan’s Island, keep in mind this is a special location where much of the fun is made by YOU. If you’re bringing kids, have them also bring their imaginations, as this is a place to explore and enjoy.