The woods are chiefly spruce and fir balsam. In Cathedral Woods, tall slender trees interlace their branches in gothic arches, as in a cathedral. Quiet aisles are carpeted with deep-piled needles, adorned with ferns, wildflowers, tiny new trees, and mosses.
Unusual and rare flowers and plants grow on the Island, but because it is so far out to sea there is a limited chance for reseeding by wind or birds. Some species are in danger of dying out. Many visitors – and there may be 200 in a day during the summer – play ‘botanist for the day’ and frantically gather specimens, but the living plants and their flowers are necessary to produce the seeds for next year’s beauty. Stop and look, photograph or paint, but please do not pick or dig up any living materials. The long-standing custom of presenting departing visitors with bouquets of flowers is charming if the flowers are gathered by Islanders from their own yards, but distressing to see if they’re from the wildlands or roadsides.
Lobster Cove and its meadow are at the southern tip of the Island. This area is excellent for bird watching, particularly shore birds, and has spectacular surf during a southerly storm. Take a picnic lunch to eat on the many flat rocks, and if you’re a photographer, try to get a new angle on the old shipwreck there.
Don’t try to swim or wade at Lobster Cove or any area on the back side of the Island. Undertows there are unpredictable and dangerous, and high surf can sweep you away if you’re too close to the sea. No one has been saved who has gone overboard from Green Point to Lobster Cove.
The Headlands, on the back side of the Island, thrust their bulk majestically out of the sea, and are among the highest ocean cliffs on the Maine coastline. No able walker should miss visiting at least one of them from which, on a clear day, one can see Isle au Haut, Matinicus, Criehaven, and Matinicus Rock. Nova Scotia lies due east, then the broad Atlantic and eventually northern Spain and southern France.
Find your way to the headlands using the Monhegan Associates’ map, available on the boat and at shops all over the island, or here. Don’t rely on the design on a flier! White Head and Burnt Head both are within easy hiking distance for a day visitor, and the vistas from them are rewarding.
Harbor seals may be seen best at half-tide on the many rocky outcroppings near the Island: take a round-the-island trip to get a good look at them, or watch for them on your return voyage.
Gull Cove, on the back side of the Island, is a rocky shore at sea level, a fascinating place to visit without climbing the headlands. But be careful: Wear sensible shoes, use a hiking stick if you’re alone, and beware of wet rocks at all times. An almost invisible moss grows on rocks wet by the surf and stains them black. People venturing onto such rocks have slipped, fallen into the sea, and been lost as recently as 2011. During and after a storm, or even when there has been a storm far out to sea, ‘combers’ (huge waves) come without warning and sweep away anything in their path. Always keep a bulwark between you and the surf!