Planning your Visit
Attire everywhere on the Island is casual. Bring a warm sweater, a wind-breaker (you may need it on the boat), and possibly foul weather gear. Wear sturdy shoes fit for walking on rocky surfaces – no island roads are paved – over ledges, through wooded areas and into mud.
- Health and safety: There is no resident physician and island facilities, equipment, and supplies for medical care are extremely limited. Emergency medical services originate from the mainland and often are delayed by weather. In case of a serious emergency, call 911 but be aware that cell phone service can be spotty especially outside the village. If you are on medication make sure you have enough on hand for your stay as there is no Island pharmacy.
- As elsewhere in New England forests, there are mosquitos and poison ivy along trails. Avoid such nuisances by wearing long pants with your socks pulled up over their bottoms, and use insect repellents.
- Reservations: To avoid disappointment, make advance reservations for boat passage, inns, and rooms. Space is limited. Shop and inn openings as well as boat schedules vary from year to year and from season to season. Check with proprietors, especially when planning a trip to the Island before mid-June or after mid-September. (No street lights here; remember a flashlight if you’re overnighting!)
- Money: There is no bank on the Island, although there’s an ATM at the Barnacle Cafe on the dock. Personal checks are accepted at the discretion of proprietors. Some places accept credit cards. There are no public telephones; cell phone coverage can be unreliable.
- A few guest boat moorings are available for short term and overnight mooring. The Harbormaster can help you find one or suggest suitable anchorages. Private boats should not be tied up at the dock when mainland boats arrive and depart, nor be left unattended there. Lines must be long enough to accommodate changes in the tide which may be as much as 11 feet.
- Parking is available at all mainland ports. No visitors’ cars are allowed on the Island. All three excursion boats allow about four hours on the Island for a one-day visitor.
- Label baggage with your name, address, Island destination, and the boat on which you are travelling, to prevent luggage from getting on the wrong boat or being taken back to the mainland prematurely. Trucks to deliver your luggage are on the dock at boat time. PLEASE KEEP YOUR CHILDREN AND PETS OUT OF THE WAY OF THOSE LOADING AND UNLOADING LUGGAGE.
- Toilet facilities are limited for the casual visitor. Pay toilets provided by the Monhegan House, are behind the Novelty but you are strongly advised to make use of the facilities of your boat. Litter in the woods is unsightly and unsanitary; if there’s an emergency, pack out used tissues. There are no public garbage cans on the island; please take ALL refuse back inland with you!
- Food: There are many places for lunch, picnic supplies, or dinner. If you bring along your lunch, “brown-bag” it and carry the remains back to the mainland for disposal; a large hamper will hamper you.
Sea Kayaking and other water sports
Sea Kayaking is growing in popularity but kayaking around Monhegan can be very hazardous. Ocean swells can come up without warning and capsize even experienced paddlers. Monhegan’s waters can be below 60° in summer, so if you capsize you may quickly experience hypothermia. Its shores are mostly impossible to land on or to swim to in an emergency, and few boats are on the backside to help boaters in distress. Kayakers must be experienced in self-rescue and are advised to limit paddling to the harbor area only. Never paddle alone. Paddling to Monhegan is only for the very experienced. There are no scuba shops or ski rentals on Monhegan. (Nor are there bike rentals; biking is not permitted on island trails.)
A few cautions:
- Wheels: Bicycles, especially including trail bikes, are not permitted on the trails of the Island. Strollers, even “jogging” strollers, are impossible to maneuver on the trails beyond the main fire roads, and there are no provision for wheelchairs or walkers on this privately owned island.
- Camping is forbidden by town ordinance and state regulation, both of which are enforced.
- Children who can’t hike rough trails will need carrying. There is no playground, and though Swim Beach is good for relaxing, the water is quite cold and there are no toilet, garbage, or dressing facilities there.
- Although private homes and some rentals allow pets, the Inns do not. Dogs must be leashed and controlled at all times to protect themselves, other dogs, and people. You’ll be charged boat fare for your dog and are expected to dispose of its waste as in a city.
- On the roads, trucks have the right-of-way. Please step out of the road to let them pass, and see that your children and pets do the same.
- Monhegan is a village, not a theme park. Trespassing on private property is no more acceptable here than in your own hometown. Please stay on the paths and do not picnic on private lawns.
If you plan to hike around the Island…
- Get a trail map at an Island shop before setting out. Most of the Island is wildland, with woods and undergrowth so thick you can’t cut across from one trail to another without becoming lost. The hiking map published by the Monhegan Associates, showing trails, their names, their numbers, and their difficulty, is reliable, cheap, and easily available. You can view it online but really should plan on purchasing one (for a nominal fee) to carry when you hike away from the Village.
- There are few guide posts. Most trails are marked by small numbers on trees and sometimes rocks at the beginnings and intersections of trails.
- Trail directions over rock ledges are indicated by cairns – piles of stones along the trail which mark the way. For the safety of those who follow you, do not disturb the cairns or build new ones. On the trails, expect rough paths, steep climbs, spectacular views, and quiet forest glens. Do not expect easy transport for strollers, ‘rest stops,’ vending machines, or trash barrels.
- Use great care around cliffs and surf (and see that your children do the same!).
- When hiking, wear sensible shoes and clothing to protect against ticks and poison ivy. If you’re hiking alone, a walking stick can be a great help climbing over rocky inclines.
- It is not safe to smoke on the headlands – a cigarette crushed into the moss and peat growing between the rocks can start a fire which could smoulder for hours or days unnoticed, then burst forth and envelop the entire island before help could arrive from the mainland. Report any fire by calling 911 from a safe distance.
Monhegan Emergency Service
24 hours a day
Emergency Number: 911
- To report a serious medical emergency, injury, or fire, go to the nearest phone and call 911, 24 hours a day. Remember that cell phone reception is extremely limited on the backside of the island, so it’s always wise to walk with a buddy. Serious emergencies can only be handled with help from the mainland. Take care and avoid trouble.