Islesboro is 14 miles long and in most places about a mile wide. The Native Americans called it Pitaubegwimenahanuk, which means “the island that lies between two channels.” It is a sweet and gentle place, old farmland really, hardly the dramatic cliffs and crashing waves of the outer seaward islands.
Ride the state ferry (www.maine.gov/mdot/msfs/islesboro.html, 207-789-5611, $10 per trip) or water taxi (Quicksilver Maine, 207-557-0197, www.quicksilvermaine.com) from Lincolnville Beach to the island.
Bring your bike or rent one from Maine Sport Outfitters (information above, bikes $20 per day). The ferry ride is just 20 minutes and three miles, but on a foggy day it feels like a journey to a far away place.
The island is nearly flat. Get off the ferry and ride toward the summer colony at Dark Harbor and the town beach at Pendleton Point on the southern tip of the island. Go for a swim, then cruise along East Shore Drive and up island to the more remote northern tip. The Islesboro land trust protects 800 acres and 55,000 feet of shoreline. Look out for sheep grazing and apples ripening, lobster bakes along the shore, and Sunday drivers in their ancient island cars.
If you want to stay out in the bay you can camp just across from the ferry at Warren Island State Park (Lincolnville, 800-332-1501, www.state.me.us/doc/parks/parksinfo/warrenisland/index.html), a 70-acre island with 12 campsites on the shore.
Back on the mainland, reward yourself with a lobster feed at The Lobster Pound Restaurant (2521 Atlantic Highway, 207-789-5550, lobsterpoundmaine.com, $54 per person for the shore dinner).
MALAGA — LIVING HISTORY
The island of Malaga sits at the mouth of the New Meadows River about 300 yards offshore from the village of Sebasco in eastern Casco Bay. On the northern tip of the wild 42-acre island there is a sign of settlement — a heap of shells — a midden bleached pure white from the sun and salt. Beyond that there is a meadow of tall grasses, old apple trees, and overgrown lilac. Beyond the field it is primeval woodland, a dense darkness of spruce, fir, and moss. There are no people, no cottages, no bait shacks, no country churches.
But Malaga was not always a wild place. For 50 years, beginning in the 1860s, Malaga was home to a racially diverse fishing community of about 45 people. The islanders caught groundfish and trapped lobster, picked berries, dug clams, grew vegetables, and kept animals. Malaga was one of the last refuges for poor fishing families around rapidly developing Casco Bay.
The sad condition of the island homes and general squalor of subsistence offended the residents of nearby Sebasco, a burgeoning summer colony. In 1912 the state took over the island, evicted its inhabitants, and threatened to burn any structures that were not removed. The remains of the dead were exhumed and re-interred at the Pineland Cemetery in New Gloucester.
All that remains of the community are the middens, some stone-lined wells, and a handful of artifacts at the Maine State Museum in Augusta: a fragment of a pipe, an iron door hinge, an Indian head penny, a knife handle, a blue ceramic bead.
The island now belongs to Maine Coast Heritage Trust and is maintained as a public preserve. For tours of the island contact Peg Adams (firstname.lastname@example.org or call 207-729-7366).
The exhibit “Malaga Island, Fragmented Lives” runs through next May 26 at the museum (83 State House Station, 207-287-2301, www.mainestatemuseum.org).
Jonathan Levitt can be reached at www.jonathanlevitt.com.