There is an unmistakeable mystique surrounding Maine islands. Starkly beautiful and often isolated, generations of independent-minded individuals have called them home. Peaks Island, located just three miles from Portland, has an active year-round population of fishermen, artists, and professionals, many of whom make the daily commute to the city by boat. A 20 minute ferry ride from Portland, this 740-acre island offers a variety of ways to get a glimpse of island life–including a popular road race held in mid-July.
TO GET THERE:
Start at the Casco Bay Lines ferry terminal at 56 Commercial Street. Round-trip tickets are less than $10 (a little more if you bring your bike or four-legged friend) and get
you a scenic ride past several well-known lighthouses, including Bug Light and Spring Point Ledge Lighthouse to the south. Don’t miss Fort Gorges, a Civil War-era granite fort situated on Hog Island Ledge, and the sparsely populated House Island.
CHOOSE YOUR TRANSPORT:
From the ferry landing you will have access to numerous means of island transport: golf carts and bikes are available for rent, along with guided tours. Brad’s Island Bike Rentals and Repairs is located at 115 Island Ave. Want to explore the island waterways? Maine Island Kayak Company is at 70 Luther Street. You can even grab a taxi if your time is short.
EXPERIENCE THE LOOP:
The Peaks Island Loop is over four miles of mostly flat roadway around the perimeter of the island. From the ferry landing, head straight up Welch Street and take a right on Island Avenue. Wander past the Inn on Peaks Island and the Peaks Island House, and turn left on New Island Avenue, then right onto Whitehead Street. Another left onto Seashore Avenue will take you past the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum and the Eighth Maine Regiment Memorial Hall. Follow Seashore Avenue around Wood Landing Cove to the right, after it splits with Maple Street.
Until this point, the loop has been mostly residential. The backshore of the island features views of open water, with benches strategically placed for those who wish to linger. Follow Seashore Avenue past Battery Steele to the west. History buffs will want to follow the paths through the field and explore the World War II fortification, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Continue on Seashore, bearing right at the split, and then turn left onto Trefethen Avenue. Take another left onto Island Avenue. Follow Island Avenue back to the west side of the island, past Hannigan’s Island Market and Peaks Cafe, before returning to the ferry landing—or grabbing an ice cream cone at nearby Down Front.
Up for a run? The 28th annual Peaks Island Road Race takes place on July 25, 2015. This popular five-mile event, which raises money for the island’s Lions Club, roughly follows the Peaks Island Loop and is known for its post-race lobster bake. Kids get their own fun run.