Deer Isle Maine: Countdown Travel Guide

Deer Isle Maine: Countdown Travel Guide

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The United States is brimming with fun and unique travel destinations. On the path of discovering some of the best kept secrets in the country I stumbled on to Deer Isle in downeast Maine. Deer Isle is both a town on the island and the name of the island in Penobscot Bay. To top it off there is also an island named Little Deer Isle that you must drive through to get to Deer Isle. This post references the entire island as it’s small enough to explore the entire island in a single trip.

I was immediately taken with everything about the island. The relaxed atmosphere was apparent as soon arrived on the island. locals were friendly and the scenery was breathtaking. Between the hiking, the coastline and the views this should be on every nature lover’s must-see list. Although Maine is not seen talked about as a getaway destination it should be. Even in the peak travel season, July and August, the Island is still low-key and quiet compared to other travel destinations. It’s the ideal stop for travelers of all flavors. Whether you’re a hiker that loves natural escapes; a solo traveler looking for peace and solitude, or a couple looking for a romantic getaway, there’s something here for everyone.

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The warmest months of the year in Maine are between late June and early September. This is when things will be in bloom and the weather will be warm enough to enjoy the outdoors comfortably. The temperature this time of year is pleasant and typically stays between 60 degrees and 73 degrees.

Warm temperatures are just one reason to visit during this time of year. There are also other reasons to visit during the peak of the warm season.

Some of the attractions aren’t open year round, so you’ll have the most to do during the summer and fall months. If you visit in the summer months, all the attractions and businesses will be open. Visiting in the summer means more options on how to spend your time on the island.

Lobster season in Maine runs from late June to late December which is one of the things that Maine is best known for. Visiting during peak lobster season means that you will find the best prices on this delicacy. If you’re lucky you may even find an opportunity to learn how to set a lobster trap (a license is required for this).

If you opt to in late July there is one more added benefit. Blueberry’s will be in season as well. Wild Maine blueberries are delicious. If you have a choice, planning your visit during the peak the peak season for blueberries is a no-brainer. Warm weather, lobster and blueberries in one visit? Yes please.

Where is Deer Isle Maine?

The two major airports in Maine are in Bar Harbor and in Portland. Deer Isle is about an hour and 15 minutes south of Bar Harbor (potential day trip) and right around 3 hours north of Portland. A vehicle is a must have to get around the state and this is especially true on the island. If you’re flying, you’ll want to make sure you have a rental car lined up. The sparse population and distance between towns means public transportation is not a viable option.

Access to the island is limited. The only connection between Deer Isle and the mainland is the Deer Isle suspension bridge. The two lane bridge crosses the waterway that separates the Island from the mainland. The waterway is The Eggemoggin Reach. The Eggemoggin Reach is home of the Eggemoggin Reach Regatta, an annual event since 1985. This doesn’t make list of 5 things to do in the next section because it is an annual event, but if you time your visit right, I wouldn’t miss it.

Countdown to Deer Isle, Maine

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5 Things to do in Deer Isle, Maine

There are so many things to do in Deer Isle, Maine – you won’t be bored. It’s a fantastic place for nature lovers, art lovers and anyone who enjoys the outdoors. Here’s a run down of five Deer Ise, Maine activities, but there’s plenty more waiting for you there.

Go to Nervous Nelly's Jams and Jellies

Nervous Nelly’s Jams and Jellies is home to a local jam and jelly store that is so much more. Yes, it’s true that they make over 400 jars of jams and jelly daily but don’t forget to visit the sculpture garden while you’re there. You can’t miss it because it encompasses the whole property and it is a unique experience. The grounds are open between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm daily for exploration.

The sculptures are made out of up-cycled materials and is ever evolving. Self-guided exploration is allowed and encouraged. This gives you a chance to move at your own pace which allows you to thoroughly enjoy the experience. If you are interested in the history about the sculptures, the creator gives guided tours. These tours run during the peak season at 2:00pm on Sunday’s.

Visit a Nature Reserve in Deer Isle, Main

Deer Isle is full of great outdoor activities and natural wonder preserved through the Main Island Heritage Trust. There are several different preserves on the island and all have with hiking trails. A fan favorite on our trip was Crockett Cove Woods Preserve. This particular preserve is 98 acres of fog forest meaning that it is covered in lichens and mosses. The greenery made the woods beautiful. I found that it absorbed a lot of ambient noise that you would have otherwise heard. If you’ve never visited a fog forest before you’re in for a treat. This is one of the best that I’ve ever seen. The covered ground turned the forest into a serene setting for hiking.

This preserve also had short and easy to hike trails. It’s perfect for those who love to enjoy the outdoors but need trails that are a little easier to navigate. If you’re up for a longer more involved hike, this trail connects with other trails on the island. The variety of trails makes it an ideal activity for hikers of all fitness levels. You should also look into Barred Island Preserve and hiking on Mount Desert Island.

Tip for visiting the nature preserves:

Cell signal on the island is hit and miss so it’s important to have a map with you for proper navigation. You can pick up a paper map at the visitor center. You can find the visitor center about a quarter of a mile after crossing the bridge on Little Deer Isle. I always recommend visiting the visitor center when you’re in a new location and this is no exception. The visitor center will help you get acquainted with the area, let you know what to expect and visitor best practices.

As you are out an about enjoying the nature preserves on the island it’s important to visit responsibly. The preserves are limited to foot traffic only. It’s important to follow this rule to preserve the land and wildlife. It’s also important to stay on the trails and pack out all trash. The leave no trace rule is a good one any time and especially when visiting preserved lands.

Pay a Visit to Discovery Wharf

Discovery Wharf is a place for kids and adults alike. It offers unique opportunities to learn about the marine ecosystem of the area. The Discovery Wharf is closed during the winter months, but is a nice stop when it’s open.

This isn’t a large place and it likely won’t take much of your time but the experience is worth a stop. At the Discovery Wharf you get a hands on learning experience. The touch tank gets you up close and personal with the lobsters and marine life. Then you have the opportunity to engage in the virtual reality videos. You get that hands on experience that’s fun for kids and adults alike. You can also talk to their experts to get all your questions answered. Anything that you’d want to know about the ecosystem, fishing, or lobstering in the area.

Be Entertained at Stonington Opera House Arts

Looking for some evening entertainment? Take in a movie or performance at the Stonington Opera House. Fun fact, this opera house is in the National Register of Historic Places. Opera House Arts is one thing that is open year round. Throughout the year they show movies and host performances regularly so there’s always something new to see or do here.

The Opera House serves multiple purposes and hosts a variety of events. The events range from movie showing, to community gathering events like trivia night, to performing arts shows. The wide variety of events is sure to entertain people of any age. The price for these events has a wide range too. Some events are free of charge, others have a set fee and some are based on suggested donation. The website for the Stonington Opera House has a calendar of events making it easy to plan your visit.

Kayak or Canoe Around Deer Isle, Maine

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The coast off of Deer Isle is in Penobscot Bay. It’s water is not what you’d typically expect or imagine the coastline to look like. The many small islands protect the waters and they are much calmer than what you’d typically see visiting the coastline. It offers the perfect conditions to take a kayak or canoe for a spin, even if you’re novice.

You can check out Driftwood Kayak on Deer Isle and book a guided adventure. These adventures range from 1 to three days. The guided experience includes instruction, time to practice, itineraries and most of the supplies that you will need for the adventure. They even have wet suits that you can rent for an additional charge. This is a nice add on. As far north as Maine is, and being on the Atlantic Ocean, the water never really warms up enough to go swimming in it.

4 Things to Eat and Drink on Deer Isle, Maine

Let’s talk about food. Every place I’ve been has food that is specific to its region and Maine is no different. While some suggestions are better than others, I find myself drawn to trying the food that the locals suggest. Here are four foods to try when visiting Deer Isle based on suggestions from the locals.

A Maine Must-Eat: Lobster

Lobster that comes from Maine has many different names. The names include American lobster, Canadian lobster, and North Atlantic lobster among others, but it is also known as Maine Lobster. This proves that Maine is known for its lobster and that means it’s also easy to find. In fact, as you drive around the island, you’ll see lobster traps everywhere. Lobstering is legal year-round here but the best time for catching lobster is from late June to December.

Arguably, lobster from Maine has the best flavor. It tends to be sweeter than the spiny lobster that comes from other areas of the ocean. Being the area that it’s harvested from, lobster tends to be cheaper in here than in other areas of the US. This is just one more reason to bite into the butter soaked deliciousness of lobster while in Deer Isle.

If you’re looking for a restaurant that serves it up right, check out the Harbor Cafe to place your order. You can enjoy that delicious meal while taking in a fabulous view of the harbor.

You can check out Driftwood Kayak on Deer Isle and book a guided adventure. These adventures range from 1 to three days. The guided experience includes instruction, time to practice, itineraries and most of the supplies that you will need for the adventure. They even have wet suits that you can rent for an additional charge. This is a nice add on. As far north as Maine is, and being on the Atlantic Ocean, the water never really warms up enough to go swimming in it.

Try Moxie

Moxie is a soda and was one of the first types of soda mass-produced in the US. It is now regionally specific to the Northeast area of the country or so google says when I checked. I didn’t find outside of Maine when I was traveling. Moxie was declared the official soft drink of Maine back in 2005.

You can find Moxie at almost any convenience store or grocery store that you go in to, so it’s easy to get. You can buy it from the cooler like a regular bottle of soda. Even if soda isn’t your thing, it’s inexpensive to buy a bottle to have a sip and experience the flavor. After all, it would be a shame not to try something that is part of the local culture if you are visiting.

Full disclosure, Moxie is an acquired taste. I did not finish the bottle I purchased. I would describe it as a cross between Coke and Root Beer with a bitter aftertaste. This makes sense after I researched it. I discovered that it is flavored with Gentian Root Extract. Research also tells me that this extract has a very bitter taste. All that aside, I’d still recommend that you give it a shot. Who knows, you may like it, but at the very least you can say that you tried the official soft drink of the state.

Bust Your Diet with All Dressed Chips

A favorite of mine and many locals are all dressed chips. More specifically, the Humpty Dumpty brand. This is another regional food found in Maine that you should try. These are not for the health-conscious consumer but they are delicious none-the-less. These chips are a combination of several different flavors. You’ll find hints of BBQ, sour cream and onion, ketchup, and salt and vinegar. I find that that the most prominent flavor is BBQ with a salt and vinegar finish, but you can detect all 4 flavors in each bite. No matter how the flavor sounds to you, take a chance and try it out. They are delicious and not nearly as cost effective to have them shipped to you if you don’t try them when you have the chance.

Taste the Local Deer Isle, Maine Blueberries

Now a food for the health-conscious foodie, wild blueberries, native to Maine. They are actually Maine’s state fruit. The blueberries found in Maine are small, sweet blueberries. They are known as wild blueberries, grow indigenously, and are much smaller than other blueberries. The small size is because they are not packed with water like the ones you see at the grocery store.

These small treats are great on their own or can be found in many different foods. Whether you eat them plain, as a syrup, on top of some pancakes, blended into a milkshake or any one of a hundred different ways, you should try them while you’re hanging out in their home turf.

3 Places to Stay on Deer Isle, Maine

When it comes to finding a place to stay, Deer Isle Maine has plenty of options. There are coastal cottages for rent and charming bed and breakfasts. Many visitors prefer to camp and overall, there’s the perfect lodging for every taste.

Inn on the Harbor

Inn on the harbor is a compilation of 4 buildings. These buildings are from the 1880s and are home to 13 guest rooms that make up the Inn on the Harbor. This Inn is at the far end of Deer Isle in Stonington Village. If you’re looking for a unique stay with a rich history in a prime location this may be the place to stay.

Airbnb

Are you looking for something a little more private? Maybe you want more space? Or maybe you want a kitchen and other comforts of home? Try an Airbnb. Airbnb is a great choice and there are several options to choose from on Deer Isle, Maine. These range from luxury places to shared space rooms for rent. There’s something for everyone on Airbnb.

Deer Isle Hostel

Looking for a more budget friendly option? Or are you wanting to connect with others on your trip? Deer Isle Hostel is a great option. The hostel does close down for the winter months but offers a unique staying experience when it is open.

The hostel is located on a 17 acre homestead in a house that that was hand-built intentionally for this purpose. During your stay, you’ll enjoy communal dinners and opportunities to learn about sustainable living practices for $40-70 a night.

2 Must-Click Instagram Spots

The natural beauty of Deer Isle, Maine is visually stunning. As you’d imagine, it’s full of Instagram magic – but here are my top two spots to fill your Insta and make your followers jealous.

Deer Isle Suspension Bridge

The Deer Isle suspension bridge is the only way on or off Deer Isle by land but it’s so much more than that. This iconic bridge is from the 1930’s and mint green in color. It’s both photo and video worthy as you take a trip over it, followed up by a post to your Instagram account.

The Stonington Harbor

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This is definitely an Instagram worthy spot. Whether you point your camera at a view of the town from the harbor as it ascends up the hill, or toward the boats on the water, everything about the harbor in Stonington is picturesque. Oh, and did I mention the view of all the islands in the distance when standing on the shore? All deserving of a feature on your Instagram.

1 Insider Tip

We stumbled upon a place to stay in Stonington, Maine on Deer Isle when looking for a place to stay near Acadia National Park. The drive between Deer Isle and Acadia is over an hour although it’s only about 15 miles as the crow flies. All that being the case, there is a section of Acadia that you can get to from Deer Isle. Isle Au Haut is actually in Acadia National Park, but gets less than 10,000 visitors per year vs. the massive amounts of people that visit the more well-known areas of the park.

You can only get there via mail boat. This is a year-round service but in the summer months there a second landing spot on Isle Au Haut giving you more options to get to this area of the park. Keep in mind that this area of the park is far more primitive than the main part of the park. Once you get on the strenuous trails, there are no amenities. This would be for the serious nature lovers only. 

AUTHOR'S BIO

Angella author bio deer isle maine

Angella Jensen is founder of ‘Angie’s Awesome Adventures’ travel blog. She is a 40-something, fun loving and ambitious freelance travel writer and motivational speaker. She has always loved to travel and has a passion for sharing knowledge with others to help them access the travel adventures that they desire. Her burning desire is to inspire others to bring the world together through travel and experience.

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