Island Life: Vinalhaven

7.30.2014

By Aaron Hicklin

Rustic charm in an unspoiled idyll.

There’s not a lot to do in Vinalhaven, but that’s its charm. The largest of the islands in Maine’s Penobscot Bay, it’s spectacularly relaxing, with several nature reserves and exceptional hiking. Leave your car, if you have one, in Rockland on the mainland (see the Wyeths at the Farnsworth Art Museum; if you overnight in Rockland, dine at farm-to-table Primo) and hire bikes from Vinalhaven’s Tidewater Motel. Although hardy souls may brave a dip in the ocean, the three excellent swimming quarries each have their own particular charm. Try Booth’s Quarry, an easy cycling distance from town, where ledges provide excellent diving and bathers congregate on a submerged stone platform. If you prefer to swim sans suit, there’s the “Nude Quarry” on the North Haven Road, about half a mile from the town.

Accommodations are scarce on the island: The Tidewater Motel and Libby House Inn are the best options, unless you want to rent a house or apartment, in which case contact Vinalhaven Islands Rentals. Restaurants are limited, but stick with lobster -- the island’s main industry—and it’s hard to go wrong. The nearly 40-year-old Harbor Gawker is something of a landmark and has a popular lobster stew on the menu, but for a morning muffin or lunchtime sandwich, you can’t do better than ARCafĂ©  on Main Street, a nonprofit with an excellent bakery and free Wi-Fi. If you need pampering, an excellent massage therapist rents space above.

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