If you've heard about Monhegan Island, and are considering a trip there, you must first congratulate yourself on discovering one of the little gems in the the world. It's special, a little weird, and definitely worth a visit.
If you are a first-time visitor, as we were in August 2013, I don't think there's much point to staying elsewhere. The Monhegan Inn is the island's grande dame, staged majestically on a cliff overlooking the harbor and the island of Manana (rhymes with banana, go figure) with rocking chairs on the balcony where you can sip gin & tonics and watch the sun set. If you're not staying at the Inn, you are technically not allowed to hang out on it spectacular porch. And that could cause some deep regrets!
The island and hotel very, very precious and, depending on your orientation, that can be a good thing or a bad thing. We loved it. The fact that the 'locals' are a bit cold and matter-of-fact balanced things out for us.
There are many complaints here about service fees and such tacked onto the bill. It helps to understand the WASP mentality and the Maine mentality -- instead of just raising room rates to cover the fees (like $5 per day per person for housekeeping tips) the Inn adds them in at the end. This is because if you are frugal and want to carry your own bags from the ferry, you save the $2. This is very New England and there's no point in complaining. Also very New England is the service -- which is friendly but restrained.
That said, we found the staff to be kind and very considerate.
We stayed three nights, which seemed the perfect amount of time to get into 'island time' and hike the majority of Monhegan, visit the brewery, eat at the few restaurants (Monhegan House up main street has the best dinners, Shermie's/Fish House the best lunch), and generally take it all in. Unless you are a painter, photographer, yoga-phile, etc, you'll be ready to head home after 3-4 days.
A few notes about rooms: you want to do whatever you can to get a room in the main inn on the second or third floor with an ocean view for the breeze, if not the view. The suites on the ground floor overlooked the harbor but seemed like fishbowls and were very public but good for a large family. At the very least get a corner room / cross-breeze room as there is no a/c. If you can't get an en-suite bathroom, or are trying to save money, the hallway shared baths seemed clean and not in constant use.
We were relegated to Pierce Cottage, which is down the hill and behind the main inn. My husband was not very pleased as as he would have preferred the ease of staying in the main inn. We had the top-floor room in Pierce Cottage and it felt a little claustrophobic due to angled walls but was clean, tidy, and certainly fine. If you have a family, request one of the suites on Pierce Cottage's main floor: big king beds, cross breeze, day bed for kids, lots of space. These seem to be the most comfortable rooms.
Bathrooms were clean and with high-end soaps and shampoos. Breakfast is included and is delicious and fresh regardless of what time you arrive.
Things to bring:
1. Wine and any other alcohol you like (except for beer). A little shop next to Pierce Cottage sells wine but it's not a great selection -- though the locally brewed Maine beer selection is fine and not overpriced. Plus there's a brewery up the hill and you can bring bottles to the hotel and label them with your name and stick in the fridge.
2. Bring a flashlight. People used to carry lanterns until the 70s here. There are no streetlights. It's pitch black at night when you come home from dinner.
3. Bring bug spray for the ticks and solid shoes for the walks, as even in casual walks you'll find yourself in the brush and over rocks. There are yoga shops and other little workshops: photography, painting, etc.
Lastly, if you are like me, and have a young family, you may feel slightly overbearing here. This is really an island for contemplation and art. Our child is well behaved but everyone and everything is SO quiet that we felt like we were constantly disturbing artists and people meditating. We will not return until our child is older.
If you do go, don't miss the Laura B ferry. It's the coolest old boat.
4. Try the lobster gnocci at Monhegan House and anything at Fish House / Shermie's. Delicious!
- Also Known As:
- The Island Hotel
- The Island Hotel Monhegan
- The Island Inn Monhegan Island, Maine
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The Island Inn sits atop a bluff looking west over Monhegan harbor toward the ocean and in the evening it provides a perfect location to view the dramatic sunsets and the magnificent colors that accompany them. ... more less