Explorations - Deer Isle and Stonington
The drive to Stonington at the tip of Deer Isle could take an hour, or you could spend all day depending on how many stops you make and how many detours you take. We suggest you approach the trip leisurely with an eye to adventure and enjoyment, as well as destination.
As you pass through the town of Penobscot, stop at Larson Gallery 207-326-8222, formerly the “old Canning Factory”, where David Larson displays his paintings, drawings and life-size sculpture. (Open June - Oct. Mon. - Sat. 10 A.M.-5 P.M.) The first detour we recommend is a drive around Cape Rosier. Depending on the time of day, stop at the Bagaduce Lunch 207-326-4729 for coffee, lunch, or ice cream; and take a few minutes to watch the nearby reversing falls. Holbrook Island Sanctuary is ideal for those interested in bird watching and other native flora and fauna. Roads, paths and animal trails guide visitors through forests, along the shore of Penobscot Bay, through marshes and beside a pond. We have a map at the Inn's front desk and a schedule of guided nature walks if you're interested in more details. Scott and Helen Nearing, ardent believers in the simple, rural, and self-sufficient life style, settled on Cape Rosier in the 1950s. Although the Nearings are both now deceased, The Good Life Center exists on the site of their homestead. A tour through the gardens is definitely worth a stop.
As the road winds through rural Brooksville, be on the lookout for the Bagaduce Forge 207-326-9676, a blacksmith shop where you'll find hand-forged fireplace tools, andirons, pot racks, bird feeders, weather vanes, or, as the owner says, "anything in iron". (Open Tue. - Sat. 1-5 P.M.) Also worth a stop is Island Soaps and Gifts, where more than 13 varieties of homemade soap are made and sold. At the Sow's Ear 207-326-4649 winery they make wine from local, organically grown and wild fruits such as apples, rhubarb, blueberries, cranberries and grapes. The shop upstairs from the winery, aptly named The Silk Purse, is a weaving studio featuring hand-woven rag rugs. On your way back to Route 15, you can pass through the village of Buck's Harbor, site of one of the most picturesque and protected harbors along the coast.
The highest point on the road to Stonington is the top of Caterpillar Hill, offering a sweeping vista of blueberry fields, far away mountains, islands, and a distant glimpse of the high suspension bridge over Eggemoggin Reach that connects the peninsula to Deer Isle. This is a “must stop” for photographers. Others will enjoy the view and browsing in the Gallery at Caterpillar Hill 207-326-0617 where you'll find high quality pottery, baskets, sculpture and paintings by local artists. (Open late May - mid-Oct. 11 A.M.-5 P.M.)
If you're a used book fan, watch for the Wayward Books 207-359-2397 sign just this side of the bridge. It has a large collection of “used, rare and medium-rare” books with comfortable seating for serious readers. (Open June - Sept., Mon.- Sat. 10 A.M.-5 P.M., Oct., Tue.- Fri. 10 A.M.-5 P.M., Sat. Noon -5 P.M.).
Just past the bridge, Harbor Farm 207-348-7737 is a unique gift shop housed in a converted schoolhouse. Pottery, glassware, pewter, jewelry and hand-marbled papers are tastefully displayed, and a small side room is completely filled with unique Christmas decorations and ornaments. The back room is devoted to a collection of highly decorative ceramic tiles, which can be purchased individually or in quantity for a truly unique hearth, mantle, counter top or wall. (Open Mon.-Sat. 10 A.M.-5 P.M. and Sun. Noon-5 P.M. after July 4th.)
The village of Deer Isle is tiny but boasts more galleries per capita than any other small town in Maine. Watch for the Turtle Gallery 207-348-9977, open May 29 - Oct. 10, Mon.-Sat. 10 A.M.-5:30 P.M., Sun. 2-6 P.M., Deer Isle Artists Association 207-348-2330, Open June 13 - Sept. 5, daily Noon-5 P.M., Dockside Quilt Gallery 207-348-2849 and Terrell Lester Photography - 207-348-2676 all showing outstanding collections in a variety of media.
One more detour well worth taking before you reach Stonington is the seven miles along Stinson Neck to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts 207-348-2306. The school offers intensive three-week sessions to serious students in pottery, weaving, paper making, metal work, wood carving and a variety of other skilled crafts. The "campus" is a series of shingled buildings and floating walkways hugging a steep granite hillside overlooking picturesque Jericho Bay. Tours of the school are offered on Wednesday afternoons, June through August, otherwise visitors are restricted to the central stairway, flag deck and a nature trail. The views of the bay, the scent of the huge spruce and the feel of the soft carpet of moss more than justify the drive. Also on the Sunshine Road you'll find Blue Heron Gallery 207-348-6051 and Nervous Nellie's Jams and Jellies 207-348-6182 makers of a wide variety of preserves, jams and chutney. Stop for coffee, tea, and scones at Mountainville Café and walk through the most whimsical of sculpture gardens. (Open daily May - Christmas 9 A.M.-5 P.M.)
Stonington, located at the furthest tip of Deer Isle, is aptly named for the monumental granite boulders that appear in the inner harbor at low tide and provide the most solid of foundations for the houses that cover the steep hill rising from the water. Stonington is still primarily a fishing village, but signs of its growing tourist trade increase each year. Main Street offers a number of shops and galleries for browsing including, the Deer Isle Granite Museum 207-367-6331 showing Stonington during its turn of the century quarrying boom (Open Memorial Day - Labor Day), and the recently renovated Opera House 207-367-2788. Built in the early 1900's it had been dark for many years until its renovation and rebirth in the summer of 2000. It now offers a program of music, films and live performances throughout the summer. (Open year-round)
The mail boat to Isle au Haut leaves from Stonington four times daily bound for the town landing or for Duck Harbor. Nature lovers and hikers will want to take an early boat and spend the day on the island. For others, the scenic hour on the water each way is pleasure enough. The “Miss Lizzie” an excursion boat, departs each afternoon for a tour of the harbor and nearby islands. Tours are narrated with local history and folklore providing an enjoyable afternoon and abundant photo opportunities.
Vary your return trip by heading up the east side of the peninsula and take a detour to Brooklin for a visit to the Wooden Boat School 207-359-4651. The school offers summer courses in many types of wooden boat building and the setting at the tip of Naskeag Point is spectacular. Also on Naskeag Point Road is Amen Farm Gardens 207-359-8982, a 20-acre wonderland of trees, shrubs and perennial gardens, carefully nurtured and expanded for nearly 40 years. Wind your way north on Route 172 and you'll pass over another reversing falls as you near the town of Blue Hill.