I recently accompanied a group of active seniors on their day-trip to Peaks Island, Maine. Their plan was to travel with their bicycles on the Casco Bay Ferry to this small island situated just 3 miles from downtown Portland. The ferry ride is a short 17 minutes and runs 14 times a day. So we boarded a ferry at our convenience and looked forward to a day of cycling and sightseeing.
Credit: Alexis HartzA popular summer destination for vacationers since the late 1800’s, the island is rich in history, art and beauty. It is home to just over 800 year-round residents, but the population can rise to as many as 4,000 summer residents during the peak season. Our late May day-trip afforded us the opportunity to explore the island unencumbered by too many other fair-weather tourists.
We enjoyed our quick trip across Casco Bay and deported at the Casco Bay Line Ferry Drop Off. There we were greeted with the sweet scents of cinnamon and sugar drifting down the hill from the Peak's Cafe. We had to start the day with one of Linda's famous cinnamon buns at the cafe before walking just a few blocks further to pick up my rental bike at Brad's Island Bike Rentals.
Brad’s Bike Rentals looks like a small garage with a front yard full of used bikes that have been lovingly recycled by Brad. There’s no fitting or personalized service from Brad, just a friendly, “Pick what suits your fancy,” grab a bike of your choice, and off you go. Bike rentals are $5/hour or $15/day and my rented wheels were a perfect fit for the outing.
Credit: Alexis HartzWe began our trek around the island on the main road around the island’s perimeter. There we found a constant view of the ocean and access to small beaches all along the roadway. Benches are comfortably located every quarter mile or so for travelers to sit and to take in some of the best scenery along the coast of Maine.
We finished one lap around the island in less than an hour, including stops to take in the views and look over the military bunkers along the way. The next leg of our journey involved cruising through the interior of the island, along dirt roads that sometimes turned into residents’ driveways and other times winded through neighborhoods of artistically crafted and meticulously cared-for private homes.
There is no doubt that extremely tolerant artists and retirees make up the majority of the year-round residents. There is a sense that you are free to wander even private property here, wherever you like to observe a butterfly, analyze the texture of a garden fence or sit on the front lawn and enjoy your lunch.
We opted to eat our packed lunches at a small park we found just down the street from the only “Keep Out” sign we encountered. We were deterred from that area only so as not to disturb the young seal pups that were nesting on the shore below.
Credit: Alexis HartzAfter lunch we meandered back into town, stopped at two of the local art galleries and stepped into the lobby of the Inn on Peaks Island. The Inn is decorated in a laid-back island living style with plenty of attention to the details that whisper luxury to the visitor. The Inn offers only 6 cottage-style suites to its lodging guests, but is open to everyone for lunch and dinner.
Golf carts are a common mode of transportation on the island. In addition to several locals’ carts, we met a bright red Peaks Island Electric Golf Cart Tour vehicle at each of the Fifth & Eight Regiments Houses we visited. Guided tours are available if you’re not naturally inclined to exploring on your own. I’m sure that just like us they made a stop at the World’s Only Umbrella Cover Museum as well.
Credit: Alexis HartzNo outing for these seniors is complete without ice cream so they met me at Down Front Ice Cream Parlor after I returned my bike. Ice cream cones in hand, we wandered down the block to the ferry dock, and boarded for our return voyage. We took in the spectacular view of the Portland skyline and surrounding smaller islands all the way back to they city.
My trip to Peaks Island was a day filled with spectacular scenery, a touch of history, a bit of exercise, and a heaping helping of natural and man-made island beauty. Be sure to take time to visit Peaks Island, one of Maine’s quiet coastal treasures the next time you are in the Portland area.