North Haven +Vinalhaven
48 HOURS-featured in the 48HRS issue
Photographs + stories by Maine magazine staff:
The last time I was on North Haven was ten years ago. I drove a large U-Haul on to the ferry to help friends move furniture. We walked down a mowed path to the ocean and swam, spent the night in a small old house with generations of children’s names and progressing heights penciled onto the bathroom door. This trip, my wife Jocelyn and I are bringing bikes and two small packs. It has been a rainy spring and while this Memorial Day Weekend promises to produce more of the same, we’re looking forward to exploring the islands, weather be damned.
2:00 p.m. in Richmond
We drop off our son and dog at Jocelyn’s parents’ house, say our goodbyes, and make our way to Rockland to catch the ferry.
4:30 p.m. in Rockland
We leave our car with our friend Dan Bookham and embark on what will be one of many, rainy rides this weekend. At the ferry terminal we bump into photographer Cig Harvey with her husband Doug. They are headed to North Haven for a night at Nebo Lodge to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
5:15 p.m. on open waters
The hour and ten minute ferry ride is a rocky one. Big swells push and pull the Captain Neal Burgess around. Jocelyn and I agree that no mater the weather, Maine’s coast viewed from a boat is striking: fog clings to the pine trees and island homes fade in and out of focus. This is one of those trips from which every postcard, cliché, and fantasy about Maine and its beautiful rocky coast are forged.
6:30 p.m. on North Haven
The walk from the ferry to Nebo Lodge is brief. We arrive and meet innkeeper, Liz Lovell, who guides us to our suite that is detached from the main lodge. The main lodge was built in 1912 and was purchased and renovated in 2006 by a group of islanders. Currently, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is the sole owner of the inn, and her daughter Hannah and cook (her preferred nomenclature) Amanda Hallowell manage the operations. The rooms at Nebo are all tastefully done and well appointed. Artistic and stylish rugs from island native Angela Adams cover the floors (full disclosure: for about a year I made the rugs at their studio on Congress Street). We are wet, cold, and ready to warm up. After a hot shower we relax before making our way to the dining room for supper.
7:30 p.m. @ Nebo Lodge
The food at Nebo has a strong reputation and recently received national attention—the inn was on Bon Appetit’s “Best Food Lover’s Hotels in America” list. Our table has a small pot of micro greens in the middle sitting beside a candle, and what look like vintage pattern-inspired napkins and tablecloth. Amanda Hallowell has created an enticing menu that tests one’s restraint when choosing what to order. For starters we have a half dozen North Haven Oysters (as the name suggests, grown and harvested by the North Haven Oyster Company), an order of crispy kale and a cone of truffle fries. Onto the main courses, Jocelyn orders the sirloin and I have the Rueben fish tacos. Her sirloin is perfectly prepared. The fish tacos arrive on a housemade tortilla with local Morse’s sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing, and a bit of Jarlsberg. The lightly battered fish blends well with the kraut and I’m a sucker for a housemade tortilla. While it may seem unfathomable, we are ready for dessert. We split a pot de crème with salted caramel—a dessert that you savor and labor over. Perhaps it was being wet and cold for hours, the ferry ride, or the warming and delicious food, but, while I chose never to utter it aloud and fully recognize how silly it may read, I feel in heaven on this haven.
8:00 a.m. @ Nebo Lodge
Well rested and ready for another rainy day, we head to the restaurant for breakfast. We both get baked eggs with fresh herbs, Parmesan and cream, and bacon and enjoy another meal that exceeds our expectations. Bringing bikes was a decision motivated in part by my training for the Trek Across Maine, which takes place in mid-June. I take a ride out to the North Haven Oyster Co. and snap a few shots of this stunning island—open fields with mowed paths leading down to the ocean and classic farmhouses along the roadside. Soaked and ready to be warm, I head back to the lodge to dry off and check out. We get some advice on where to explore and how to get over to Vinalhaven, bid our farewells and head out.
10:30 a.m. @ Foxi Print Works + Waterman’s Community Center
Memorial Day Weekend is still pretty sleepy on this island and a number of businesses are closed, but we find a few to poke around in. Foxi Print Works is owned by printer Claire Donnelly (Cig Harvey’s former assistant, more evidence of the small town that is Maine) and is open on this rainy morning. Claire designs, prints, and sells T-shirts and sweatshirts for all ages (there were little onesies for babies). I pick up a grey shirt with a fox on it. Were it not so early in the season we would have stopped by Hopkins Wharf Gallery or Cooper’s Landing restaurant. It is opening day at Turner Farm, but we are ill-prepared to ride more in the rain. We pass some time at Waterman’s Community Center, a multi-purpose space where you can wait for the ferry, grab a coffee, enjoy a movie, performance, or a lecture—a pretty special place for islanders and visitors.
12:30 p.m. @ Brown’s Wharf
Liz at Nebo said the easiest way to get across the Fox Island Thoroughfare to Vinalhaven is to hire Brown’s to take us over, but not between 11:30 and 12:30—everyone has to eat at some point. Foy Brown shuttles us over to Vinalhaven. We chat about the weather and he mentions his daughter is also taking part in the Trek Across Maine and went out on the morning ferry to train. I’m slightly jealous as I’ve been lax with all the inclement weather. As he shoves off, Foy lets us know it’s seven and half miles to our next stop and mostly uphill. With full packs and next to no rain gear, we start to pedal.
1:00 p.m. on North Haven Road
We spend the next 45 minutes getting soaked and laughing. We pass the Fox Island Wind Project, which regardless of your opinion is a sight to see. We arrive safely at the Tidewater Motel to a warm room and our warm host Phil Crossman. Phil was born and raised on Vinalhaven; in 1986 he and his wife Elaine purchased the motel his folks had built in 1970. The Tidewater offers you center-of-town accommodations, stunning views of Carver’s Harbor, as well as the unique aspect of being situated over the water (it’s built on a bridge).
2:30 p.m. @ Tidewater Motel
We require another long shower and some rest, before exploring again. While I knew it was in the middle of town, it is still striking to see the massive Star of Hope Lodge, home to artist Robert Indiana for over 25 years, situated front and center. We grab a much-needed cup of hot soup and tea at the ARCafe, which serves local foods and offers an apprenticeship model of education for students. We drop by Island Spirits. They have a great wine and local meat selection as well as soups and snacks.
5:30 p.m. @ New Era Gallery + The Old Engine House
There are two openings this evening. The New Era Gallery (owned by Elaine Crossman of the Tidewater) has an excellent group show and a packed house. This long-standing gallery has brought artists from all over Maine to the island of Vinalhaven. I fixate on a beautiful piece by Alison Hildreth. Phil Crossman meets me at the gallery and takes me over to the Old Engine House to see the renovation work they are doing and gives me a brief history lesson on the buildings that once were. I can’t help but recall the story of Union Station in Portland and how it sparked a movement in preservation.
8:30 p.m. @ The Haven
We have a late reservation at this classic island spot. We both love the rustic nautical vibe and are looking forward to the meal. Halibut is the choice for us both. The fish is well prepared and has a nice flavorful sauce. Dessert is more chocolate and caramel and it’s exactly what we need to finish things off.
9:00 a.m. @ Surfside
After a good nights rest we’re up and ready for breakfast. Nearly everyone we’ve spoken with has mentioned eating at Surfside. It’s tucked behind a small grocery store by the ferry terminal. They serve up a delicious no frills breakfast. I recommend the fish cakes—be sure not to pour your own coffee. The staff is fun and surly at what is clearly a community institution.
10:30 a.m. @ Maine State Ferry Terminal
While we wish we had more time on both islands, it’s time to head back to the mainland. With calmer seas and a sliver of blue breaking through the sky, we depart the Fox Islands with adventures, stories, and experiences that will stay with us.