GETTING THERE: We drove from Washington, overnighted in the Boston area and then drove 109 miles to Portland and up Route 1 to Port Clyde and the ferry. From Portland, it took us about 21/2 hours to get to the parking lot.
You can also fly to Portland and rent a car. Travelocity has fares on Continental and United for $143 and $163, respectively, from Reagan National.
Three Maine ports on the mainland have ferry service to Monhegan: Boothbay Harbor, New Harbor and Port Clyde, which tends to be the port used by locals and visitors planning to stay a while on the island. We sailed from Port Clyde on the Monhegan-Thomaston Boat Line (207-372-8848, www.monheganboatline.com). Round-trip fares for the 50- to 70-minute trip are $27 for adults, $14 for children 2 to 12, $2 for pets. In addition, Balmy Day Cruises offers day trips from Boothbay Harbor (800-298-2284, http://balmydayscruises.com) and Hardy Boat Cruises leaves from New Harbor (800-278-3346, www.hardyboat.com). The Monhegan-Thomaston Boat Line runs year-round to bring mail and supplies to the island. All three ferries schedule more trips during the summer.
WHERE TO STAY: There are only a handful of places to stay on Monhegan, most open mid-May through October.
Just up the hill from the dock, the cedar-shake, much-painted Island Inn (207-596-0371, www.islandinnmonhegan.com) offers 26 rooms, plus six more rooms in neighboring Pierce Cottage. The porch and lawn, sprinkled with Adirondack chairs, overlook the harbor and are a favorite sunset-viewing spot. Rates range from $75 for a single room with a shared bath in low season (Memorial Day weekend to June 16, and Sept. 18 through Columbus Day weekend) to $325 for a two-person suite with a private bath and ocean view in high season (July 1 through Sept. 4).
The 33-room Monhegan House (1 Main St., 207-594-7983, www.monheganhouse.com), built in 1888, bills itself as -- and truly feels like -- the village center and meeting place. Our third-floor corner room did not have closets, but it did have a beautiful view of the harbor and the lighthouse. Rates range from $65 for a single in low season to $134 for a double in high season, and include a hearty breakfast (omelets, blueberry waffles, French toast, etc.). The funky Trailing Yew (Lobster Cove Road, 207-596-0440) has 37 rooms, some in the main house and the rest in five eclectic cottages and an annex. Most have shared baths. We stayed in the Seagull, with a spacious room and an adjacent communal parlor with an old organ and lots of board games. Rates are $83 per person per day for adults and $25 to $74, on a sliding scale, for kids ages 2 to 11, and include family-style breakfasts and dinners.
The waterfront Shining Sails Bed & Breakfast (207-596-0041, www.shiningsails.com), the home of lobsterman John Murdock, is open year-round and offers two rooms and five efficiency apartments, some with a private deck and gas fireplace and all with private baths. Three efficiency apartments in the village are also available. Rooms are generally rented by the week and are about $120 to $185 per night in the high season, from mid-June through Labor Day. Private cottage rentals also are available.
WHERE TO EAT: Note: None of the island restaurants serves alcohol, but you can BYOB.
Our favorite was the Monhegan House Cafe (at Monhegan House, see above), with great food and a relaxed, light-filled atmosphere. The oven-poached haddock with fingerling potatoes and lemon butter ($18) and braised lamb shank with fennel and barley ($22) were delicious. Breakfasts are a treat, including house-made granola ($3) and thick French toast or pancakes ($5.50). For guests, breakfast is included in the room rate.
The Island Inn Cafe (see above) is a little more upscale, but lovely, casual and comfortable, with the best views of the harbor. Try the steamed mussels ($10) or the amazing lobster bisque ($10). Entrees include fettucine alfredo topped with seared scallops ($25) and pork tenderloin with apple pear chutney and sweet potato puree ($19).
Down at the dock, the Barnacle Cafe (1 Wharf Rd., 207-594-7995) sells sandwiches and wraps for $6. The clam chowder is not to be missed, from $4.25 to $5.99. The Novelty, behind Monhegan House at the base of Horn's Hill (207-594-4926), has tasty gourmet pizza ($2 a slice) and festive ice cream choices like Moose Trax ($2.50).
INFORMATION: A Visitor's Guide to Monhegan (www.briegull.com/monhegan) has information on lodging, restaurants and attractions. For more details about Monhegan Associates' ecology talks, hiking trails and their efforts to preserve the island's undeveloped natural beauty: www.monheganassociates.org. The Monhegan Commons (www.monhegan.com/081405.html) is an independent site with community information, photos, news and links. The Maine Office of Tourism also has information on Monhegan Island: 888-624- 6345, www.visitmaine.com.
-- Brigid Schulte