Stand by the shores of Casco Bay on the coast of Maine and you may expect to find ocean as far as the eye can see. Instead seemingly endless islands dot the seascape. Sometimes called the calendar islands, there is rumored to be an island in the bay for every day of the year.
Stretching from Cape Elizabeth to Cape Small these islands with their rocky shores and rustic way of life define the stereotypical New England coastline. Mostly uninhabited, they provide a serene escape from everyday life. Their natural beauty and their sheer numbers create a place one could visit every day and still never have completely explored. With an island for every day of the year there is more than enough shelter from the wind to allow everything from large fishing vessels to solo kayaks to roam the bay. While sandy beaches are few and far between here, the rock strewn shores and miles of nature trails can supply a continual source of enjoyment.
If you know where to look the Casco Bay islands will also provide a glimpse of Maine maritime history. Being located on the eastern most part of the country, these islands served their time during World War II as bases and look outs for German U-Boats. Great towers and forts still remain on Jewel Island, and while mostly converted to homes now, the military buildings on Great Diamond Island are hard to miss. During the war anti-submarine nets and mines were deployed at many harbor entrances and the islands took on a front line role. Even before WWII Casco Bay held military purposes. In 1858 Fort Georges was constructed and armed for the Civil War, Spanish American War, and was used to store submarine mines during WWI.
Many opportunities await those looking to enjoy the islands for their less historical characteristics. Chebeague is the largest of the Casco Bay islands, and one of the few with a year round population. Ferry service takes visitors from Portland or nearby Cousin’s Island to the perfect setting for an adventuresome hike or leisurely bike ride. You can finish the day off with a delicious dinner or nights rest at the breath taking Chebeague Inn. Great Diamond Island also offers an exceptional dining experience at the Diamond’s Edge restaurant in Diamond’s Cove. Peaks and Long islands both present dining opportunities to their guests and their proximity to Portland makes them popular tourist attractions.
If you are looking for a little less populated destination then you have literally hundreds of choices. You can relax on the beaches of Sand Island, watch the seals bask on the rocks of French Island, or setup a picturesque camping site on one of the Gosling islands. Many of these smaller islands will require you to provide your own transportation, but kayak, canoe, sail, and motor boat rentals all provide easy access.
Whether you are looking for fine dining, a historical stroll, or a relaxing day on the beach Casco Bay offers something for every visitor and an island for every day of the year.