Granted, the beach combing here may not be as easy or as profitable as it is in more sandly locals, however, it can still be fun. I enjoyed finding the artifacts of lobstering, such as the lobster traps washed ashore in the picture below. I even brought a couple lobster trap bouys home with me and they are hanging in my garage as a souvenir.
I really wanted to bring a couple lobster traps home as well, but...
It is rather difficult to swim in the ocean on Vinalhaven Island (believe me I tried). The water is extremely cold even in the summer due to the ocean currents sweeping down out of the north. Besides the cold even, the shallow areas of around 15 feet or less of water have prolific seawood growing from the ocean bottom. It doesn't sound that bad until you try swimming in it - trust me it's gross. And then there is the boulder and rocky near shore environment that is also not conducive to swimming/wading.
However, Vinalhaven Island does have a couple rock quarries that you can swim in if you feel the need to take a dip. They are pretty amazing, but you must be very careful! No life guards are on duty, ever. Also, the quarry is not like a swimming pool, the rock bottom can drop away instantly, the sides can be very steep, water depth can be deceiving (DO NOT DIVE!) and algae grows on the rock in the shallows making it very slippery when wading.
That said, if you do decide to go for a swim it is exhilerating, and also quite cold - even in August. Just be careful.
I wish I had some good pictures of the quarry we swam it, but I only took some in the water and they did not turn out unfortunately.
Overall, I was slightly disappointed with the amount of wildlife I saw while on Vinalhaven Island. There was some fantastic birding, I saw a couple harbor porpoises, lobsters (caught), and some tidal pool inhabitants, but that was really about it.
Oh, and this crab pictured below. I saw him while wading (the water's coooold) around a tiny sand beach on an uninhabited island I was exploring. Sand beaches are a rarity in the Mid-Coast region of Maine so I was quite happy with this find. I even brought my wife here later to see it (and I named the beach after her so if you have any thoughts of claiming the beach for yourself - it's taken :)
One of my favorite things to do while at Vinalhaven was to kayak out to uninhabited islands and explore them. I know it sounds crazy, but when you are out there completely alone it feels as if you are the first person to walk upon that soil. At least until you find a stray lobster bouy or plastic bottle. Nevertheless, it is still rather amazing in this very populated world to feel so completely alone (in a good way that is).
In the first photo below, at the top right of the picture is another island about 1,000 yards from the one I was exploring. On that island is a single house. What I would give to live there!
In my opinion, the areas around Vinalhaven Island and Acadia National Park represent some of the best eastern U.S coastal kayaking opportunities available (the only other comparable area would be the Everglades area of Florida). The combination of numerous uninhabited islands coupled with the rugged and relatively remote nature of the coastline makes for great kayaking adventure.
There are several kayaking outfitters in the area that can take you out on an excursion or you can bring your own boat and go it alone. I am not aware of boat rentals, but they are probably available also.
The owner of our rental property was gracious enough to let us borrow his boats, but we have pretty extensive kayaking experience. The Vinalhaven area is not the place for novice kayakers to test their skills alone. The water is frigid so if you capsize it can be a matter of only minutes before hypothermia sets in. The waters are full of lobster boats so you must watch out. And rough seas and strong currents can make for a very long day if you are not experienced.
Thus, even though the kayaking in this area is world class, please go with a professional outfitter if you are not a seasoned kayaker.
There are about 16 preserves/parks to hike or explore on Vinalhaven Island. We explored about five of them; Huber Preserve and Lane's Island Preserve being our favorites.
We biked to Huber Preserve also and had the entire place to ourselves one beautiful afternoon. We took a short hike through the Preserve's beautiful conifer forests out to the shores of Seal Bay. We probably spent at least a half hour just sitting atop a rock that jutted a few feet out into the bay and gazing across its mesmerizing waters.
This park is a true gem and one that seems lightly visited. Definitely worth exploring if you have the chance.
Lane's Island Preserve is a great destination regardless of whether you are spending the entire summer on Vinalhaven Island or a single day. In fact, I think it is a must see for those only spending one day on the island.
My wife and I rode our bikes to the Preserve and then took off hiking. First, we pretty much hiked the entire perimeter of the island following the rocky coastline. It was extraordinary, as beautiful, if not more so, than Acadia National Park in my opinion. A storm front was moving in that day so we watched large waves pound the rocky shore while lobster boats powered back to the harbor. Numerous lobster traps littered the shore in places. At first I thought that the storms of the previous two days had ripped them free and sent them ashore. However, when I asked a nice lady in town about this she laughed and told me that most likely the lobstermen were skirmishing over territory. I guess when a lobsterman feels that someone is invading his territory he will cut the cord connecting that person's traps to the bouy at the surface. After telling me this the lady said with a flourish, "Boys will be boys!"
After hiking the rocky coastline we decided to explore the interior. Beutiful yellow flowers were blossoming throughout, the name of which I forgot to ask. Seabirds flew overhead. A guidebook at our rental house described a native cranberry bog existing somewhere in the Preserve, but we were unable to locate it (could they have been the yellow flowers? - doubtful). A small family cemetery exists within the Preserve and a couple picnic tables are located toward the entrance for those inclined to have an afternoon lunch.
During my childhood I spent as much time as possible in the outdoors - frequently fishing. Nowadays I typically only fish while on vacations. I did great while at Upper Captiva Island off the coast of Florida and was hoping for equal success on our trip to Vinalhaven. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I didn't catch a thing.
It wasn't all bad though. The contemplative time spent at the ocean's edge is always fantastic. And for bait, I would go to the lobster boat docks in the morning for free fish (I can't remember what type it was now). Being there as the lobster boats loaded up and took off provided a tiny window into their world. I would have loved to have spent a day on a lobster boat and worked with them; an amazing and beautiful, but hard profession. One of the locals told me that during the winter only the hardiest of fishermen are working their lobster traps, but that in summer everybody and their brother does it.
Two years previous while at Upper Captiva Island, I was sitting on the edge of our pier one afternoon daydreaming while the fish weren't biting. All of a sudden, something the size of a Volvo materialized in the water directly below me. At first a wave of fear rushed through me and I picked up my legs that were dangling over the side; however, I then realized that it was a manatee. It was beautiful. I could see the scars on its back from propellers. That was one of the most peaceful and serene moments I have ever spent in the outdoors. A few minutes later it submerged and was gone.
I didn't have a fishing experience like that at Vinalhaven, but you never know when one will occur.
To my great disappointment, the Historical Society at Vinalhaven was closed on the day we were there. I was so looking forward to learning more about my ancestral land. It's located on High Street, next to the beautiful cemetery. If you are in town, be sure to drop by. It is open June 8 - Sept. 18, Wed-Sunday 11AM to 3PM, except for July and August, when it is open Tues - Sunday 11AM to 3PM. As luck would have it, we showed up on a Monday in July, which happened to be the one day during the week they were not open.
The building that now houses the Historical Society is also a museum. It started out as a church in 1838, and has since been a town hall, a theatre, a skating rink (!) and a community center. Today, the building has a wonderful exhibit on the granite industry, which I was so sorry to miss.
Across the street from the Vinalhaven Library is a monument (looks like a mini- Washington Monument) to those who died in the "War of Rebellion". Now, what, I asked myself, is the "War of Rebellion?" The date on the monument said it was erected in 1870, so the "War of Rebellion" must be the U.S. Civil War. The name given to the war by the monument intrigued me, since I know my Southern friends call it the "War of Aggression". You say To-may-toe, I say To-mah-toe.
The monument lists the Vinalhaven residents who died in the war. There were 13 men/boys listed, ranging from age 16 to age 29. I noted 3 last names in my family tree, including my own surname "Incalifornia". That is something, to see your own name and know that this is a monument to cousins of ancestors.
I came back home, and researched the names of the boys who died. Nothing. Couldn't find any information. A pity. They gave their lives in a war that must have seemed far removed from and no threat to life in Vinalhaven. 140 years later, and you can't find out who these boys were.
We found that many country roads in Maine had heavy traffic with narrow shoulders, so I was discouraged from doing bicycling. However, Vinalhaven is a different story. There are only so many cars that can be on the island, and it is not a lot. Therefore, the roads on Vinalhaven are quite a bit safer. Rent your bicycles in Camden or Rockalnd and bring them over on the ferry.
Vinalhaven is on the fly way south and north for great bird watching......eagles....ospray....goldfinches....ect
Sunsets and sunrise are magical on Vinalhaven. The colors splash everywhere. Best seen over the water.