The only way to get to Vinalhaven is by ferry. You catch it at Rockland (not Rockport, which is a few miles to the north, as my husband insisted - good thing I was driving and knew where I was going). No reservatons are required if you are going without a car. Mind you, these are tiny ferries. If you want to take your car, you'd better make your reservation weeks in advance. Once you are on the ferry, you realize you are going to a place that doesn't get hoards of visitors. There is no way Vinalhaven will be inundated with tourists if the only way to get there is on the tiny ferries.
Beware - make sure you get on the last ferry back to Rockland. Vinalhaven has very limited accommodations - there is not hostel or Holiday Inn at Vinalhaven. If you don't make that last ferry, you will likely learn what it is to be homeless for a night.
A roundtrip ticket is $13.25 - a real bargain - considering you get total boat time of 2-1/2 hours and a way to get on one of the most beautiful islands off the coast of Maine.
The best advice I can give is arrive early- you must be in line 30 minutes before departure time....be patient.....and bring a snack.....and a ginger pill from the health food store taken 15 minutes before departure will help with any sea swells.
When you drive up get into the VH line with your car before buying your ticket. The line can fill up fast and it is best to be the closest to the front as possible. The line will move up as each boat goes. There are boats less traveled mid day. The 7:00 AM boat on Sunday morning is a great choice since very few people like to get up that early on the weekend.
There is a garage in town-Todd's Garage- with a spray gun to wash off sea spray from rough sea on your car.
I should emphasize that the return trip to Rockland from Vinalhaven operates in the same way. You must have a reservation for the return trip or wait in line and hope for the best. Locals say that frequently a return spot for your vehicle to the mainland is harder to get than to the island.
The Navigator Motor Inn is a good place to stay in Rockland if you are taking the ferry to Vinalhaven the next day and especially if you must wait in the non-reservation line. The Navigator Motor Inn is described in greater detail in my general Maine page, but I wanted to mention it here also. There was a "suspicious" stain on our linens, but it was a good place for catching the ferry.
The motel is located directly across the street from the ferry and if you request an ocean facing room there is a good chance that you can look out your window or balcony and watch your car in line. This is handy for when the line moves and you have to run out and move your car up or risk being circumvented - Snooze you Lose.
One last word of caution, depending on the tide, low and extremely low tides are the worse, you may bottom your vehicle out on the ramp to and from the ferry if your clearance is low. We bottomed out once (overloaded Camry since we spent a week wandering around Maine previous to arriving at the island).
And if you do stay overnight in Rockland to catch the ferry, eat breakfast at the Rockland Cafe (see my tip in my general Maine page) it is worth a night's stay just for their buttered and fried blueberry muffin.
The only way to get to Vinalhaven Island is by ferry. Getting a seat on the ferry is no problem if you are not driving a car. Getting a spot on the ferry can be a big problem if you are driving a car.
For those taking day or overnight trips only, do not bother with taking a vehicle. It will be much more of a pain than it is worth. We stayed for a week and did take our car, but to be honest we did not drive it once we got to the island. We brought our mountain bikes and used those for transport around the island.
The cost for bringing the car was approximately $35 each way (the cost increases depending on the size of your vehicle). In order to be assured of a vehicle spot on the ferry you must call ahead a month in advance. They only reserve something like six spots and those fill up very quickly. On the advice of our landlord for the week we hired a local on the island to make our reservations for us in person exactly one month prior.
If you are not lucky enough to get a reservation, you must put your vehicle in the non-reservation line at the ferry terminal and test your luck.
You'll catch the Vinalhaven ferry in Rockland. You can't miss the ferry terminal. As soon as you reach Rockland, look for the signs pointing to the ferry terminal. The terminal has lots of parking and the daily fee was something like a mere $7.00. The man at the gate was so nice - he helpfully directed us to "pawking in the cawner".