Difference between revisions of "Vinalhaven"
Revision as of 00:48, 11 November 2019
Vinalhaven, being an island, requires a little bit of foreknowledge as a destination. The best route in from outside New England is to fly to Boston's Logan Airport. Get in before 11:25AM and you can catch a Concord Trailways bus to Rockland (for about $35--catch the bus first, and buy the ticket at the first stop--Boston's South Station). You'll get into Rockland around 4:30PM. The bus will drop you off at the Maine State Ferry terminal parking lot, which is fortunate, because you'll have only a few minutes to catch the boat. Ferry tickets for pedestrians are $17.50. The Ferry ride is a little more than 75 minutes. But unlike the plane or bus, you're not restricted to your seat. Riders effectively have free reign on deck and on the lookout landing below the bridge. And be sure you take advantage of it. The ride is fantastic (albeit impossibly windy and frequently cold). You'll pass two lighthouses, uncountable sailboats, and catch your only unfettered view of the Fox Islands on one side and the Camden hills on the other. If you're really lucky, you might even glimpse an elusive seal (although they give the ferries a wide berth).
If for whatever reason you miss the 4:30 Vinalhaven Ferry, there is a contingency plan. You can catch a 5:15 ferry to North Haven Island. The ride is a about as long and even more interesting. When you arrive in North Haven, walk down the road to Brown's Boat Yard, and ask around for a skiff ride to the other side. People are generally friendly, and you shouldn't have a problem finding a lift. They'll run you across the sound to the North Coast of Vinalhaven. The going rate for a ride is circa $5USD. When you arrive, you'll find your cell-phone is probably useless, so there's a payphone where you can call into town and ask for a ride. If you don't know anyone in town, good luck to you--it's about a two hour walk with luggage.
With careful logistical planning, it is possible to get a car onto the island, but be sure you have at least three days to waste each way. There are 4 automobile reservations for three of the six boats and you must get them one month in advance in person at the ferry terminal when they open or by calling the ferry terminal from which you are departing no earlier than 9:30 AM. In the summer months, the reservations are gone before the earliest time you can call for them. Best advice: don't bother with it. If you MUST have a car on the island, ask a terminal employee where you should put your car to get in line. You can usually get on within 2-3 ferries of when you put your car in line. If there aren't 2-3 ferries left in the day, just sleep in you car (or you can run across the street to the Navigator Inn if you must), but KEEP YOUR CAR IN THE LINE. If you leave, you lose your place in queue. You'll get onto the first boat 90% of the time because many VH residents put their cars in line, ride the last boat home, ride the first boat back the following morning, and catch the second in their car. This means that the first of the day is the least competitive.
Returning from the island is even more convoluted. You must get to the ferry terminal the day before to get a line number, which is a guaranteed spot on a ferry. The numbers are issued at 5:30 AM the day before departure via telephone. It is more difficult to get a spot on the morning boats because the locals who are running errands use the early boats in order to return that day. There are people who will get a line number for you for about $30 - $40 if you value a nights sleep in bed more than a nights sleep in your car at the ferry terminal.
If all this is too much, forget it all. The island itself is only 5 miles long by 7 miles wide (in a crescent shape), with 49 miles of paved road. This means that for any given journey, you'll never need to go more than 5 miles (or thereabouts). Despite the way the locals seem to drive, walking on the roads is a safe means of transportation. You can also rent some pretty disreputable bikes from the Tidewater (free if you're staying there, $10/day otherwise). But by and large, you'll have no trouble hoofing it wherever you need. Additionally, most of the tourist-catering business folk are perfectly happy to pick you up wherever you are and bring you to their services (and the nice ones will take you back or drop you off wherever you need).
Seal Island, National Wildlife Refuge, 9 miles south of Vinalhaven, out where some wild marine life might be seen. Some attractive dramatic geography. The best way to get there is a boat ride with Maine Seabird Tours.
Lobstah!. See "Eat" for more details.
Vinalhaven has a volatile economy for restaurants. If you've visited the island in previous years, don't come back expecting the same restaurants to be in the same place. This makes for some interesting exploring every time you return. But there are some reliable choices:
Salt, Main Street, ☎ (207) 863-4444, . Moderately upscale island dining- many French-inspired dishes. Changes year-to-year because of staffing, but when it's good, it can be very good. The burger is always reliable. Good wine list and cocktails.
The Harbor Gawker, Main Street, ☎ (207) 863-9365. Decent Americana food, fast-seafood, and great view in the dining room. Closest you're going to get to a fast food joint, but that doesn't mean it's fast (on the contrary, runs on island time). Well worth the patience. A BYOB establishment.
The Pizza Pitt, Main Street, ☎ (207) 863-4311. Your only pizza option. Not great, but it will do in a pinch. Also a BYOB establishment.
The Sand Bar, Main Street. Vinalhaven's late night eatery. It's open until 9 PM. It serves pub food and drinks.
The Haven, Main Street, ☎ (207) 863-4969. Fantastic food. Great drinks. Call for a reservation (seatings at 6:00 and 8:15) in the back room overlooking the water or pop into the more casual front room open from 5:30-9:00 nightly. Open Tuesday-Saturday in high season.
Downstreet Market, Main Street, ☎ (207) 420-7685. A great place for coffee and (mostly) homemade baked goods. The fresh-picked crab sandwiches and quiches are excellent. Also the brownies and gluten-free cakes. Irregular hours.
LOBSTAH!, Main Street. Ah, here it is! Do it yourself, fresh off the dock Lobster. Go to the town gas station and co-op (right next to the Ferry Terminal), and ask the attendant for lobster. Depending on the season, She might ask "Sheddahs or Hahd-shells?" Shedders are cheaper, but Hardshells taste a whole lot better. Your call. She might also offer "Regulars" or "Deluxe" (or "Select") Deluxe are more expensive, but also bigger, meaning you get more Lobster meat per pound. Again, your call. Either way, refrigerate until time to cook. Drop in boiling water. Don't worry if they scream, it won't last long. (It's actually a whistling emmitted from the gaps between their shells as the air within the shells expands under the heat and bubbles up). Boil until you you can't pick them up by their feeler without having the feeler pop off. Server with lemon and butter. You can also buy crabs at the co-op for pretty cheap. The lobstermen hate them, but some keep them around instead of throwing them back for a little extra change at the end of the day.
The local Grocery store on Main street carries many common beverages. You can also find your favorite regular beers and whatnot at the Fisherman's Friend (left out of the motel, halfway down Main Street toward the ferry terminal). By and large, the Vinalhaven drinking culture is a more salt-of-the-sea, beer-drinking community. Fortunately for the more refined taste...
Vinalhaven has little selection in its accommodations. The presumption is that in getting there, you probably have a friend or some family to stay with. There is however, a single motel, the Tidewater Motel, 15 Main St., 207-863-4618, . It's nicely equipped and renovated for what it is.
If you prefer a more personal touch to your accommodations, there are also a couple of very nice Bed-and-Breakfasts just off Main Street.
The best way to get out is to get a reservation exactly one month in advance by either going to the Ferry terminal on Vinalhaven when they open or you can call either the Rockland or Vinalhaven ferry terminals at 9:30 AM (Eastern Time) to get a reservation. However, in the summer, all reservations could be gone by 9:30 AM.
If you don't have a reservation, you will need to get a line number the day before you leave. Line numbers are issued by telephone starting at 5:30 AM.
Once you get your line number, you must be at the ferry terminal no less than 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time of the ferry. If you are late, people with standby numbers will be able to go in your place.