I was in Portland, Maine, for a conference a few years ago. I was able to do many great things in the area, but a visit and trip to Peaks Island eluded me. Since then, it has been on my New England bucket list.
My friend, Sheela, visited the area for her 50th birthday to get a taste of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Since she is active like I am, it gave me the perfect opportunity to take a bike ride around Peaks Island. During this day trip from Portland, you can take in all the things to do on Peaks Island since it is very small.
What is Peaks Island?
Peaks Island is one of Maine’s 4600 islands. It lies in Casco Bay, just three miles from Portland. It has a small downtown with restaurants, inns, and stores. The island’s circumference is only about 4 miles and is relatively flat, so it is a great place to ride bikes to explore. Golf carts are also available for rent if you aren’t up for that. It is inadvisable to bring a car, although you can take one on the ferry.
How to Get from Portland to Peaks Island?
The easiest and cheapest way to get from Portland to Peaks Island is by Casco Bay Ferry. Alternatively, you can find a water taxi near the ferry terminal or take your own boat.
We parked in the Casco Bay Ferry parking structure at 54 Commercial St, Portland. The ferry terminal is a short, flat walk from the structure. In-season ferries leave around every hour, but check this schedule for exact times.
In my experience, the boats leave right on time. We bought our tickets at the ticket counter right before the ferry left. In high season you may want to purchase tickets ahead of time. There are bathrooms and vending machines in the terminal.
The scenic ride to Peaks Island only takes about 17 minutes.
Step-by-Step Guide to Self-Tour Peaks Island
1. Get off the ferry, walk up the hill, and turn left onto Island Avenue.
2. Stop into the Umbrella Cover Museum on your left, where the mundane is celebrated. Food, ice cream, and air galleries are also in this Down Front area. Once you turn the corner into the backshore, the amenities will disappear.
3. Stop and rent your golf cart or bike along this road. We rented bikes from Brad’s, which is .3 miles on your right. Many of the bikes had baskets, making carting water, snacks, and towels easy.
4. Next door to Brad’s is the library, which has restrooms. This will be your last chance to use facilities until you come back around the island, so I would suggest stopping. They are clean and free.
5. Continue up the road on your chosen mode of transportation. Turn left onto Centennial Street. At the end of the road, you will find the small Centennial Beach, one of two swimming beaches on the island. The house adjacent to the beach has lovely flower fields, including local lupines!
6. Head up City Point Road, then turn left onto Island Avenue.
7. There is a lighthouse statue on your left celebrating women. Next to it is a picnic table with a great view of Casco Bay.
8. Continue to the end of the road for excellent views from Evergreen Landing. This is a private beach, so you will be here just for the views.
9. Head back on the road until you reach the tennis courts at the Trefethen-Evergreen Improvement Association. It is worth it to go down the dirt road for the view. There is even a bench to rest on.
10. From the tennis courts, cross Island Avenue to head up Trefethen Avenue. This will be the steepest part of your ride. Notice the block of brightly colored houses on your left.
11. Make the second right onto Seashore Avenue, appreciating the murals on the house on the corner.
12. You are now on the backshore of the island and can see the open ocean. There are many viewpoints and coves to enjoy, so stop at your leisure.
13. If you want to spend time at a rocky beach, stop at Cairn Beach.
14. While on this side of the island, on a clear day, you may be able to see the Spring Point Ledge Light, the Portland Headlight, and the Portland Breakwater Lighthouse (Bug Light)
15. Take a hike through the Peaks Island Land Preserve, seeing the ruins of the World War 2 fort, Battery Steele. If you are a birder, you will enjoy this marshy area. You will see a small dirt area on your right to leave your bike or golf cart, and you can find trail maps here.
16. If you desire, stop at the Eighth Maine Regiment Museum, listed on the National Historic Registry.
17. Turn onto the dirt road, Hadlock Point Road, to walk down to Picnic Point. The water was full of common eider chicks and their mothers when I was there.
18. Continue around the circle, which turns into Lobster Street, and turn l ft onto Whitehead Street.
19. Make the first left onto New Island Circle, which will bring you back into town.
20. Return your vehicles and enjoy dinner on the island, or take the ferry back to Portland and enjoy one of my favorite Portland restaurants.
We loved our day on Peaks Island. It was a perfect escape into nature, with flowers in bloom and birds singing throughout the island. I highly recommend this as a Portland day trip. We did it as a day trip from Ogunquit.
Book a tour here if you would rather visit Peaks Island as a guided tour.
What is your favorite Maine day trip?