Laidback island life, outdoor activities and delightful little eateries are some of the perks of visiting Peaks Island, a wonderful destination just a twenty minute ferry ride from central Portland, Maine. It’s a place where I discovered that the simple pleasures in life are often the best—and if you have a busy daily routine, this is the perfect place to relax and take in some peaceful activities.
You can enjoy a day trip or maybe a weekend if you would like to unwind for longer. Either way here are some ways to have a fun time on Peaks Island Maine.
Peaks Island Maine Bucket List: 9 Best Things to Do
1. Take a Golf Cart Tour of the Island
A golf cart ride with Peaks Island Tours is a unique way to explore the island. Take a tour on an electric golf cart to discover the island’s history including aspects and sites related to World War II. Accompanied by a local guide, you will see various neighborhoods, ocean views, lovely homes and island life on the Spirit of Peaks Golf Cart Tour.
Begin at the Founder’s Monument where you will get an insight about the pioneer families of the island and then proceed to see various scenic and quaint facets of the place.
Tip: Make advance reservations as bookings fill up quickly especially during summer.
2. Head to Peaks Cafe for Lisa’s Famous Cinnamon Buns
Peaks Island has only a handful of restaurants and eateries, but they do offer some drool-worthy fare. Head over to the popular Peaks Café when you are coming from or going to the ferry. Although small, there are tables inside and outside. It is almost always crowded, but totally worth it especially for owner Lisa Lynch’s famous cinnamon buns. You can also have your fill of sandwiches, pastries, baked stuff, coffee and other breakfast goodies. Lunch too is available at the café and almost everything is delicious. Bonus points for the friendly staff!
3. Enjoy an Oceanview Lunch at Cockeyed Gull
Yummy food and beautiful views–I couldn’t ask for more during my lunch at the Cockeyed Gull, a nice little restaurant. Located not too far from the ferry dock, this eatery serves lunch and dinner including amazing seafood and desserts. Although there’s indoor seating, dining at the outdoor deck with views of Casco Bay is a great way to eat a meal here. Enjoy the food and watch the boats sail along the glimmering waters on a sunny day.
4. Explore the Island on a Bike
There’s something so wonderful about riding a bike in a picturesque place with a gentle wind caressing your face. Exploring Peaks Island Maine on a bike is an ideal way to see the island while stopping at places that grab your attention. Bring your bike aboard the ferry or rent one on the island at Brad’s Bike Rental (they even have tandem bikes so you can check that off your Couple’s Bucket List!).
You can cycle on the paved 4-mile loop that’s easy to navigate. Pedal past beaches and ocean views along a landscape dotted with pretty houses. There are even benches along the way. On a bike ride, you can also head to the public beaches including Cairn Beach and Centennial Beach. You can also stop at the Battery Steele, a World War II military structure.
5. Take a Kayak Tour
When you are surrounded by water, it makes sense to go on a kayak ride in Casco Bay to explore Peaks Island and the surrounding islands. You can book a kayak ride with Maine Island Kayak Co. and opt for half-day tours, sunset tours or full-day tours with knowledgeable guides. Discover the stunning landscape all around including the vast ocean, waterways, pocket beaches, cliffs, forts and lighthouses. If you love being on the water and enjoy kayaking, don’t miss this tour.
6. Explore the Abandoned Battery Steele
One of the aspects of Peaks Island that I found particularly fascinating was its World War II history. You can see one of its major remnants in the form of the Battery Steele that was one of the military structures built to protect Portland Harbor. You can access the place by foot or bike. The ruins block out much of the sunlight so you’ll need a flashlight if you want to explore the place. Although there are no guns here today, the battery has an interesting, slightly creepy ambience with its thick concrete walls, dim hallways and dark rooms.
7. Visit the World’s Only Umbrella Cover Museum
When you take a look inside the Umbrella Cover Museum, it will automatically bring a smile to your face because it’s as quirky as an attraction gets. But, it is actually an absolutely delightful museum where its owner Nancy has curated a collection of a wide range of umbrella covers. The displays are from all over the world and have all kinds of themes including an X-rated section—I’ll let you leave the contents of that room up to your imagination!
This museum also has a special place in the Guinness World Records for having over 730 umbrella sleeves, though that number has grown since.
8. Visit the Fifth Maine Museum
One for history lovers, the Fifth Maine Museum offers glimpses into the island’s past through its displays. The building itself dates back to 1888 and is located on the oceanfront. It was initially built as a memorial by the veterans of the 5th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment who served during the Civil War. Today, it is a museum with exhibits showcasing the early days of the settlement in Peaks Island along with displays related to its role in World War II, and also items associated with the Fifth Maine Regiment.
9. Have an Ice cream from Down Front
Summers, islands and ice creams are an unbeatable combination. And when you are on Peaks Island, it is almost mandatory to stop for an ice cream at the Down Front. I realized it was futile to resist looking at all the delicious flavors. Eat it slowly or gobble it down–it’s the perfect way to end a day trip to the island. You will also find candy and souvenirs at the shop.
Peaks Island Maine is an ideal getaway for some moments of pure bliss. So go on and live the island life!
Essential Tips for Visiting Peaks Island Maine
Getting There: Portland International Jetport is a major hub and most airlines will fly into it. You can easily check for the best fare deals at Skyscanner, which also has the option to choose ‘cheapest month’ as the departure to find the lowest priced dates to fly to your destination. From the airport to the city center, you can take the bus to Cusco Bay Lines and take the ferry to Peaks Island Maine.
Where to Stay in Peaks Island Maine: It’s best to stay near the city center, public transportation or the area that you will be spending the most time in. The Press Hotel, Autograph Collection is a great choice in the Portland district. For something on the less expensive side, try Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Waterfront located in Portland. For a hotel with a little more extravagance, book a room at the AC Hotel by Marriott Portland Downtown/Waterfront, ME located 4.2 km from Peaks Island. Or search some great deals on hotels of your choice at Booking.com. If you’re looking for more of a home atmosphere (or are traveling with a group of people), head over to Airbnb that has houses, apartments and even just a room for rent in every price range.
Getting Around: Driving in a new destination can be a bit of a challenge, but if you choose to rent a car, RentalCars.com has great deals. If you are not renting a car, there are plenty of other options. Taxis, Lyft and Uber are available however the island is best enjoyed by foot, bike and even golf carts. One of the best bike rental places is Brad’s Bike Rental & Repair or check out Peaks Island Golf Carts for your Golf Cart rental service.
Insurance: It’s always a good idea to travel fully insured so you are protected in case of trip cancellations or medical emergencies. You can check out pricing at Travelex Insurance.
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