Between them, Deer Isle and Stonington represent the most enduring mythic visions of coastal Maine: the rugged stony shore that has beguiled artists for nearly two centuries, and the hardscrabble yet heroic labor of the lobster fishermen in their gum boots and yellow rain bibs. Reaching these quintessential Down East communities takes some doing. They share a big island between Penobscot and Jericho bays across the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge over the Eggemoggin Reach — nearly 25 miles down the Blue Hill peninsula from Route 3. Once you cross that 1939 arching span, you enter a different, offshore world.
A handsome post-and-beam building dating from 1793 contains a dozen gracious guest rooms of the Pilgrim’s Inn (20 Main St., Deer Isle, 888-778-7505, 207-348-6615, www.
pilgrimsinn.com, doubles from $149 summer, from $129 fall). Three additional cottages are also available. Pilgrim’s Inn occupies a quiet garden-like spot in the village of Deer Isle, while Inn on the Harbor (45 Main St., Stonington, 800-942-2420, 207-367-2420, www.innonthe
harbor.com, doubles from $147 summer, from $67 mid-October-mid-May) sits literally in the midst of the action on Stonington Harbor — one of the state’s top commercial fishing ports. Of the 13 rooms scattered across four linked Victorian buildings, 10 have sea views and some have fireplaces and/or decks. Just across the street, Boyce’s Motel (44 Main St., Stonington, 207-367-2421, boycesmotel.com, doubles from $69 summer, from $60 fall) is a more modest complex of six traditional but well maintained motel rooms and five apartments and cottages with kitchens and private decks. All units share a private waterfront deck. Staff gladly advise on how to buy and cook lobster.
If you get tired of lobster, you will find local crabs, oysters, mussels, clams, and finfish on restaurant menus. The Whale’s Rib Tavern (20 Main St., Deer Isle, 207-348-5222, www.pilgrimsinn
.com, dinner entrees $15-$30) at Pilgrim’s Inn combines a cozy traditional tavern ambience with a fine-dining New American menu. Halibut, for example, might be served with a lobster spring pea risotto. The Seasons of Stonington (27 Main St., Stonington, 207-367-2600, www.seasonsofstonington.com, dinner entrees $19-$28, pub menu entrees $10-$20) also offers a contemporary American bistro menu in its dining room and deck overlooking the harbor. The halibut comes with fingerling potatoes, green beans, smoked mussels, and a lemon-butter sauce. On Friday nights, Seasons offers its modest pub menu (fried fish of the day, beef chili, grilled flatbread pizza) on the outside deck. Just across the street, Harbor Cafe (36 Main St., Stonington, 207-367-5099, complete dinners $8-$22) is the three-meals standby for year-round Stonington residents. The cafe’s gigantic blueberry muffins are a perfect way to start the day. Every evening features good-value specials that can be tremendous buys, from a burger-and-shake dinner to a twin-lobster feed.
DURING THE DAY
Thanks partly to Haystack Mountain School of Crafts on the outskirts of town, Deer Isle has become an artsy community with a number of good galleries. Red Dot Gallery (3 Main St., Deer Isle, 207-348-2733, reddotgallery.net) showcases the work of nine artists working in studio crafts and painting. Don’t miss Ron King’s mysterious embellished gourds. If you are planning to snap photos, stop first at The Lester Gallery (4 Main St., Deer Isle, 207-348-2676, thelestergalleryllc.com) for a humbling lesson in how a practiced eye sees the land and sea of Maine. According to Bill Baker of Old Quarry Ocean Adventures (130 Settlement Road, Stonington, 207-367-8977, oldquarry
.com, kayak rentals from $20, bicycle rentals from $14), there are three dozen protected islands open to the public in the Stonington Archipelago. He helps experienced kayakers plan trips with stops at islands with hiking trails and freshwater swimming holes in old quarries. Less experienced paddlers should take one of his guided kayak trips (from $50). He also offers boat trips to Isle au Haut for hiking, biking, and kayaking (adults from $37, children from $20). If exertion’s not your thing, there is no shame in booking a boat cruise (adults from $36, children from $26) to relax on deck and watch for lighthouses, puffins, and whales.
This year marks the centenary of the Stonington Opera House, built back when the village’s population was nearly five times what it is today. The barny structure a short stroll from the harbor remains a vibrant venue for Opera House Arts (1 School St., 207-367-2788, www.operahousearts.org), which presents the 12th annual Deer Isle Jazz Festival on Aug. 3-5, followed by a revival of the company’s own musical version of Robert (“Make Way for Ducklings”) McCloskey’s children’s book “Burt Dow, Deep Water Man,” Aug. 9-19.