Maine’s Acadia National Park was dubbed “America’s favorite park” this year by USA Today, and “America’s favorite place” by Good Morning America. And while a trip to this beautiful national park is always a highly recommended day trip from Pilgrim’s Inn, Deer Isle is blessed with a similar landscape and beautiful hiking trails, making it the perfect place for your coastal Maine vacation. Balsam forests, quiet coves and panoramic views can be found right here on the island, offering visitors the chance to decompress and walk at a slower pace, without fighting traffic to get there. Combine this natural beauty with a stay at Pilgrim’s Inn, offering the very best in Maine coastal lodging, and you have the perfect Maine vacation package.
Barred Island Preserve
Our most favorite hike on Deer Isle is the Barred Island Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy and managed by Island Heritage Trust. The hike is two miles round trip and takes approximately a half hour to forty five minutes each way depending on your pace, with ample opportunities to stop and admire nature’s handiwork. New signage and an educational brochure make it a great trip for families wanting to introduce children to hiking and nature exploration. The preserve also has a “letterbox” which is a treasure hunt style outdoor quest involving navigational skills and is fun for both kids and adults. Because of the environmental sensitivity of this preserve, dogs are not allowed so please respect the rules.
While the trail to Barred Island is easy, it has many exposed tree roots, so a sturdy pair of shoes is a good idea. You’ll start from the parking lot and hike through a shady coastal forest where the scent of balsam fir and the quiet of the landscape is punctuated by the sounds of Mark Island fog horn off in the distance. Light filters through the trees creating a magical environment, and if you slow down and look closely you’ll find a fascinating microbial world to discover. From mushrooms to fungi, lichen, and mosses, a virtual fairyland of miniature plants can be found throughout the forest.
As you hike towards the ocean the trees begin to thin and the smell of balsam gives way to salt air. You’ll come to a sign for an overlook, so hike the short distance up to the spot and you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of East Penobscot Bay and Maine’s spectacular coast with views to Isle au Haut and Mark Island light beyond.
Continue down the trail until you come to a sign for Barred Island or the Shore Loop trail and go to the right towards the island. At low tide you’ll find a beach and a wide sand bar that takes you out to this uninhabited island. The island will be closed to the public if there are nesting eagles, so please respect any signage. If the tide is high and the sandbar not visible, don’t dismay. Spread out a towel and relax on the smooth rocks made warm by the sun. Take in the scenery, the smells of the ocean and the quiet of this special place. If you do walk out to the island, take note of the tide before you go, as you do not want to get stuck on the island for the night!
Another hike to enjoy on Deer Isle is Settlement Quarry Preserve off of Oceanville Road in Stonington, owned by Island Heritage Trust. Dogs on a leash are welcomed at this preserve.
Settlement Quarry helps preserve Deer Isle’s history of granite quarrying, and its famous pink granite. The quarry was active from the turn of the last century until the 1920’s and again in the 1960’s and 1980’s.
You’ll find the parking lot on Oceanville Road, just past the sign for Old Quarry Ocean Adventures on the right. Walk through the entrance and take the “Erratic Trail” to the right through the woods. This section of hiking trail includes coastal forest similar to the start of the Barred Island trail. Educational signs along the way describe the glacial erratic and environmental activity that exposed the granite and eventually turned this area into an active quarry. As you emerge from this short 10 minute trail you’ll come upon a large expanse of windswept stone surface. Hike to the highest point where you’ll see beautiful views towards Isle au Haut.
The entire area feels like an open amphitheater and leaves you imagining how perfect the spot would be for outdoor performances of Shakespearean plays, musical events and performance art. The Stonington Opera House has used the preserve for just these kinds of special events
Walk throughout this open area where you’ll find educational signs about the history of quarrying and the family who owned Settlement Quarry. Follow the arrows to Old Pole Head and other features to learn more.
There are several short hikes to take from the top which will take you to other sections of the preserve. The Grout Pile Trail leads down a hill through the woods towards a large pile of quarried rock with educational signs along the way. It will continue through a wooded area, which leads you throughout the rest of the preserve. These trails offer additional glimpses of the quarry industry and are worth exploring. They also will add additional time to your walk beyond the short hike to the quarry.
Mariner’s Memorial Park
If you are not up for a hike, and just want to stroll through gentle terrain near the water, we highly recommend Mariner’s Memorial Park, The park is located near the start of the Sunshine road around the corner from the Inn. Take your first right off the Sunshine Road onto Morey Farm Road, Drive down the road and take a left into Mariner’s Park, which will lead you to the parking area.
This lovely expanse of open space is maintained by the Evergreen Garden Club on Deer Isle and offers walking paths, a picnic area and a kayak and boat launch that is open to the public. Dogs are welcomed on a leash. Take the path from the parking area, and be sure to stop and appreciate the pollinator’s garden that attracts important insects like bumble bees that help pollinate and create the beautiful flowers on the island.
The path leads to the water where the boat launch is used by locals and visitors alike, Under a shady tree you’ll also find a large granite stone memorial to all those from the Island who have lost their lives at seas.
Continue on the path up the hill where you’ll find pretty views of the water. At the top of the hill are nesting boxes as part of an area-wide bluebird nesting trail, maintained by the Maine Audubon Society.
This park is a great place to also bring a picnic lunch to enjoy the view. Several picnic tables near the parking area are a great spot to sit before taking your kayak or other boat into the water.
These parks and preserves are just a sampling of what you can do on Deer Isle. Kayaking, art walks, historic sites, scenic villages, sailing and other fun activities make it one of the best places in Maine to visit. Visit our website to learn more!