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“Casco Bay Islands - Rustic Magic”
Review of Casco Bay Islands

Casco Bay Islands
Ranked #4 of 153 things to do in Portland
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: An archipelago of islands off of Portland.
Reviewed 2 July 2014

Casco Bay Islands - Scenic Mountain Tops

There they sit, as they have for years and years --- a long string of wooded, different-sized islands -- actually, mountain tops -- popped up at the eastern end of the peninsula that is Portland, Maine.

Tradition says they used to be called the Calendar Islands, because there was one for every day of the year. (Many are only uninhabitable, small, clumps of land, constantly besieged by the restless, tidal Atlantic ocean.) I haven't been there for awhile, but I used to live there. I'll tell you a little about what I remember. I doubt they've changed much, anyway.

With a few exceptions, the only way to get to any of the islands is by boat -- usually the Casco Bay Lines, situated at the Portland waterfront. Attempting the trip any other way, unless on a sizeable, seaworthy boat, is at least risky and bumpy, and sometimes downright hazardous (although I've done it.) All there is between these islands, and a few farther out to sea, is the mighty Ocean, plus England, Europe and Africa.

The character of the islands changes every Memorial Day, when 'the summah people' come to visit or rent. They bring whatever they need for their stay---sometimes virtual households. Whatever they need a good, fun, restful stay. There are no 'box stores' here.

The summer weather is usually sunny, warm and just foggy and rainy enough to keep everything green and growing. Swim suits and shorts are the uniform of the day. What shops and services there are offer practical, interesting wares, and helpful information for free. (On many of the islands, there are few if any shops.)

Come Labor Day, everything changes. Everyone is busy packing up, saying so long to friends and summer romances, and taking a few lasting looks at where they've parked their hearts since they arrived. It's as if they'd gone to summer camp and now it's time to go home.

After Labor Day, and on through the ensuing fall, winter and spring, the population dwindles -- sometimes by a factor of 5-10 to one -- and the "year rounders" take center stage. Quietly. Without fanfare.

Schools, if the population is big enough to support them, begin to function. Often they only cover lower grades. Older children must catch the 7am boat to Junior High and High school, returning hime on the 2pm boat or later, if after-school activities require. This goes on no matter what the weather.

Residents buy what they need locally, if they can. Otherwise they go 'up town,' often with a medium-size cart, and bring back what they need as part of their ticket price on 'the boat.' There is a car ferry to a few of the islands, but the ticket price often dwarfs the convenience for most residents.

Community events are organized and attended, and neighbors stay in touch. It's a little like frontier country, with everyone anchored in their home and doing their own thing. In case of emergency, there usually are only para-medics to help out. But if the matter is serious enough, a call goes out to the city Fireboat, moored in Portland, and it heads out with a basic load of medical services.

Ah well, that's enough for now. If you'd like to know more, I recommend you visit the area, and see for yourself what rustic magic weaves through these beautiful pinpoints on the map of southern Maine. Call the Casco Bay Lines and see when the next ride 'down the bay' is scheduled.

And, oh yes -- better bring a hat, jacket, and snack. And, of course, your camera.
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13  Thank GFBPHS
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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381 - 385 of 488 reviews

Reviewed 27 June 2014

We really enjoyed this working boat serving the island. We had 5 stops delivering people, cargo and mail.

3  Thank oompahdave
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 17 June 2014

Make sure you make time. We was on Mail Run for 2hrs 45min. But no complaints. You will be among the islanders. Talk to them they really don't mind. Will take the same tour when we come back. One thing if you get board easily might not be for you.The return trip might feel long.

1  Thank Duane H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 4 June 2014

Upon a recommendation from a waitress we did the "Mail Run" cruise to the islands. I guess in the afternoons they deliver mail to the island on their ferry along with the residents of the islands so they also include tourists. It was very nice and informative and every one on the boat was very friendly. We took a small ice chest with a picnic type lunch and beer and truly enjoyed ourselves. They offer indoor and outdoor seating and I think the price was $16.00 each.

7  Thank gs78130
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 May 2014

We were with a group tour that included this boat cruise. It was most informative, great views of the lighthouses, bay and outer islands. We looked for the "sea-dogs" but they were elusive~ it is 1 1/2 hours on the water and at times as you get near the open sea it can be rocky --but well worth the trip to see the true flavor of the area. The guide was well informed and shared his knowledge well. Crew are all friendly --

4  Thank idatom
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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