adventures

Islesford Escape

Text & Photos by Tom Richardson
Visiting boaters can tie up at the Islesford Dock while they dine or explore the island.

The town of Islesford on Little Cranberry Island, roughly two miles off the coast of Mount Desert Island, is one of those special Maine places where families gather each summer in generations-old cottages overlooking the water and where the handful of year-round residents embrace the peace, solitude—and frequent challenges—of out-island life.

Chowder with an ocean view at the Islesford Dock Restaurant.

Serving as a gathering spot for this isolated yet vibrant community for over 40 years is the Islesford Dock Restaurant, perched at the end of a former coal-landing pier on Hadlock Cove, on Little Cranberry’s western shore, where visiting boaters are welcome to tie up, space permitting, from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Moorings may also be available, but call ahead.

A small museum contains exhibits on Islesford's past.

In 2017, “The Dock”—as it’s known among regulars—was purchased and updated by restaurateur Michael Boland and his partners, island residents Mitch and Emily Rales. Today it specializes in dishes made from fresh, local ingredients and features an extensive bar.

The Islesford Dock also comprises a fine-art gallery featuring original paintings by local and visiting artists, as well as a pottery shop and a gift and artisan shop called Winters Work

The launch ramp on Little Cranberry Island.

Steps from the Dock is a small historical museum featuring exhibits and items relating to the island’s past and its fishing industry. If you are looking to stretch your legs, the roads that wind through the island serve as great walking or biking paths. On the eastern side of the island you’ll find a long, cobble beach with sweeping views of the ocean and the former lifesaving station.

The Islesford Dock Restaurant gets its lobster from a wholesaler next door.

If you’re interested in wooden boats, stop by the Islesford Boat Works—a small non-profit that teaches kids how to build boats. Most importantly, the island is also home to the Ashley Bryan Center, where you can learn about the famous artist and his work.