Located about three miles east of downtown Portland, Maine, Peaks Island has become a popular Casco Bay day trip for locals and tourists alike. Just 15 minutes on a ferry will get you to Peaks, where everything within its five-mile perimeter is navigable by foot (including walking trails in the central island forest), although golf carts and bikes are available for rent.
Peaks Island was first home to the Abenaki Indians, and later to a fishing community. By the 1890s it was known as the “Coney Island of Maine,” attracting visitors with its 16 hotels and inns, hundreds of cottages, three theaters, many shops and restaurants, a dancehall, and an amusement park. World War II was another turning point for the island, as about 900 soldiers were stationed on the Peaks Island Military Reservation. Today the island is a small, modern residential community, with a permanent population that hovers around 1,000 plus roughly 5,000 summer residents.
Here are some of our favorite things to do on Peaks Island in Maine.
Eat, Stay & Play on Peaks Island in Maine
Peaks Island | Things to Do
By land or by sea, a tour is the easiest way to see Peaks Island. During the 75-minute Spirit of Peaks Golf Cart Tour, you can soak up the island as it looks today while learning about its history going back to the pioneer families. If you prefer to sight-see by boat, Maine Island Kayak Co. offers sea kayak tours from Peaks Island and around Casco Bay for half or full days, or at sunset.
There’s no better place to get a sense of the island’s history than the Fifth Maine Regiment Museum, which was the headquarters of its titular volunteer infantry regiment during the Civil War. Now the building hosts a variety of historical exhibits and community events. Another place to check out is the World War II fortification known as Battery Steele: Once considered the largest gun battery in the United States, it’s now on the National Register of Historic Places and open to the public.
Island Avenue is a strip of little shops and eateries within walking distance of the ferry landing. Check out Gem Gallery for fine art and contemporary crafts made by island artists. Take a Peak is the place for island-inspired accessories, home decor, apparel, and more. The Umbrella Cover Museum is a quirky cultural attraction where you can see a collection of — you guessed it —umbrella covers from all over the world. And just around the corner from Island Avenue is Down Front, offering ice cream, candy, snacks, and small gifts and games.
Head south from the ferry dock to reach Sandy Beach, accessible via a long wooden ramp. Here you can take a dip, picnic on the shore, enjoy ice cream from Down Front, or just hang out while you wait for the ferry. North of the ferry dock, meanwhile, lies Centennial Beach, a long beach perfect for walking or watching the sun set between Little Diamond and Great Diamond islands. If you make it to the far side of the island, Cairn Beach (or Stone Beach) is easily recognizable thanks to the many cairns constructed here over the years. Take a peek at all the balancing rocks, or take a shot at building your own.
Open year-round for lunch, dinner, and drinks, this laid-back favorite has a bar and indoor seating as well as an outdoor deck that’s perfect for summer dining.
Hannigan’s is a must-visit when you need to stock up on fresh veggies, meat, seafood, and other groceries. It also has a solid selection of wine and beer, plus food on the go (pizza, sandwiches) for those not in the mood to cook.
You can’t miss this lime-green food truck, which operates from May through September and — according to a fourth-generation Peaks Islander — makes the best lobster roll around. Also on the menu: grilled fish tacos, burgers, salads, fries, and smoothies.
Located within walking distance of the ferry and right across from Sandy Beach, the Inn on Peaks has six suites outfitted with plush beds and amenities including Jacuzzi tubs and mini fridges; some even have private balconies.
Immerse yourself in history at the Eighth Maine Regiment Museum and Lodge, originally constructed in 1891. There are 14 Victorian-style guest rooms (bathrooms are shared) and a large veranda that’s ideal for relaxing.
Have you ever visited Peaks Island? Tell us about it!