Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play

As the largest of Maine’s offshore islands, Vinalhaven has more options than most, from swimming and hiking to eating out.

By Yankee Staff

Jun 21 2022


The Vinalhaven ferry terminal.

Photo Credit : Mark Fleming
About halfway up the Maine coast, in the center of Penobscot Bay, lie the Fox Islands — better known to most people by their individual names, North Haven and Vinalhaven. Though these two neighbors share the same windswept beauty, Vinalhaven is bigger in both population (about 1,1,00) and size (at 23 square miles, it’s Maine’s largest offshore island). Vinalhaven looms large in the state’s economic history, too. Starting the 1820s and continuing for about a century, it was a leading U.S. producer of granite; the island’s fine pinkish-gray stone can be found in everything from the Brooklyn Bridge to the Washington Monument. It also became a fishing powerhouse, and today it boasts the state’s second most lucrative lobstering fleet (after Stonington). Island life centers on the picturesque port town of Carver’s Harbor, on the southern side of Vinalhaven, where much of the fleet is moored. This is also where the ferry arrives daily from Rockland; in summer it brings scores of visitors who are looking to hike the beautiful trails maintained by the local land trust, or go kayaking on the waterways, or just generally soak up the experience of being on a hard-working but laid-back Maine island. Even better, Vinalhaven is big enough to offer restaurant, shops, and even that rarest of Maine island amenities: a welcoming and up-to-date inn. Note: While the Rockland ferry does have a few spots for cars, it’s much less of a hassle to bring a bike (if you don’t have your own, you can pick up a rental from a mainland outfitter). Plus, a number of attractions and amenities are within walking distance of the ferry terminal.

Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine

Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
Browns Head Lighthouse, Vinalhaven.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Things to Do on Vinalhaven, Maine

Vinalhaven Historical Society

Located in the former town hall and open daily in summer except Sundays, the Vinalhaven Historical Society is a good first stop for newcomers. Through artifacts and exhibits, it tells the story of the island from its early farming and fishing days to the rise of its granite industry and its modern-day identity as both a vital fishing community and a summer retreat.
Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
Cooling off in Lawson’s Quarry, Vinalhaven.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Quarry Ponds

Vinalhaven’s quarry industry left it with two of the best swimming holes you could want: Lawson’s Quarry and Booth’s Quarry. Popular with locals and visitors alike, the quarries offer crystal-clear water and broad, flat rocks that are custom-made for sunbathing. Just bear in mind that there are no lifeguards or restroom facilities.

Parks and Preserves

There are nearly two dozen parks and preserves scattered across Vinalhaven, so odds are that no matter where you are on the island, you’re near some scenic public land. The Vinalhaven Land Trust offers information on all of them, with a number of handy brochures available to download from its website. Among the destinations to choose from are Lane’s Island, a 45-acre nature preserve that’s just a 20-minute walk from the ferry, and Tip Toe Mountain Preserve, which has short, steep hikes to panoramic views.
Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
Vinalhaven captain Bobby Warren hauls in lobster traps during a trip aboard the F/V Seabreeze.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

On-the-Water Outings

One of the most memorable ways to explore the island is from the water. If you like to do it under your own steam, The Tidewater rents kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards. The inn also assists guests in booking local lobster boat tours, like the ones run by captain Bobby Warren on the Seabreeze. For wildlife lovers, though, look for the boat trips led by ornithologist John Drury, whose outings provide the chance to look for all kinds of birds — Arctic terns, guillemots, shearwaters, petrels, puffins, and eagles — along with seals, dolphins, and whales.

Where to Eat on Vinalhaven, Maine

Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
A hungry crowd gathers at Greet’s Eats, Vinalhaven.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

Greet’s Eats

A beloved local institution run by seventh-generation islander Greta McCarthy, this food truck near the ferry serves burgers, creative sandwiches, and a lobster roll that has been hailed as one of the best lobster rolls in Maine.

The Nightingale

Opened in 2017, this seasonal eatery specializes in casual lunches and dinners (fish and chips, steak frites, fried chicken) and cocktails crafted with homemade syrups and island-grown herbs. Plus: homemade ice cream sandwiches!

The Surfside

A breakfast hub for fishermen, the Surfside is renowned for its homemade fish cakes but also scores with specialty omelets, fruit and yogurt parfaits, and fresh-baked pastries, including jumbo cinnamon rolls.

Note: Two new and promising Vinalhaven destinations are debuting in the summer of 2018: Dot & Millie’s, a restaurant and bar that will occupy the same spot as the late lamented eatery The Haven; and Skål, described as “a speakeasy with Scandinavian flair.”

Where to Stay on Vinalhaven, Maine

Guide to Vinalhaven, Maine | Eat, Stay & Play
The Tidewater (left), looking out into Carver’s Harbor, on Vinalhaven.
Photo Credit : Mark Fleming

The Tidewater

Built on the site of a former grist mill, and looking directly out on Carver’s Harbor, the family-run Tidewater puts guests right on the water. Its rooms are clean, comfortable, and outfitted with most modern conveniences (not all rooms have TVs, and Wi-Fi access can be limited — both of which might be welcome news, however, for families looking to unplug). The Tidewater offers guests a free shuttle service and use of its bikes, while the savvy staff will gladly help arrange everything from babysitters to dinner reservations.


Vinalhaven has one of the more active Airbnb hosting communities among Maine islands, with more than a dozen listings within walking distance of the ferry alone. Among the options is a harborside studio apartment that sleeps four and offers a fireplace and a private patio; and a cheery bungalow for two that was once a lobsterman’s workshop. Have you ever been to Vinalhaven, Maine? Tell us about it! This post was first published in 2019 and has been updated. 


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