All photos/art by Winky Lewis
Just pedal or stroll and breathe in the salt air on Peaks Island, with views to tempt a sea captain.
MORNING: Chances are you won’t be alone on the 20-minute Casco Bay Lines ferry ride over to Peaks Island; the nearly hourly departures are pretty full, at least on weekends. But once you land, in the five minutes or so it takes to walk up the hill, buy a 25-cent drink at Bailey’s shady lemonade stand, and head down Island Avenue toward Brad’s Island Bike Rentals & Repairs, the crowd will have melted into the island like water into sand.
Here’s what you’ll be left with: a lingering taste of lemonade, sparkling air, and a sudden feeling of orientation. The island is only a mile wide and two miles long. You’re at the crossroads of the busiest area. Turn right on Island Avenue and you’ll pass the grandly shingled Inn on Peaks Island, and a little farther, Peaks Island House, with dining views to Casco Bay. Turn left and you’ll find a diverting assortment of shops and galleries, such as the Umbrella Cover Museum, GEM Gallery, and Take a Peak home and gift shop.
But here’s Brad’s tangle of bikes, spread out in front of his shop like a crazy metal fishing net. Rates are beyond reasonable: $15 for four hours (“but the basket’ll cost you $100,” he deadpans). According to Brad, it takes 40 minutes to pedal the four-mile perimeter, but you can take as little or long as you choose.
The route is mostly flat, with views to tempt a sea captain: of Portland and other small islands; of white sails skimming the water like gulls; sandy beaches or flat stones tumbling to meet the water, with an occasional wader here and there. Along the way there’s a roadside stand for Peaks Island Honey, with a jar for your $4. Streets and unpaved lanes meander into leafy tunnels, with gardens and blue hydrangeas that surely must be mandatory. On the “backshore” side of the island, the open Atlantic stretches itself; Seashore Avenue hugs its every curve.
It’s a bike ride unlike any I’ve ever imagined on an island: plenty of other bikes on the road, the puttering golf cart or two (popular with many of the year-round residents and summer inhabitants), but almost completely car-free. And thus, worry-free.
AFTERNOON: What makes this the perfect island daytrip is simply that you don’t have to do too much here. Just pedal or stroll and breathe. And at some point pick out a table on the Peaks Island House veranda overlooking the sea, spread out with the New York Times, tuck into a Caesar-salad wrap, and watch the water lap.
EVENING: Later, you’ll want to duck into a few shops along Island Avenue. Then slouch on down to the gazebo behind Peaks Island House, with a view to Portland, where you can watch your ferry come in. You might decide to stay and watch the sunset, or linger over an evening bowl of saffron seafood chowder at the Cockeyed Gull; on summer weekends the last ferry leaves at 11:55 p.m.
At our backs, there’s an entire little island world, licked by the frothy sea. How easy it is to pick out your own cottage here–shingled, or weathered, or gingerbread-ornamented–and dream.