Turner Cove Isle Au Haut, Maine

Mail Boat
A visit to Isle au Haut starts in Stonington at the Isle au Haut Company on the waterfront. There, at what used to be a sardine cannery, you board the passenger ferry, also known as the mailboat. It's a substantial vessel, larger than the many lobster boats moored in the harbor, with about equal inside and outside seating.

Lobster Boats
The departure is usually on time. The crew throw off the dock lines and the diesel engine revs up. If there's other boat traffic about, the progress is cautious as it proceeds across the Deer Island Thorofare to follow a well traveled course to the High Island. Many smaller islands and ledges are visible along this route. One significant island ahead and to the west has the cliffs and tall mast of a large granite quarry. This is a large operation which ships big blocks of granite to cutting facilities elsewhere.

Near the halfway point, the ferry crosses Merchant's Row, an inland waterway between Camden and Bar Harbor. Many pleasure craft follow this route in summer as it provides good room for sailing yet gives some shelter from the open ocean. On the port bow is Merchants Island and ahead in the distance is Kimball's Island, both places barely occupied. Then, more detail of Isle au Haut becomes visible.

The church spire is one of the first signs of the town. Drawing closer, the boat may stop at Point Lookout, a summer colony on the Island. From there, the boat enters the Isle au Haut Thorofare, a channel between that Island and Kimball's Island. The passage here is narrow and shallow. At very low tides, the boat may be forced to go around Kimball's Island for deeper water.

From the Thorofare, the houses of the town are quite visible with a few piers on the shore. One of the larger piers is the fuel dock at the Island Store where the fuel barge pumps gasoline and heating oil ashore. The boat then maneuvers into the Town Dock where the crew tie up to a float. There's always activity at the Town Dock with the arrival or departure of the boat. Passengers are unloaded first, then freight is unloaded and loaded.

Island Store
When your arrival is expected your hosts will be waiting on the dock. If not, walk off the dock and up the incline passing the Power Company building on your left. Ahead are a couple fine, older homes above the road. The dock lane soon merges with "Main Street" and take a left through town. A tiny post office is just ahead. From there, the Island Store is visible on the waterfront. It's your only chance to buy some food or drink. A picnic table outside offers a place to sit and eat.

Island Church
After the store, there's a boardwalk on the right which climbs the hill to the church. It's a beautiful structure, always open and worth a side trip if you can manage it. A large chandelier with 13 lamps once burned whale oil for lighting. On the east end, a fine stained glass window of the Good Shepherd has a memorial to a Turner woman who was important in founding the church.

Turner Cemetery
Beyond the church and by the road is an open field with a good view of the Thorofare. At the far edge of the field is the Turner Cemetery. Reminders of the nautical setting and the hazards of the sea are common on the markers. Then just uphill is the Town Hall and library in a sturdy stone building flanked by nice summer homes. Another short distance and the fire station is on the right with the new power station behind it. Although the Island power comes from Stonington by cable, a generator on the Island serves in emergencies.
Town Hall

Next, on the left, is the one room schoolhouse with eight grades available. Usually, not all eight grades are used and the Island school population is a concern. Attempts to attract young families to the Island haven't succeeded well.
School House

Ascending a hill, the road passes the last half-dozen homes in the village. Then the road continues through forest for another mile or so, passing only a couple places and then descending toward the east side of the Island. On the left are two access roads to Rich's Point and Rich's Cove on the northeast corner of the Island. Now the road heads south for several miles with scattered houses and few views of the sea.
Turner Cove and The Inn

The Inn at Isle au Haut and Turner Cove are on this part of the Island. Little Red was once the east side schoolhouse and now is part of the Turner property. Walking down that lane gives you a broad vista from the east side which includes Mt. Desert Island, Swans Island and close by, York Island. The latter protects Turner Cove from the open ocean beyond it. Turner Cove has been in continuous ownership of family members for 170 years or more although the present owners are distant cousins of the original settlers.
Little Red

Settlement is sparse beyond Turner Cove. The paved road turns to dirt in another mile. After about two miles of woodsy dirt road, there's more pavement. On the left in the paved section is a parking area, probably unmarked, with a short trail beyond leading to the shore. This piece of coast, privately owned, has a broad boulder beach called "Boom Beach" from the sound of rocks rolling on lefge below during storms. A prominent ledge, just offshore, is Elephant Rock and seagulls flock to its back.
Boom Beach

Looking south from Boom Beach is the small island of Eastern Ear, just off Eastern Head. Facing east we can see two bare Islands, Black Cow and White Cow. Among the rocks by our feet high on the shore are beach peas which are quite edible when they ripen in mid to late summer.

Long Pond
Continuing south on the road, we pass a small beach at the foot of Long Pond. This freshwater pond is narrow and about one mile long. Its depth goes well below sea level. Had the ledges near the foot of the pond been lower, the pond would have been connected to the ocean. As it is, it's a great place to swim in the summer in an area where the sea is so cold.

Another half mile brings us to Head Harbor with its settlement of about a dozen homes.
Head Harbor
On the east side of Head Harbor is a dirt road which leads to National Park property. This piece of the Park called Eastern Head has high granite shores facing the open ocean. A deep chasm splits the shore at one place called "Thunder Gulch." When the waves are rolling, Thunder Gulch makes noise to rival the much better known Thunder Hole near Bar Harbor. It is rare to find other people there when you visit. `
Thunder Gulch

Beyond Head Harbor, the road is not paved as we cross the Island to the east side once more. Not far along this road is a sign showing the National Park boundary. The Park retains their land on the Island as a wilderness area with few improvements. About midway to the east side is the entrance to the Goat Trail, a rugged shore path along the sea. Staying on the road, the sea is encountered again at Duck Harbor.

Duck Harbor
A service road (no vehicles allowed) leads along the south shore of beautiful, tranquil Duck Harbor, past a small Park campground. In summer, the ferry brings visitors to come ashore in Duck Harbor for day visits. On the left is a steep trail up Duck Harbor Mountain. This leads to the best coastal views on the Island with Penobscot Bay at your feet, Vinylhaven in the middle distance and the hills of Camden beyond. Staying on the service road brings us to Deep Cove, a pretty stone beach between small granite cliffs.

Deep Cove
Beyond Deep Cove, a trail leads to the Cliffs, spectacular, hundred foot high shores along the open ocean. If you're hardy, catch your breath at this sight and continue on the shore trail around Western Head, as nice a coastal hike as there is in Maine. That brings us back to Duck Harbor. A short hike along the north side of Duck Harbor leads to a high, rocky headland called Eben's Head. It's a perfect spot for a picnic as lobster boats circle below, pulling traps.

Eben's Head
Heading north on the east side of the Island, the road is woodsy, touching the shore only at a couple points. The road eventually exits Park land close to another small settlement on Moore's Harbor. Another trail on the northern shore of Moore's Harbor leads to a very sheltered cove called Seal Trap. This is private land but the owner share this gem with the public, even maintaining the trail. On the far side of Seal Trap is a path to Trial Point with a good chance of sighting eagles overhead.

Seal Trap
Heading north and back towards the village again, the next chance to glimpse the sea is by a lane leading to the lighthouse. This structure is owned by the Town although the Coast Guard maintains the light. It's thought by some that it's the picture-perfect light on the coast. The adjacent house was operated as a B&B for some years. The lighthouse property was in the Greenlaw family for some years. Now, Linda Greenlaw of nautical writing fame, lives in a house overlooking the lighthouse from a distance.

The lighthouse is at the southern end of the Isle au Haut Thorofare. It is not far from it to the village again. Along the way you may find a chocolate shop and a gift shop among the scattered buildings. Then you'll see the National Park buildings with a rest room and water. From that, it's an easy walk along paved road again down the hill to the Town Dock.

For the really adventurous, the forest of the interior of the Island has several trails and a few high points with good views. Then, down at sea level, sea kayakers may circumnavigate the Island in good weather. Beyond, there are a number of uninhabited islands to be explored by island hoppers. But that's another story.