|Do you enjoy sea kayaking along Maine's spectacular coastline, but prefer a cozy bed to a sleeping bag? Do you like to visit beautiful offshore islands, but want to minimize your impact on these fragile treasures? Would you like to camp on public islands, but worry that you'll arrive at your intended destination to find the camping spots filled?
If you answered "yes!" to any of these questions, consider staying at one of Maine's many coastal lodgings instead of island camping on your next overnight kayaking trip. There are some truly delightful spots here in Maine to rest your weary bones after a great day of paddling. Many are right at the water's edge; others are just a short drive away from a convenient launch ramp. You might spend a comfortable night at a bed and breakfast that was once a sea captain's home, or at an inn that welcomed guests arriving by steamship 100 years ago. In the morning you'll awake refreshed, ready to tuck away a fine breakfast.
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Part 2: Hot Showers! A Sampling of Maine Waterfront Bed and Breakfasts
Part 3: Hot Showers! A Sampling of Maine Waterfront Campgrounds
If camping is more your style, there are a number of waterfront campgrounds that don't require the contortions of packing your gear through seven-inch hatch openings, nor the worry of waking up to a small craft advisory. You can drive in, set up your tent, and then head out on day trips from your convenient starting point. On your return, you can explore neighboring communities and enjoy tasty alternatives to camp-stove fare.
You do the public wild islands a favor by exploring them as day visitors, and overnighting on the mainland or an inhabited island. Picnicking on a sandy beach or walking along a granite-ringed shore is much less likely than camping to damage delicate island ecosystems.
You can reserve a guest room or site in a campground over the phone and be assured of its availability when you arrive the following weekend. The same is not true of a campsite on most Maine public islands. The Bureau of Parks and Lands islands open to campers are getting more and more use, particularly on summer weekends. The Maine Island Trail Association (MITA), working with the Bureau of Parks and Lands, has set recommended camping capacities for these islands to minimize environmental damage and to preserve the wilderness camping experience. But you won't know until you get to an island if that capacity has already been reached. You face the prospect of looking for another island where camping is permitted, heading back to shore, or squeezing into the occupied sites if factors such as time or weather keep you from pressing on. (See MITA's Web site at www.mita.org or call them at 207-761-8225 for more information about camping capacities and low-impact practices.)
Maine's waters are cold and the tidal variations great, so if you are unfamiliar with the region you'll be visiting, do your homework before you arrive. Three excellent paddling guides are Kayaking the Maine Coast: A Paddler's Guide to Day Trips from Kittery to Cobscook, by Dorcas Miller; Guide to Sea Kayaking in Maine: The Best Day Trips and Tours from Casco Bay to Machias, by Shelley Johnson and Vaughan Smith; and Sea Kayaking along the New England Coast, by Tamsin Venn. The Maine Island Trail Association's annual guidebook is a valuable reference, with information on islands members may visit as well as boating and safety tips. A good Web site for tide information and marine forecasts is www.maineharbors.com. If you are relatively new to sea kayaking, or if your kayak is not a full-length sea touring boat, consider engaging the services of a local outfitter. (Refer to www.maineseakayakguides.com for links to many Maine kayak outfitters.)
Art by Jane O'Conor
LEE BUMSTED is the author of Hot Showers! Maine Coast Lodgings for Kayakers and Sailors, a guide to 152 coastal B&Bs, inns, and similar lodgings, and 30 campgrounds. Her book is available from Audenreed Press at www.biddle-audenreed.com/Kayak.html. You may mail a check for $18.95 plus $2.00 shipping (and $.95 sales tax for Maine residents) to P.O. Box 1305, Brunswick, Maine 04011. You may also purchase it from booksellers and kayak shops.
This article originally appeared in Atlantic Coastal Kayaker magazine, and is used with permission of Atlantic Coastal Kayaker and the author.