Biking Swans Island, Maine / by Shane Henderson

burnt coat harbor

Swans Island does not make it easy for you. Small airports with frequently canceled flights, long drives in summer traffic, waits for available space on crowded ferrys... getting here can mean facing a gauntlet of transportation challenges. But like many of the world's remote and beautiful destinations, once you finally get here you realize it was worth every minute of the journey. A small island with only 300 year round residents, Swans is a picture perfect Maine coastal community. The beautiful harbor and beaches rival any found in the nearby Acadia National Park, but unlike Acadia, there are no swarming summer crowds to contend with. On any given day you could have a pristine sand beach all to yourself, or follow a hiking trail along the coast without seeing another soul. Although you can bring cars on the island, just coming over with a bicycle is definitely the way to go on a beautiful day. The quiet roads are perfect for cycling and the hilly terrain make the ride challenging despite the relatively short distances. Work up a sweat biking around and maybe you wont feel so bad about yourself when you down two lobster rolls at the takeout. 

Get Here - Fly into Portland, Bangor, or Bar Harbor and rent a car, then drive to Bass Harbor on Mt. Desert Island. On your drive down Mt. Desert, stop off at Southwest Cycle in Southwest Harbor to rent a bike. From Bass Harbor the Swans Island Ferry leaves 6 or 7 times a day and costs $34 for a roundtrip bicycle ticket.

See - Burnt Coat Harbor Light is a popular destination for bikers on the island. A beautifully restored light house complete with a small museum, this is a great place to sit for a while and watch the boats come into the harbor. If you are looking to cool off head to Fine Sand Beach, one of the rare sandy beaches in the area, for a dip in the chilly waters of the Atlantic. Sound too cold for you? Maybe head to Quarry Pond instead, where you can jump off rocks into the milder waters. The Swans Island Library is a good option if the weather takes a turn for the worse. The recently rebuilt facility has a great selection of books and some cozy corners to read in. 

Re-fuel - The Island Market & Supply has a take-out truck offering standard grill fare and seafood. Grab a lobster roll or a burger and walk down to the nearby Carrying Place Beach to have yourself a picnic. The market will also have any snacks or drinks you might need for your journey home

Sleep - The Harbor Watch Inn offers simple but comfortable studio rooms overlooking the harbor. Starting at $100/night. Or for a unique experience you could stay in the lighthouse keeper's apartment at Burnt Coat Harbor Light. Not a lot of privacy considering your front yard is one of the more popular sites on the island but its hard to beat that view! Starting at $1000/week.