“The other Swan Island”
A few weeks ago, we visited the Swan Island Wildlife Management Area! It’s been on my bucket list for over a year now, and this visit was our THIRD attempt to travel there. I had a trip planned in August and September and both days rained like cats and dogs (naturally, the Universe is always against me). Finally, after I planned my third attempt LAST minute, the sun shined. Boy did it shine. STUNNING fall day. Warm sunshine with a cool breeze-perfection. I heard about this Maine gem, maybe on instagram and I knew I needed a visit. It was must, considering how much I adore OLD houses.
A brief history on the island can be found HERE. Basically a bunch of Native American’s settled there, then came the Americans, then the Native American’s murdered and sold some of the American’s to the Canadians. The Native American’s moved on out and the Island was inhabited by wealthy white folks. Eventually, the economy, pollution, and a new bridge (the stop of the ferry) made everyone abandoned the island. The island hosted quite a few well-known folks and during its peek, it had a booming ice business, farming, ship building, fishing and lumbering. Apparently, it was a hustling little island in its time-the EXACT opposite of what it’s like today. Today the island is owned by Maine Department Inland Fisher’s and Wildlife- they run and upkeep the island.
The island has a 4.5 mile main road running down the middle of it. There’s also 7 miles of beautiful wooded hiking trails on either sides of the island. There’s rustic camping, a children’s trout pond and a wildlife viewing tower. You can view the to do list HERE!
My day visit recommendation
- Pack FOOD! There’s no stores over there. Snacks and LOTS of water.
- Purchase some tick repellant. They have a LOAD of deer ticks over there, that could possibly carry diseases. Do a tick check after your hike and when you get home. We ended up picking off quite a few ticks after our hike.
- In the spring and fall, bring layers. The thick woods was a bit chilly, the open fields were warm and on one side of the island, there was a NW breeze.
- We went over at 9:15am and back to mainland at 1pm. That was enough time to hike the viewing tower and hike back to the camp. In those four hours, we explored three houses, cemetery and fields.
We started our trip in the town of Richmond at the Swan Island terminal. They have lots of parking and you’ll eventually be greeted by the ferry!
It’s about a 5 minute ferry ride over to the island. You can actually see where you dock on the other side, from the mainland! Probably a very easy canoe or kayak ride. Adults are $8 a person and children under 5 are free. The two ladies that brought us over were SUPER nice, and because we had a 4-year-old who HATES to walk-they offered to drive us from the island landing dock to the camp (1.5 miles).
We started our adventures at the campground. These lean to’s are the islands way of camping. Rustic. Thankfully, they do have bathrooms, so you don’t have to camp THAT rustic.
This saltbox was built-in 1763. They have a little write-up about it, so you’ll have to visit to read the history. But a fun fact: why do they call this certain frame a “saltbox?” The name derives from the resemblance to a box with a wooden lid, that they used to store salt. Something like THIS! Considering I photograph houses on the side, I never knew why they called this structure a saltbox! I’m probably the only person in the world that never knew this…hahaha! Due to the house not being structurally sound, we weren’t allowed inside. So, no indoor photos.
Those details though.
The islands grave yard. Some stones dated back to the 1700’s. I noticed A LOT of young children were buried here-illness took them young and quite often back then.
We took a little walk into the fields. So quiet. So surreal. Watching the milk weeds dance in the wind. Appreciating the fall foliage. And that maple tree in the middle of the field was everything! The island is so well-preserved, you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere. Being we were the only visitors that day, it was quiet. Almost eerie quiet. From what the ladies told me, the island is hustling and busy during the summer months!
This stunning maple tree. Completely out of its element, in the middle of a giant field.
BE FOREWARNED, the tower is very narrow. Naturally, being I’m not a graceful lady, I nailed my head on a metal bar climbing up. When you climb up, LOOK UP! Youch. My head hurt for days after.
To change things up, when were left the viewing tower, and took the wooded trail back to camp. In the trail we saw MORE deer! Jumping through the woods. Tons of giant pines, swamp and beautiful foliage.
Once we reached camp, the ladies drove us back to the ferry terminal.On the way back, I asked them to stop at the beautiful white house on the hill. They offered to open the house up for us, and we got to go in and view the house! What a treat!
The gentlemen that lived in this house was a pharmacist, you can see below that his license is STILL in the house!
Old news papers stuck on the floor! Look at the baking powder ad? gahh!
The ladies told me that this wall paper was considered “luxury” back in the day. Layers and Layers and LAYERS of it. Stunning.
On the way to Portland to Lila’s doctors appointments, I sometimes change-up the route and take the back way through Gardiner, Maine. For the past few years, I’ve driven by A1 Diner and wanted to make plans to stop in for a visit! After leaving Swan Island, we FINALLY got to eat there and it was AMAZING! I love LOVE the diner. Everything about it. I just kept imaging what it would be like to cozy on up to the bar on a cold snowy day, drinking coffee and reading a magazine. Siiighhh, why can’t we have anything THIS cool on the Mid-Coast?!?!
This was my plate. When a girl lifts at the gym, she’s gotta eat. A LOT. mmmmm. Best burger everrrr. I’m pretty sure Downeast wrote up a little piece about their burgers in 30 greatest burgers in Maine. Oh, and that light flowing into the diner, #goals. I highly recommend a visit if you’re passing through Gardiner!