Je ne sais quoi (How cool is it?)
The Hermit Island beaches are white and sandy. Frequently, there is nobody else around. To get to appropriately named Hermit Island, you need to drive across a sand bar. Located in Small Point, Maine, Hermit Island is a natural campground that does not allow visitors. Sounds like a summer paradise for a family beach getaway, no?
The “warm” water of Casco Bay allows for superb swimming after relaxing or basking in the sun. The island campground has 8 beaches with tide pools and glistening sand. It’s possible to get to the Hermit Island beaches by car, with the exception of Spring Beach. You will have to hike there. The other 7 seven beaches of this isolated Maine island are Sunset Lagoon, Sand Dollar Beach, Bounty Cove Beach, Sailboat Beach, Sand Dune Beach, Head Beach and the West Dune Beach.
With these eight private beaches on the Atlantic, the campground and its many campsites provide access to as much or as little activity as you wish. The island is only a mile and a half by a half mile at its widest, but it does have four hiking trails and a marina on the north shore. Follow the red trail for spectacular views of the coast. For bird and animal life, wander through the woods with the orange, blue or white trails.
Rowboats and canoes can be rented from the marina. Arrivals by sea have access to moorings. A pleasant bonus, but not completely unexpected, Casco Bay is great for fishing and lobsters.
Where is Hermit Island? 43°73′N 69°85′W
The north side of Hermit Island is a forest, and the campsites are found on the south. There are only a finite amount of spaces, which ensures beauty and solitude. There are four different types of sites. All are quite reasonably priced. You probably want to avoid the value locations if possible. The value spots are in the woods and most likely have too many mosquitos.
Maine Beach Vacation to Hermit Island
The first recorded settler in the area was a Francis Small in 1684. Small established a trading post. The exact location has been lost to history, but most likely it was on the mainland. It is thought Small lived to a ripe old age notwithstanding some hostile local Indians.
As word of his prosperity grew, so did the number of other willing to join the area. Enough settlers had put down roots for there to be a town meeting in 1717 for the new town of Augusta. A stone fort was constructed by a wealthy Dr. Belcher Noves. The good doctor also, “undertook a Fishery, sufficient to employ twenty vessels at a time.”
At the time, a bounty was being offered by the King of England on fish. This bounty financed Dr. Noves’ fleet of fishing boats. Bounty Cove beach and its steep rocky coast is named after this regal reward. While the island’s rich waters were never a problem, the local Indians were. The good doctor did not have the foresight to include a source of fresh water in his fort. Unfortunately, the poor souls who took refuge in the fort were unable to defend against Indians attacking with fire arrows.
Who was the Hermit?
At the turn of the 20th century, there lived a real hermit on the island. He had a flock of sheep and some cattle. He was a notoriously private and difficult individual. Reportedly, the butcher had to “hide in the bushes, jump his man, and all but hold him down by force before buying his wool, mutton and beef.” Such was his dislike for fellow man.
NO Pets are allowed
Today, the dangers faced by the early colonists may be gone, but the remoteness of the Hermit Island beaches continue the natural bond to the past. This beach spot in the Gulf of Maine is part of a large North Atlantic natural breakwater. The rugged shores of Hermit Island allow for diverse aquatic creatures to prosper. Exploring the many tide pools of the island, is a worthy expedition. Visitors to these beaches regularly harvest snails, crabs, and star fish. If a little more effort is desired, cast a line and see what you get. Bluefish and striper are usually hitting and taste delicious. Seals meander by at their own pace from time to time.
Bring a bike. Hermit Island is relatively small, but a bike is a pleasant. Hiking shoes are also suggested for the trails and narrow island roads.
Things to do on Hermit Island
- Explore this gorgeous island in Maine. There are a number of little nooks, beach spots and special sites in the great outdoors.
- Hike along the coast of the island or venture inland to the forest.
- Exercise! Go for a long and refreshing swim.
- Catch up on some light reading on one of the beaches.
- Lobster. You are in Maine, after all. Over flame or in the water? Either way tastes great. Don’t forget butter. You can also get fresh clams from the on island grocery store.
- Kayak: Casco Bay is beautiful from the shore. It’s even nicer from the water.
Keep in mind, that as much as people love the beaches Hermit Island, so do mosquitos.
Pick one of the Hermit Island Beaches
None of the beaches have lifeguards. Swim at your own risk.
Set on the peaceful Casco Bay, Hermit Island is blessed with seven white sand beaches which are only for the use of guests at the campground. This guarantees you will not be sharing your peace and quiet with many others, if at all. A reasonably comparable beach in Maine is Ogunquit Beach. The water is relatively warm, but you might want to bring a wetsuit just in case. Not all of the beaches on the island offer parking, but Bounty Cove Beach, Sand Dollar Beach, Sailboat Beach and Head Bead do.
Sand Dune Beach: The largest and main beach found on Hermit Island. This will be the busiest beach, but it will be a far cry from the crowds people expect in beach places like Cascais, Portugal. As the name describes, there are large dunes. Kayaks are available for rent here.
Sailboat Beach: Part of this beach is nice and sandy, while the other side is rocky with a number of tide pools. Sailboat Beach can be found at the terminus of the hiking paths. This is the best beach on Hermit Island. There is a fire pit.
Head Beach: This beach spot connects the mainland with the island. The water at this beach is colder than the rest of these spots. Head Beach is the only public beach on the island.
Sand Dollar Beach: Found on the north point of the island. Thousands of sand dollars can be found just off shore from this beach. You can try your luck looking for sand dollars along the shore. Not to worry, they are readily available for purchase if you strike out on the island’s second largest beach.
Bounty Cove Beach: This beach is where you can channel your inner hermit. It is not well known, since it is not on the island map. Swimmers are advise to remain close to shore due to a dangerous rock shoal.
Sunset Lagoon Beach: This warm water beach is tiny and features great sunset over Sunset lagoon. Hence the name. Its not the best place to swim as there are a lot of submerged rocks.
West Dune Beach: This beach is divided from Sand Dune Beach by a rocky outcropping. It is a lot quieter on this beach with less people. This is a good spot for sunsets.
Spring Beach: Accessible solely by walking, this beach is hidden next to thick forest. The only approach to this gem of a beach spot is via the hiking trails. That makes it the least crowded beach. Or is it the mosquitos? If you are going to brave an airborne assault, bring repellent.
All things considered, these beaches are not as glamorous as a trip to Bora Bora, but they are a lot easier to get to and certainly easier on the wallet!
Hermit Island’s transformation into today’s private campground with 270 sites started over 100 years ago. A group of 10 year olds including Sumner Sewall rowed a small boat to an insignificant and desolate island in 1907. There was only one inhabitant. The man was the master of the island, but old and he was without family. He was a loner, a hermit.
“The boys would row over in the shallow light of evening, sneak up on his abode, and spy on him. Eventually the man died, his home disintegrated, and the island, coined Hermit Island by the young Sewall, developed into a rustic, no-amenities campground on the lapping shores of the Atlantic.”
Initially there was no campground. Hermit Island was used as a lobster impoundment. Sumner Sewall returned to his maritime roots after a long and successful career as an airline executive as well as the 58th governor of Maine from 1941 to 1945. Before that, he was a certified ace in the first world war. The retired governor purchased the island in a partnership with his two sons in 1948. Their partnership allowed them to dam a stream, trap the lobsters and sell them after they fattened up in spring. Eventually, about a dozen campsites were created to help pay the rising property taxes.
Hermit Island Campground Lives On.
Currently there is no power or running water for the campsites. They have grown to number 270. Only tents and pickups are welcome on this island where time stands still.
One steps back in time, when you camp here. Its possible to buy the barest of necessities on the island in the general store. Other than ice and lobster, you need to bring it in. All of the spots are private, and most have wonderful views of the water and beaches that dot the island. In general, it’s run extremely well.
“We kept it this way to preserve the land, to do as little damage as possible and try to maintain the natural beauty of what’s there,’’ says Nick Sewall, Sumner’s son and current owner. “We wanted to change as little as possible when we built the sites.’’
Hermit Island has deep following. It is one of those places, that you almost need to be initiated to. The people who visit, come year after year. A common worry, is that the island’s beaches are going to go Hollywood, becoming a luxury resort. Currently, the threat this lovely beach spot faces is not from higher rates, but taxes.
“The biggest threat to Hermit Island are climbing taxes,’’ says Sewall. “Nearby property is selling for such exorbitant prices that their tax rates are influencing ours. It’s getting to the point where it may be too expensive to keep [the campground]running as is. It’s threatening our livelihood.’’
According to Sewall, it’s likely that within the next decade, he will need to make a change. But “changing anything at Hermit Island would be an absolute last resort,’’ he said. Hopefully he figures it out.
Thank you to an old friend of mine from Sea Girt, Rob M, for sharing the photos of this very cool place. Last time I saw Rob, we were randomly chasing Indians or some other tomfoolery during Mardis Gras a number of years ago. A much better place to run into an old friend, than in line at the grocery store, no?