Island Hopping off Stonington — A Kayak Tour of the Deer Isle Archipelago

“Maine’s premiere kayaking destination,” is a way it’s been described in many places and, although I also have some other favorite places to paddle, I won’t argue with that.

Earlier this week, I guided a family group of 7 on a full day ramble among the the 65 or so islands that fill the six mile stretch of water between Stonington and Isle au Haut.

We launched from the town landing (which is tucked behind the Isle au Haut ferry terminal), weaved through moored lobster boats, and headed south across the Deer Island Thoroughfare. We paddled past Scot Island and then counterclockwise around Green Island.

The islands here are rimmed with gorgeous glacier-scoured pink granite. Green Island offers a granite-lined cove and a quarry that makes for a great freshwater swim spot. In the late 1800′s, Green Island — as well as many other islands in this area — were quarried.

The granite cut from the islands was shipped down the east coast and used in structures such as the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Smithsonian Institute, several Manhattan bridges, the US Naval Academy and the Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. A map of quarried islands is here.

After a swim we continued south past Potato, St. Helena, and George Head Islands to little Steve’s Island, which is just short of halfway to Isle au Haut.

From Steve’s island, you can look north past spruce covered islands to Stonington. You can also look south to the 500-plus foot high Mount Champlain, the highest point on Isle au Haut. But mostly we looked at Steve’s island itself, with it’s varied rock formations, pocket beaches, clear tide pools, and sparkling emerald green waters.

After exploring Steve’s island and eating lunch there, we paddled northeast past Wreck and Bare Islands, sighting several groups of black guillemots on the crossing, before coming ashore on the gravelly beach on the southern shore of Russ Island. A 5 minute hike up a trail lined with blueberry bushes brought us to a hilltop that provides spectacular panoramic views of the archipelago.

By this time the wind had begun to pick up out of the west. We skirted the shore of Russ and Scot and hopped back to Green for another swim before returning to the town landing in Stonington.

For anyone interested in exploring these islands by kayak, we still have space available on our Deer Isle Sampler Kayak Tour on Sunday, July 6. The tour is suited to both beginning and experienced paddlers. Those who bring their own kayaks receive a discount.

If you are interested in exploring this area on your own, make sure you have adequate equipment, skills, and knowledge to ensure your own safety. Conditions can change rapidly. Fog and the numerous islands can make it easy to get disoriented, so chart and compass — along with the usual safety items such as kayak with bulkheads, bilge pump, paddle float, flares, spare clothing, weather radio, and signal horn — are essential.

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