More than once, as you’re booking your campsite at Warren Island State Park or perusing the campground info online, you’ll be reminded: “This park is an island.”
It’s an appreciated heads-up for folks who might not realize that they’ll need their own boat (paddle-powered or motorized, your choice) to get to Warren Island. I suspect many would-be visitors were left scratching their heads at the Isleboro Ferry Terminal wondering how in the dickens they were going to get over to the state park, easily in view but impossible for any car to travel.
But that’s one of the many wonderful things about Warren Island State Park. It’s a getaway you can only get to by boat.
The 70-acre island is approximately three miles off the coast of Lincolnville and what feels like spitting distance from Islesboro. Visitors get all the splendor of island camping – private campsites with beautiful coastal views – with some campground perks like outhouses and chopped wood at the ready.
There are no showers here, but you can always just jump into the ocean if you’re feeling dirty or if you simply fancy a dip.
There’s a perimeter trail that loops around the island that offers exceptional views of the mainland and nearby islands (sunset is stunning from Warren Island’s west side).
To get there, kayakers have a couple of options: You can depart from the mainland and paddle the three-or-so miles to Warren Island, or you can take the car ferry from Lincolnville to Islesboro with your kayak on your car and then paddle the short distance to Warren.
The latter option is helpful if the sea state isn’t expected to be great or if you’ve brought a whole lot of stuff you need to bring to the island and require multiple trips. A couple of campers I met on Warren Island a few years ago did just that, intending to camp for more than a week.
If you own a boat, there are several moorings (first come, first served) and a dock to tie up your dinghy.
Warren Island State Park is the first state park in Maine created specifically for boating enthusiasts. Old British Admiralty charts indicate that a single dwelling existed near the center of the island in pre-American Revolutionary War days. In the 1800s, several families lived here, including the family of George Warren, who lived in a farmhouse on Warren for nearly 60 years.
In 1899, the island was sold to William H. Folwell, who built what is believed to be the most expensive log cabin in New England on the island. The town of Islesboro took possession of Warren Island in lieu of unpaid taxes, eventually selling it to the state of Maine for $1 with the stipulation that the island is used for recreational purposes.
Maine upheld its agreement, and Warren Island remains a first-rate place to recreate.
There are 12 campsites and three Adirondack shelters on the island, with paths cut through fields and forests that lead you to the campsites and from one end of the island to the other. There are potable water spigots and carts to help you schlep your things from the dock to your campsite. Firewood can be purchased from the on-site ranger.
Paddlers will appreciate Warren Island’s position among a cluster of other islands – Spruce Island to the east, Seven Hundred Acre Island to the south, and Islesboro, of course, which is close enough to paddle to if you realize you forgot hot dog buns and need to hit up a market. (There are two markets on Islesboro, both a car ride away from the ferry terminal and boat launch; another reason why taking the car ferry to Islesboro and launching from there is convenient.)
There’s plenty for kayakers to explore on day paddles. And on hot summer days, you can float in the saltwater near your campsite or wander the island to see evidence of previous residents: a headstone here, the remnants of a residence there.
But when you’re at your campsite, perhaps enjoying the moonlight while roasting marshmallows over a fire, it feels like you have Warren Island all to yourself.
Shannon Bryan is a writer and outdoor enthusiast who lives in South Portland. Find her at shannonkbryan.com.