In the year 1700, Dutch engineer Wolfgang William Romer reported that southern Maine’s Casco Bay contained “as many islands as there are days in the year.”

And while he was a little overzealous with his estimate – there are far fewer than 365 islands in the bay – these are still referred to as the Calendar Islands.

When I take visitors to Portland to the Eastern Promenade and we look over the bay, however, they rarely ask about these hundred-some scattered islands with the interesting names, like Irony Island, Junk of Pork Island, Pound of Tea Island and Raspberry Island.

Instead, they invariably point at one distinctive landmark and ask, “What’s that?”

They’re referring to the Wyman Station power plant, which sticks up from Cousins Island in the middle of Casco Bay. For a long time I didn’t know what, exactly, the towering stack was. And I certainly didn’t realize that it’s on one of the few islands connected to the mainland by bridge.

I was delighted to discover that Cousins Island and its smaller eastern neighbor, Littlejohn Island, are very easy to reach, and are home to much more than Wyman Station. Nature preserves, biking trails, boat launches and a seldom-crowded sand beach offer a lot for visitors who want to explore two of the distinctive islands in Casco Bay.

It’s easy to reach Cousins Island by car – simply follow Route 88 just south of Yarmouth, then turn onto Gilman Road and head over the bridge. I recommend exploring by bike on the beautiful, volunteer-maintained West Side Trail that stretches from Tyler Technologies in Yarmouth to the power plant on Cousins Island. The trail travels down the power line corridor, and its boardwalks and banked curves are a blast on a mountain bike.

By car or bike, as soon as you cross the bridge to Cousins Island you’ll find the parking lot for Sandy Point Beach, a little sand beach that begins right under the bridge. It’s a bit of an odd spot for a beach, with the bridge right overhead, but it seems to fade into the background when you feel the cool ocean breeze and notice the wide-open views to Freeport and Falmouth. If you aren’t in the mood for sunbathing on the sand, this beach is also a great launch spot for kayaks and canoes – the Royal River and Broad Cove are within striking distance – or an alternate point to unload your bike and jump on the West Side Trail.

Continue down the road for almost a mile and take a right onto Seal Road to reach the island’s 15-acre Tinker Preserve, which features a pleasant walk through verdant oak and red pine trees. This short trail passes over stone walls and near a beautiful old cemetery. A dozen “StoryWalk” signs make it fun exercise for kids – as they follow the trail, they also follow the story from Olive A. Wadsworth’s “Over the Meadow,” and get to jump, run and squawk like the animals in the book.

My favorite spot is Littlejohn Island Preserve, on the eastern tip of Littlejohn Island, but getting in can be a little hit-or-miss. The parking area has only four spots, and once they’re full, they’re full. No exceptions. You may have to turn around if the lot’s full. Just another reason to explore the islands by bike.

To reach Littlejohn Island Preserve, take Talbot Road from Cousins Island, then two quick lefts onto Littlejohn Road and Pemasong Lane (marked by a sign that says “preserve”), and follow the dirt road to the parking area.

Walk or bike up the road to the “waystation” on the right, which marks the entrance of the preserve. The loop trail hugs the shore, where there are picnic tables and benches positioned at particularly scenic spots – views of Cousins Island and Lanes Island to the north, Chebeague Island to the south, and the Mosier Islands from the very eastern tip of Littlejohn.

If you’d like to continue exploring the islands of Casco Bay, you can catch Chebeague Transportation Company’s ferry from Cousins Island to Chebeague Island, where more than 350 islanders live year round. From there, you can take the Casco Bay Lines ferry to Portland, or paddle to one of the other islands. The possibilities aren’t quite endless, but there are plenty of them. Maybe as many as there are days in the year.

Jake Christie is a freelance writer living in Portland. Along with his brother, Josh, he writes about great Maine destinations for outdoors enthusiasts. Jake can be reached at:

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