MONHEGAN ISLAND – An excursion to Monhegan Island is about so much more than dinner that a meal by itself is hard-pressed to compete. But at the Island Inn, with its water-view dining room with Monhegan landscapes on every wall, you can certainly dine well.

The handsome turn-of-the-century shingled building with third-floor dormer windows presides just up the hill from the island dock.

You must take a ferry — either the one-hour trip from Port Clyde or longer journeys from Boothbay Harbor or New Harbor — to reach the island. If you wish to stay for dinner, you must rent a room, because there are no ferries at night.

But anyone who can should make the trip to what many consider the most magical place on the coast of Maine and walk on the island’s narrow trails — perhaps in Cathedral Woods under the lacy, shifting light that filters through hemlock and spruce.

If you get hungry before the dining room opens at 6 p.m., you can wander up the road to the Fish Shack and order a dozen oysters on the half shell ($12), or even a shrimp cocktail, to be eaten at a picnic table under an umbrella on Fish Beach, steps from the door.

On your wanderings, you might also want to remember to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner from one of several little stores. Inn guests store wine in the inn’s refrigerator until needed.

The dining room windows on the front porch overlook the ocean to the west of the island and the setting sun. Tables rimmed with smoothed and finished bark are set with woven plastic mats.

This summer, the airy, bright dining room with white wainscoting holds Monhegan landscapes by Marlene Loznicka, a New Harbor resident who has been coming to Monhegan to paint for 35 years, according to innkeeper Krista Lisajus.

Looking down at the plate, the house salad ($7) was a gorgeous composition of dressed arugula and hearts of romaine topped with julienned carrot, skinny swirls of red cabbage and arcs of red onion.

Set on a plain white plate, the salad showed off the artistic ambition in the kitchen, and in this case, the flavors fell obediently in line with a blue cheese dressing sharpening the mild sweetness of the vegetables and enlivening the crunchy and spicy greens.

Peeky-toe crab salad ($13) might come into focus later in the season, when the flavor of the tomato will speak the language of the hot sun. But when we tasted it in late June, it was still bland. With thin-sliced and fanned crescents of avocado under a squiggle of balsamic vinegar and some basil olive oil, the plate had visual pleasure, but since the avocado was not quite ripe, it didn’t deliver on flavor.

And because the tomato was not hollowed out, the amount of crabmeat salad set on top of it, and underneath, a neatly cut round of the tomato stem was small.

The Island Inn has its own well, and the server offered us that water as well as bottled mineral water to drink. The well water is good and superior to the island’s public supply.

An oblong of excellent thick-cut halibut ($26) was moist under a thin coating of something savory and rich, made with fine-grained crumbs that had been browned, and were not at all stodgy. This fine-grained white fish was perfectly fresh.

Mediterranean penne ($19) satisfied a craving for pasta, but its generic artichoke hearts and red peppers didn’t set the heart on fire. Kalamata olives, feta and herbs punctuated a white wine sauce with bursts of good salt.

The menu expands in July and August during the busiest days of the season, when seafood stew and grilled fish of the day like swordfish are served. The island has a closed lobster season between June 8 and Oct. 1, when lobsters migrate to shallower water, so the lobsters served here come from elsewhere on the coast.

Pleasantly bitter, strong decaf was served in an Island Inn mug that was set on a paper doily on a saucer.

For the first time in my years dining in Maine restaurants, wild Maine strawberries, picked that day on Monhegan, were part of a special dessert ($7). These tiny, fragrant berries epitomized summer.

It may be that the dessert was like art that startles before you figure out it’s brilliant, but the dessert’s separate parts did not seem to cohere.

Ricotta cream, smooth and not too sweet, sat in the base of a small glass goblet, topped by a small scoop of cantaloupe sorbet with the berries in between.

The filling of the blueberry pie ($7) was too gelatinous, although that worked to keep the pastry from losing its tender flakiness, and it certainly tasted good with vanilla ice cream. 

N.L. English is a Portland freelance writer and the author of “Chow Maine: The Best Restaurants, Cafes, Lobster Shacks and Markets on the Coast.” Visit English’s website,