Strung like a pearl necklace for about eight miles — from Gilkey Harbor on Islesboro, north to south in West Penobscot Bay — lie eight delightful islands that beg for exploration by ocean kayakers.

Only about five miles off the coast between Camden and Lincolnville Beach, they can be easily reached from either a convenient launch site at the end of Sea Street on the east side of Camden Harbor, where’s there’s plenty of parking for your vehicle, or from a ramp in Lincolnville Beach.

My only caution, based on years of plying the waters of that particular piece of Penobscot Bay in my lobster boat, is that it often breezes up from the southwest in the afternoon which can make your return trip a little choppy. So plan accordingly, and be sure you’re equipped with a spray skirt to avoid a possible soaking.

Many people will paddle the islands by taking the state ferry from Lincolnville Beach to Islesboro (which makes frequent daily trips), and launch there to head south along the shores of the islands all the way to Mark at the end of the necklace.

And you might consider planning an excursion for a couple of days by camping at Warren Island State Park, only a short paddle from the Islesboro launch site on Grindel Point, where there are 10 campsites, two Adirondack shelters, and plenty of fresh drinking water. Don’t be concerned that all the sites are taken when you arrive — paddlers are never turned away. There is ample space in the park to accommodate all visitors, and the friendly staff will make sure you have a spot for the night.

It’s a beautiful little spruce-covered island around which you’ll want to paddle, along with neighboring Spruce Island.

I suggest your exploration of the chain begin along the east shore of Seven Hundred Acre Island, by heading south down Gilkey Harbor with views of the striking Dark Harbor estates on Islesboro to your east. After a quiet paddle in and around Cradle Cove, it’s off to Minot Island and then south to Middle Island which is connected to larger Job Island, which has a hill rising about a hundred feet above sea level.

If you opt to go down the east side of Job you’ll pass through Bracketts Channel and by Pendleton Point on the southern extremity of Islesboro.

Then it’s through the shallow water covering Lime Island Bar to beautiful Lime Island, a favorite picnic and swimming spot in my youth with my Camden chums as the property on the north end was owned by the parents of a classmate of mine. Parents who, incidentally, launched Down East magazine in the 1950s.

I’d suggest paddling down the west side of Lime to neighboring Lasell, the one island in the lower section of the chain that has some habitation. In fact, if you find the beach on the north end of the island appealing, you might be interested to know that you can pick up an entire 36.6-acre chunk of land with about a mile of shorefront on that end for a mere $1,495,000!

Strung below Lasell are Saddle and then Mark Islands, each of which are small and beautiful enough that you’ll want to circle each of them before heading back north. Bold rock outcroppings and ledges, tiny beaches for sea glass picking and seal spotting, and towering spruce trees distinguish both of these islands that embody everything that best represents the islands of the coast of Maine.

You might want to plan your excursion to coincide with an outgoing tide as you paddle down the chain and an incoming on the way back, but I’ve never found the tide to be much of an issue. Nothing like a recent excursion I took from Pollock Cove on Campobello Island, N.B., out around Head Harbor Light when I battled the 30-foot or more incoming tide on the way out and fairly flew back at about 10 knots, barely putting my paddle in the water!

Chains of islands like Merchant’s Row between Stonington and Isle au Haut and the Muscle Ridge Channel south of Owl’s Head, along with those in West Penobscot Bay offer some of the best kayaking anywhere.

Pack up and head out while the clear, crisp days of early autumn beckon.


John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son, Josh, write about the places to enjoy the beauty of Maine. He can be contacted at:

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