It was half past seven on a Friday morning in late June last summer when I saw my friend Jeff Romano trundling up to the Bass Harbor dock with his day pack. Romano, a longtime public policy manager at the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, is also the author of “100 Classic Hikes in New England,” and we were about to set out by ferry for the island of Frenchboro, which he included in his excellent guide.

For some time Romano had been urging me to visit Frenchboro to hike the island’s extensive trail network, and today the stars aligned, so to speak, for the long-anticipated journey. We boarded the Captain Henry Lee and were soon cruising toward the passage between Swans Island and Placentia Island, headed for Lunt Harbor, an eight-mile, 45-minute crossing.

Picturesque Lunt Harbor in Frenchboro. Photo by Carey Kish

In the late 1990s, 940 acres on Frenchboro, or roughly two-thirds of the island, was listed for sale. Fearing this spectacular property would be purchased for subdivision and seasonal home development, concerned island residents forged a partnership with the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, the Island Institute and the Maine Seacoast Mission to conserve the land. A massive fund-raising effort ensued, and in 2000 the parcel was acquired by MCHT.

In 2011, the entirety of Rich’s Head, 192 acres on the eastern edge of Frenchboro connected by a narrow seawall, was donated to MCHT by David Rockefeller, the noted philanthropist and Mount Desert Island summer denizen. Eleven acres around Little Beach have since been acquired, bringing MCHT’s land holdings on Frenchboro to its present 1,143 acres, and making the conservation project one of the largest the organization has taken on.

There’s not much to Frenchboro, also known as Long Island. A school and a church, and a deli on the opposite side of the harbor, which is open only for a few hours around lunchtime, when we would be on the far side of the island. No worries, though; we arrived fully prepared with snacks, sandwiches and drinks. You’ll want to do the same. (Note: there is no lodging or camping on the island).

Some 50 people reside year-round on Frenchboro, and most make their living by lobster fishing. It’s a hardy existence but a rewarding one in many ways, we figured, as we sauntered along one of the few sections of pavement.


At the edge of the village, a white building houses the library and historical society. Since it was not open at the time, we made sure to visit later that afternoon. Public restrooms are across the road behind the church.

A foot trail departs from the left side of the library, and 100 yards into the woods there’s an information kiosk with a trail map. A half-mile beyond is Big Beach, the open ocean, and the start of one mighty fine hiking adventure.

The interior of Frenchboro is a thick forest of spruce and fir, while the coastline is rocky and rugged. A narrow trail threads a path along the margin of woods and water for eight incredible miles you won’t soon forget.

“The hike is pretty remote and you probably won’t see anyone all day,” said Doug McMullen, MCHT’s regional stewardship manager. “It’s the boldest, coolest coast you’re ever going to see. I never get tired of it.”

I wholeheartedly agree, Doug.

For the better part of seven hours, Romano and I wandered and pondered our way around the circumference of Frenchboro, content in the company of wind and waves, and in no particular hurry to get anywhere other than the 6 p.m. ferry back to the mainland.


Jeff Romano relaxes on Eastern Beach, enjoying the view to Mount Desert Island and the peaks of Acadia. Photo by Carey Kish

From Deep Cove to West Cove, the trail meanders over the rocks of Bluff Head. Crossing the sand and gravel bar, or “tombolo,” to Rich’s Head, we walked around to Eastern Point, my favorite part of the day. Lunch at East Cove was a leisurely affair in the bright sun.

Beyond Yellow Head and its views of Acadia’s peaks, we traversed Eastern Beach to Northeast Point before strolling into Lunt Harbor to conclude one of the very best hikes I’ve ever done.

To plan your own Frenchboro adventure, visit for a trail map and for ferry info.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is the author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast and author/editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide. Follow Carey’s adventures on Facebook @CareyKish.


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