A kayaker approaches Little Whaleboat Island in Casco Bay.  Ron Chase photo

Little Whaleboat Island in northern Casco Bay is a special place. Actually, a trio of small islands and ledges named Little Whaleboat (West), Nate, and Tuck, they’re connected at low tide. I’ve been visiting them since I began sea kayaking a couple of decades ago. The reason is simple; it’s a beautiful location easily reached by launching from Mere Point in Brunswick or Lookout Point and Mitchell Field in Harpswell.

During my many visits, I never realized Little Whaleboat was privately owned and access was due to the generosity of the landowner. When the island was placed up for sale, Maine Coast Heritage Trust (MCHT) led an effort to raise $1.3 million to buy and conserve the island for the public for perpetuity. In December 2021, MCHT announced they had successfully purchased the island.

A paddler hauls his kayak ashore at low tide.  Ron Chase photo

Recently, my retired friend Bob Rowe and I decided it was time to resume our relationship with Little Whaleboat by thoroughly exploring the newly acquired island. We elected to depart from the closest boat launch, Mitchell Field, about 3 miles from Little Whaleboat.

This was my first experience departing from Mitchell Field. I found it to be an exceptional facility. The complex offers opportunities to walk, bike, swim and picnic. Hand-carry boats can be launched from two beaches. The proximity to islands in northern Casco Bay is another benefit.

We carried our kayaks down to the shore at North Beach. Little Whaleboat could be seen in the distance about a mile west of much larger Whaleboat Island. We traveled southwest in gentle swells and a light headwind towards Whaleboat. Carefully avoiding lobster boats and pleasure crafts in the busy bay was a necessity throughout our voyage.

From Whaleboat, we navigated west to the eastern shore of Little Whaleboat. The tide was low when we arrived at a substantial gravel beach on the north side. This is an excellent location to land kayaks at any tidal level. Two pleasure crafts were moored offshore and several occupants were swimming from their boats. While walking onto the beach, a noisy osprey circled above quickly capturing our attention.

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Adjacent to the beach is a large MCHT campsite. After completing an inspection, Bob and I continued our land exploration. Low tide and a rocky shoreline allowed for fairly easy foot travel proceeding clockwise. We stopped to reconnoiter a smaller MCHT campsite on the east side of the island. The narrow channel that separates Little Whaleboat and Nate Island was impassable at that tidal level.

Large boulders and extensive ledges were more prevalent on the south side of the island providing for a stimulating scramble. The densely forested interior discouraged any inclination to shorten the journey. Rounding the bend and turning north, we encountered a veritable muddy highway between the western shore of Little Whaleboat and Tuck Island.

A hiker begins an exploration of the eastern shore of Little Whaleboat Island. Ron Chase photo

Surmounting a substantial ledge, we returned to the northern beach completing a trek around the exterior of the island. In addition to the ubiquitous osprey, bird sightings were plentiful throughout our trek. While enjoying views of the islands of Merepoint and Middle Bays in the north, we were impressed with the remarkable peacefulness of the location.

Embarking in our kayaks, we concluded a circumnavigation of the archipelago. The numerous inlets, coves, and ledges provided for a stimulating investigation of the rugged shoreline by water.

After running off the north end of Whaleboat, we encountered stronger winds and bigger seas during our crossing to Mitchell Field. A continuum of outgoing sailboats delayed our traverse. While bobbing in swells, we exchanged greetings with the exuberant occupants as they passed.

North Beach at Mitchell Field was a much busier place when we returned. Hot weather had attracted a multitude of beachgoers. Despite the crowd, there was adequate space to land and carry our kayaks to the loading zone.

For me, Little Whaleboat Island has been an exceptional destination since I began sea kayaking. MCHT’s successful effort to protect it for the public is a substantial achievement. As a result of our visit, we left the island with a heightened sense of the magnitude of their accomplishment.

Read about eight more exciting sea kayak trips along the Maine coast in my book, Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine.

Ron Chase resides in Topsham. His latest book, “Maine Al Fresco: The Fifty Finest Outdoor Adventures in Maine” is available at northcountrypress.com/maine-al-fresco.html or in bookstores and through online distributors. His previous books are “The Great Mars Hill Bank Robbery” and “Mountains for Mortals – New England.” Visit his website at ronchaseoutdoors.com or he can be reached at [email protected].

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