“Isle Au Haut ahead!” Not an unusual phrase on our boat. Pronounced, “i-la-HO”, the island’s name was coined by French navigator Samuel Champlain in 1604. The English translation is, “High Island”. And that’s accurate. From most anywhere on wide outer Penobscot Bay, Isle Au Haut’s impressive hills dwarf all other islands on the big bay.
One of the more remote islands in Penobscot Bay, Isle Au Haut is lightly populated. Year-round residents number just over 70, and the number of islanders swells to about 300 when the summer residents arrive. With limited options for protected harbors, it’s a challenging island to visit on your own boat.
Coming through the narrow back door into Isle Au Haut Harbor from the north is easy enough. There’s plenty of water if you stay in the buoyed channel. Even passing through at low water we have found more than 6 feet in the well-marked channel.
There’s no room to anchor in this picturesque and current-swept harbor between Isle Au Haut and Kimball Island, but a few rental moorings may be available. Our experienced eye spotted the typical Maine island self-serve rental mooring; an empty plastic Diet Coke bottle lashed to a mooring pick-up buoy.
The twenty-dollar fee (unscrew the cap and tuck the bill inside), is well worth it for a visit to the quiet island of Isle Au Haut as well as a restful night (weather permitting) in the harbor. The town dock has plenty of space to tie your dinghy. Like all remote islands, this public landing is a hub of island activity. Regular ferry service carries goods and passengers between the island and Stonington on Deer Isle.
Walking north from the public dock, The Island Store is a must-stop. This is a small full-service grocery, a spare general store, and they sell precious fuel to islanders. We have been pleasantly surprised more than once to find some wonderful provisions, local fish, and even fresh produce, all inside.
A pleasant walk south from the town dock will take you to Black Dinah Chocolatiers. An on-island chocolate-making business, they have a small café in the woods! We stopped for a morning coffee and muffin, and sampled some delicious chocolates.
Isle Au Haut is a walker’s island. Vehicular traffic is light and moves at a safe pace for pedestrians traveling the few roads. Hiking is a major attraction for visitors. Half of Isle Au Haut’s land is a part of Acadia National Park’s system. Eighteen miles of trails explore the island’s peaks, deep forests, and rocky shoreline. Duck Harbor (an anchorage option for visiting boats), is a trailhead, a ferry stop, and the best place to enter the trail system.
Isle Au Haut is a unique island — wild, beautiful, remote, quiet, and a little hard to get to. What could be better than that?