Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge
Beginning in Milbridge at the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge (MCINWR) Visitors Center, the short drive to Petit Manan provides an intimate glimpse into downeast lobster fishing culture. The road travels past lobster pounds, humble homes and rugged trucks, dooryards piled high with brightly colored traps, tidy wharves, and cabins strung with beach-combed buoys. Travelers can also reach Petit Manan by paddling out of Narraguagus Bay in Milbridge.
The Bold Coast forms the easternmost end of the Atlantic Flyway, critical habitat for migratory songbirds and waterfowl. Petit Manan Point is within the MCINWR, a complex of islands and coastal properties managed and preserved for seabird nesting and coastal wading bird habitat, and provides exemplary birdwatching vantage points. During fall, over 4,000 ducks rest and feed at Petit Manan’s Cranberry Flowage before migrating south.
Petit Manan was once slated to become “a second Bar Harbor” – a fate any local worth their salt will loudly rail against today. Petit Manan Land Company filed plans in 1886 for over 2,100 acres to be developed with 1,300 cottages, a casino, clubhouse, steamboat dock, swimming beach, and two hotels – but only a few cottages and a church were ever constructed (and remain today). In 1975 most of this land was transferred into Petit Manan Wildlife Refuge, setting the stage for the incredible habitat and recreation area we enjoy today.
Petit Manan Point’s 1.5-mile Hollingsworth Trail is part of a research project by Phenology Trackers of Maine including climate change and food sources for migratory birds. The trail winds through blueberry field, over granite outcroppings, and through jack pine stands to a rocky beach with expansive views across Pigeon Hill Bay. Explorers with sturdy shoes can continue along the rocky shoreline for miles. Petit Manan Island’s granite lighthouse (built in 1855) is visible from the beach. Another 11 lighthouses accessible by land and sea dot the Bold Coast – a few are seasonally open to the public.
Numerous Petit Manan Division refuge islands along the Bold Coast contribute to the Maine Island Trail, a water route along the entire coast of Maine featuring a series of 200 islands and mainland beaches accessible to the public, many with primitive campsites. Maine Island Trail, now over 30 years old, has been dubbed by National Geographic as one of the “50 Best American Adventures”.
Just prior to entering the Wildlife Refuge is a trailhead for Pigeon Hill; the 317’summit is the highest point on the Bold Coast and provides an excellent long view up the coast. The summit trail has been popular with hikers for over a century.
Directions/Signage: Petit Manan Point is 6 miles south of the junction of Route 1 and Pigeon Hill Road in Steuben. Federally branded National Wildlife Refuge signage marks the way at this intersection.
Trail Skill Level: Both trails are easy to moderate.