Peer southward from Stonington, and you’ll see dozens of spruce-studded islands between the mainland and the dark, distant ridges of Isle au Haut. These islands, ringed with salmon-pink granite, are collectively called Merchant’s Row, and they’re invariably ranked by experienced coastal boaters as among the most beautiful in the state. Thanks to these exceptional islands, Stonington is among Maine’s most popular destinations for sea kayaking. Many of the islands are open to day visitors and overnight camping, and one of the Nature Conservancy islands even hosts a flock of sheep. Experienced kayakers should contact the Maine Island Trail Association (tel. 207/761-8225) for more information about paddling here; several of the islands are open only to association members.Sea Kayak Stonington (tel. 207/266-2717), which has an office on the corner of Seabreeze Ave and Main Street in Stonington, offers guided kayak tours as well as kayaks for rent. Tours generally launch from the public ramp in town, and they range from a half-day tour ($70) to a full-day 7-hour tour ($120) that weaves out through the islands and includes a stop for a swim or a picnic at an abandoned quarry. Three-hour sunset tours around nearby Crotch Island are popular too ($65). Call to see on what days open group tours are offered; otherwise, you can arrange a private tour, but it costs a good bit more. Rentals frun $65–$85 per day, and at least one person in the group needs chart and compass skills and know basic self-rescue techniques.
Deer Isle’s Driftwood Kayaks (tel. 617/957-8802) leads trips as well, but no overnights. Outfitters based outside the region that offer guided overnight kayak trips around Merchant’s Row include the Maine Island Kayak Co. (tel. 207/766-2373) on Peaks Island (near Portland) and Maine Sport Outfitters ( tel. 800/722-0826 or 207/236-8797) on Route 1 in Rockport.
Worth noting: Stonington is one of those Maine fishing villages that hosts big-time lobster-boat racing. (There are also races in Searsport and Rockland.) Stonington’s race usually occurs on a weekend in early July—drop by if you’re in the area. Crowds line the waterfront and piers to cheer on their favorites. You’ll either be amazed or horrified by how quickly one of these diesel-powered workhorses can get up to speed when the captain’s going full throttle.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.