The 160-foot cliffs of Monhegan Island rise out of the Atlantic, forming an imposing turning point for southern New England boaters transiting the Gulf of Maine to Penobscot Bay. Twelve miles off the mainland, this starkly beautiful granite outpost is more than a GPS waypoint. Its isolated fishing community is a vanishing slice of Maine coastal life.
Perched defiantly on Deer Isle’s southern bluff, Stonington looks to the sea for its sustenance. Its 1,100 close-knit residents, who live 40 miles from malls and major services, are as rock-hard as the granite they once excavated from their surroundings.
On Martha’s Vineyard, you can escape to an insular world of yachting traditions, summer amusements, celebrity spotting and quiet rural charm. Surrounded by Vineyard Sound to the northwest, Nantucket Sound to the east and the Atlantic to the south, the island is ringed with 18 public beaches, from placid sound-side sands to boisterous Atlantic surf.
Block Island lies just 12 miles off Rhode Island — tantalizingly close. Yet reaching this 3-by-7-mile island requires a passage that can be challenging, with currents, winds that are light and fluky or uncomfortably strong, and a high island landfall with a narrow channel into New Harbor (Great Salt Pond), not to mention fog and high-speed ferries.
A way of life that generations of watermen have followed still exists on Tangier Island, 12 miles off Virginia’s lower Eastern Shore. Some 420 people cluster on the 1.2-square-mile island’s three ridges, clinging to that self-sufficient way of life and battling erosion; rising waters; Chesapeake Bay pollution; depletion of oysters, crabs and waterfowl; stricter fisheries regulations; and the resultant emigration of their young people.
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