Friday, May 21, 2010

Mail Call on the Casco Bay

Casco Bay Ferry
All aboard the mail boat out of Portland for the Casco Bay Islands! The ferry above plies the waters between Portland and Peaks Island. It berths just ahead of the mail boat at the Casco Bay Lines dock at the intersection of Franklin and Commercial Streets.

I've been wanting to head out on the mail boat for quite some time and yesterday was the day. Temps hit 81 (at 7 PM!) in downtown Portland but we were cool as cucumbers out on the bay! We headed out to catch the 2:45 PM mail boat run but had to make a quick detour to pick up some sunscreen (you definitely want this even if you plan to spend the entire 3 hours inside the ferry).

Parking is easy- right in the parking garage where the ferry terminal is housed. Mail Boat tickets are $14.50 for adults and $7.25 for children. (It's the best value for a 3 hour tour of the Casco Bay Islands that you'll find!)

First stop- Little Diamond Island! (At the ticket window you will get a map that shows the route and some history. During the trip out, the crew will let you know what islands you are passing and what islands they are stopping at and a bit of the history of the area.)

mail deliveries on Little Diamond Island
Looks like someone was getting a delivery of annuals for their garden! Potting soil and other gardening supplies were also in the mix. The crates are left on the dock, the owners come and claim their items and the empty crates are taken back on the next trip. It seems like a very efficient way to get your things delivered! (Everything is crated up by island at the pier in Portland.)

Chugging along at a nice pace we saw Fort Gorges just off the Portland coast. From the Fort, looking toward South Portland and Cape Elizabeth, you can see Bug Light, Spring Point Ledge Light and Portland Head Light in the distance. (The summer-only Bailey Island Day cruise is almost 6 hours long and gets closer to the lighthouses as well as having time to stop and dine on Bailey Island!)

Fort Gorges, Casco Bay
Lucky Catch Lobster Tours has 1 or 2 trips in the summer out to Fort Gorges for hiking and picnicking.

Because we were still on high osprey alert from our trip to see the alewives this boat really caught our attention! That's an osprey nest at the top of the mast. We did see an osprey in a tree along the shoreline, so I suggest bringing binoculars and a telephoto lens if your camera has one.

osprey nest
I won't show everything we saw so you can have a great time discovering the islands of Casco Bay on your own! We stopped at 5 islands during our trip and at 1 of them again on the return trip. Ask at the ticket counter about leaving the boat and being picked up later on the return trip.

There are no food amenities on the mail boat so be sure to bring along a picnic lunch for the 10 AM run or some snacks for the 2:45 PM run. All that fresh air and sunshine makes you hungry! There is no smoking anywhere on the ferry.

I'll leave you with this last pic of a homesick sailor headed for shore. (And dinner at Becky's Diner!)

If you didn't bring along that picnic lunch or snacks, there are literally hundreds of restaurants just a short walk from the ferry. We can give you a Portland map before you head out. The mail boat is about 20 minutes south of here. There weren't any cruise ships in the harbor when we were there, but it's always a possibility to see one- they're HUGE!

White Cedar Inn Bed and Breakfast 178 Main St Freeport, Maine 04032

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