Our cottages sit at ocean's edge, 50' away, but well apart from each other. Picture windows along the length of the house keep the ocean ever-present. Lobster boats pull buoys outside the window. The sunrise and stars are clear over the night ocean. There's a private deck on one side and a grassy yard on the other. Washer, dryer, two showers (indoor and outdoor), furnace. The sandy beach is just a short distance (you can get there in a minute). Your dogs/cats are welcome.
Matinicus Island, the most remote island in Penobscot Bay is rarely visited by tourists, and is considered a working island, not a tourist island, but this beach camp, right on the ocean’s edge, has for 33 years been available for individuals and families seeking a place off-the-beaten-track who understand that in trade for the occasional shortage and uncertain timetables that island living imposes they will experience remote solitude, secluded sand beaches and an intimate look at the Atlantic ocean.
If you are considering Matinicus Island, you are already familiar with key Matinicus internet bullet points:
* Matinicus is the most seaward remote island community in Maine,
* Matinicus has a reputation, possibly mixing truth and fiction, as a pirate island with a smuggling history
* Matinicus has an undertone of past violence (that does NOT involve visitors) in defense of lobstering territory
* Matinicus is remote and you can’t always get what you want when you want it out there
* Matinicus feels special to the visitor and resident, and unlike almost anyplace except Matinicus.
You, as a visitor, will become part of that specialness, part of a type of traveller who can, as islanders say, 'make it at Matinicus'.
Beach camps are a dying housing type, but NORRIS BEACH COTTAGE attempts to keep the tradition: location at the edge of the beach and directly on the ocean, open kitchen shelving, basic indoor bathroom with Incinolet toilet, but the outdoor shower is popular, too. The three bedrooms are furnished with twin beds (2 rooms) and a queen bed (1 room). The thread-count of the sheets is what you decide to bring, as sheets and towels are an item the guests are asked to supply for themselves.
Matinicus, with rare sand beaches, and its remaining beach camps has been favorably compared to Nantucket Island in the 1950’s, that quiet period at Nantucket long before the billionaires pushed out the millionaires. (Money at Matinicus is only good to buy baked goods at the island bakery and lobster in the harbor). The closeness to the ocean creates some challenges for maintenance: metal rusts quickly, for example.
The Norris Beach Camp was built in 1954 as close to the ocean’s edge as common sense would allow at that time before zoning setbacks prohibited such close siting to the ocean. There’s been no storm damage over the years. Norris Cottage is a classic beach camp with rustic touches, that include exposed beams and stud walls in places, open concept, half-walls separating sleeping rooms that don’t reach the ceiling, and many 50’s era details as detailed below:
The overall style of the Norris Cottage might be called “retro” had any attempt been made to re-create the 1950’s, but in fact Norris Cottage is genuine: a 1950’s period Maine island oceanfront camp. It is well-constructed, with picture windows facing the ocean and an ample deck on the ocean. The ocean is close, 50 feet away, and so is the sound of lapping water, and the smells, and occasionally the sound of the bell buoy marking the harbor entrance off-shore.
The master bedroom (queen bed) has a full wall of windows facing the ocean, which is about 50’ outside the window. Two smaller bedrooms are furnished with twin bed sets (4 beds, plus queen) A large couch in the living area might allow for an extra guests to sleep, so 7 persons would be maximum occupancy.
A beach camp: for one thing, the furniture is mis-matched, comfy, and old-fashioned. If you bring a pet, you won’t likely harm anything in the house. The well water is heavily filtered, but contains an iron content that will stain white laundry, so don’t bring white laundry or linens to wash in the washing machine provided, please bring colors. The kitchen sink is an antique large single bowl cast iron farmhouse sink. Indeed, some of the metal on the base of floor lamps reveal oxidation from the salt air, which is no surprise given the beating the camp can receive in a winter storm, not an issue during the summer season. The mattresses including the queen-size are mostly dated post-2000.
If the idea of a traditional outhouse offends, best to stop reading now. Norris Cottage does have an indoor-type bathroom with indoor shower and an incinerating toilet (Incinolet brand, not a flush toilet) but the camp is also served by an outhouse, which some feel is superior to incinerating waste using electricity, while others simply can’t consider it.
Some people are naturally drawn to islands, and they bother with them because it removes you from the way that the automobile and roads and commerce define physical space and your agenda. While Matinicus has a few cars and some roads, many of which are more jeep trails than roads, it's a walking island, mainly. There are many remote beaches only accessible by foot, and rarely visited, unless you go see and comb the beaches there. Most people at Matinicus work harvesting lobster, a hard labor which begins before dawn, so that by 5:00 p.m. the island quiets down, and by dark, the day has ended. There is something comforting about being set up with your family group next to the ocean as this occurs, and the sense of closeness, remove, and privacy is something that you can't quite achieve on the mainland. Matinicus' sand beaches are nearly unique in rocky Maine, and the camp location right on the ocean is prime, the real essence of the experience, and why it can be successful, is the pleasure of being alone with your group with the vast ocean in front of you and little to interfere with your family plans. So visitors get to spend more and better time together.
We've rented since 1983, to probably 300++ guests/families, via our own website www.matinicusisland.com and have been with Homeaway since 2010 but Matinicus isn't 'home-away-from-home', it's different from home. We'd like potential guests to think less in terms of 'amenities' and more in terms of what Matinicus does NOT offer, as it is the absence of commercial distractions (and many conventional amenities) that makes a visit to the island memorable.
A FEW CAVEATS: The well water sometimes has iron that will stain white clothing in the washing machine. Kohls has a dryer, both camps have washing machines. Buoys guests have collected hang in the rafters. The floor is uneven in places. There is no store on the island (but you can fax orders to the mainland Shaw’s Supermarket who will pack and deliver and fly over the groceries for you at reasonable cost) Cell phones don’t work well until you wander nearer the beach, but there’s WI-FI internet. The outdoor lighting is poor, but it’s easy to see the Milky Way. Lobster is the most fresh quality. Young men who work on the boats have been known to ride ATV’s on the wide sand on the beach, which is against Maine law. Other Maine laws are broken at various times around the island. Island residents mostly like it this way. You are on your own at Matinicus, and this is an attraction for many. However, in a medical emergency, the flying service can have you at a hospital quickly.
The concept is “housekeeping cottage” or as the British say, “self-catering” and you are on your own and may find you have to improvise. For example: one guest, not locating a spatula in the kitchen since it had migrated down to the beach as a child’s toy, fashioned his own spatula using a flattened aluminum can and a driftwood handle. (The lost spatula has since been replaced, but we kept the guest's improvisation as a memento in the rafters). Self-reliance like this is essential if you choose to go out to Matinicus Island.
The simplicity of the beach camp concept is that you can put a broom to the place and in quick order whatever mess the kids or the dogs made will be remedied. Guests are asked to remove/recycle their trash and leave the place 'Broom Clean' as turnovers on Saturdays are tightly scheduled, and in-between cleaning service can't be 100% guaranteed.
You have to do some menu planning as there is no store, just a bakery and lobster available, but the mainland Shaw’s Supermarket will accept your grocery order by FAX in the morning and have the boxes flown out in the afternoon. This is how Matinicus Islanders live: never having to drive to the super market or hassle the parking, but having selection available anyway.