One of my favorite spots in New England is actually shared by Maine and New Hampshire! A tiny cluster of 9 islands about '2 leagues' from the mainland.The Isles of Shoals were named by English explorer Capt. John Smith after sighting them in 1614. These islands literally drip with New England history and were once frequented by the likes of Celia Thaxter, Nathaniel Hawthorne,Ralph Waldo Emerson, and Childe Hassam just to name only a few. If you were anybody in the arts, music, and poetry community in the 19th Century, you were probably out there at one of Celia's Garden Parties at some point. Celia's Father, Thomas Laighton, opened a summer hotel on Appledore which led to the Oceanic Hotel which is still there and used today.
A murder mystery from 1873 that has spawned many plays, books, and movies;still surrounds the islands today. Smuttynose Island was also known as the site of Blackbeard's honeymoon, and for the shipwreck of the Spanish ship called the Sagunto.
You can take your own boat or catch a ride from Rye Beach NH. Many places along the NH seacoast will take you there while offering daytrips and lunch at the hotel, long walking trips, and even over night stays at The Oceanic. There is a rumor going around that they have recently begun to let non-members of the Unitarian Universalist Association stay over night...
At the Oceanic there is a dining room to have lunch, a gift shop, and a small community of people who keep the grounds as close to history as possible.
You are welcome to explore the island yourself or go with a group and a 'guide'. The times we have gone, we have walked on our own as not to be rushed and on a schedule. We brought a lunch and sat cliffside on some rocks and shared our lunch with some new friends..
their babies were close by and they were keeping heavy guard. The gulls love to fly from the mainland to lay their eggs on the islands.
The islanders take great pride in keeping things the way they were
Celia Thaxter spent almost her entire life on these islands, and was said to long for them while spending long hard Winters on the mainland. I can only imagine what her life must have been like there. A primitive yet fulfilling life, I imagine. Celia had a garden and cottage on Appledore island where she is buried today. The garden is kept and tended to by a 'club' and is said to still grow flowers that Celia herself planted. I can only dream of how happy this would make her today after over 150 years!
Celia chronicled her failures and
successes for fellow fledgling gardeners in her book " An Island garden" in which she wrote of her final passages on being a gardener, but it was
her lyrical passages that enthralled:
I never forget my planted seeds. Often I wake in the
night and think how the rains and the dews have
reached to the dry shell and softened it; how the
spirit of life begins to stir within, and the individuality
of the plant to assert itself; how it is thrusting
two hands forth from the imprisoning husk,
one, the root, to grasp the earth, to hold itself firm
and absorb its food, the other stretching above to
find the light, that it may drink in the breeze and
sunshine and so climb to its full perfection of beauty.
It is curious that the leaf should so love the light
and the root so hate it.*
The islands were her muse...
Isles of Shoals is a must see for anyone Daytripping Through New England!