Envision the most delightful Maine port you can imagine and you may come close to picturing Tenants Harbor.
This deep, roomy and protected harbor—except in a heavy easterly—features classic shoreline cottages, frame houses and granite wharves, an unspoiled village with old sail loft and church steeple, and, in season, many sail-powered yachts that seem to nestle amicably among a working fleet of lobster boats.
You enter the wide mouth of the harbor with Southern Island on your port bow. Southern is home to a long-discontinued lighthouse famously painted by the island’s owner, Jamie Wyeth, who will wave to you if he’s around. Northern Island, to starboard, features a dreamy summer cottage from long ago and is the epitome of spruce-covered Maine island, with sea-washed rocky shore and a couple of small, sandy beaches.
Beyond Northern is the aptly named High Island, and beyond that is Sandpiper, or Seavey Island, a beach where locals picnic and sometimes take a bracing dip. If it’s blowing from the east, anchoring behind these islands is a safe bet.
There are no marinas in Tenants Harbor proper, but you can usually find a free mooring by asking around or contacting Dave Schmanska, the friendly harbormaster. You can also anchor outside of the marked channel, which offers good holding ground, then dinghy ashore. There’s free tie-up along the village float.
Adjacent to the dock and launch ramp is the Cod End restaurant, which offers dockside dining with basic fare and seafood to go. A short walk takes you to the East Wind Inn, once a sail loft, and just up the hill is the Tenants Harbor General Store, where you’ll find more friendly people and a goodly supply of groceries, beer, wine and “rat cheese” (delicious despite the name).
Tenants Harbor has sweet little library with WiFi and a harbor view, and sometimes a poetry reading or live music. There’s a post office, an art gallery or two, and the Odd Fellows Hall. It’s a small town, remarkably unchanged in the past half-century or so.
If you’re up for a hike, there’s an old granite quarry where locals like to swim, and trails created by the local conservation commission. A small public beach called Drift Inn is located a few miles down the road in Port Clyde. It’s a good, if chilly, spot to swim or bring the kids.