Dawn casts a rosy glow over the waters of Swan’s Island. Photo by Joe Devenney

Off the beaten path, Swan’s Island offers 2 sides of the same coin for a passing sailor or cruiser. The north side’s Mackerel Cove and the south side’s Burnt Coat Harbor are both worth a stop, but don’t expect to be wowed by shoreside attractions and diversions. Relative peace and quiet is the dominant theme here.

Chart of Swan’s Island

Mackerel Cove is the hub of activity, as it’s where the state-run ferry stops to deposit mostly day visitors during the summer season. As such, this is considered the “busy” side of the island, and the most oriented to a passing visitor. Visiting boaters can drop anchor in the cove and leave their dinghy at the town dock for up to 2 hours (longer stays may be possible via the harbormaster).

SAT map

In Mackerel Cove you’ll find the local museum, a library (a new one is being built) and perhaps an al fresco artisan displaying his or her wares. Mackerel Cove is also home to Appy’s Seafood restaurant and take-out (1/4 mile walk) and the Island Bake Shoppe, where you can pick up fresh-baked goods and a coffee.

Small boats in Mackerel Cove. Photo by Joe Devenney

On the south side of the island, the lobster business pretty much dominates everything from just before dawn until late in the afternoon. The lobstermen are friendly and focused primarily on the details of their occupation—though most will be happy to sell you a few crustaceans direct from their boat at day’s end. It will be the best seafood supper of your life!

Many boaters anchor for the day off Fine Sand Beach, on the south side of the island next to Burnt Coat Harbor. A path from this beautiful beach leads through an enchanting forest of spruce and fir. The sandy, shallow bottom here is ideal for swimming and wading, although the water, naturally, is bracing. Harbor seals can often be seen basking on the outer ledges visible from the beach.

A lobster boat docks at the Fishermen’s Co-op. Photo by Joe Devenney

Boaters planning to stay overnight can rent a private mooring or drop anchor anywhere they can find protection from the wind and seas. Burnt Coat Harbor, protected from the south by Harbor Island, is a popular spot, and private moorings are available for $20 per night. Mackerel Cove also offers good protection for those who wish to anchor.

Transient boaters looking to spend the night can often rent a private mooring. Photo by Joe Devenney

Burnt Coat Harbor offers excellent protection in most any wind. Photo by Joe Devenney

A colorful fishing shed graces Burnt Coat Harbor. Photo by Joe Devenney

Hockamock Head Lighthouse, as seen from Minturn. Photo by Joe Devenney

Early morning in the harbor. Photo by Joe Devenney