For 40 years, Sears Island has been a battleground for environmentalists and industrialists. The 941-acre state-owned island still bears the marks of those battles, such as the wide paved road that leads to the site of a planned container ship port. But most of it remains a rich and varied example of the Maine coast.
The state’s development efforts made the island accessible — a mile-long causeway links it to the mainland just off Route 1 in Searsport. The causeway provides parking for those who want to hike on or around the island.
On a first visit, walk the paved road that curves westerly to the jetty where the container port was to be built. You can then follow the shore south.
Or you can start on the paved road and then take the old gravel road that forks to the left, continuing due south down the spine of the island. It is lined with old stone walls and passes old pasture land, evidence of the farms that once operated on the island. The road ends at the communications tower; a path leads to a bank where you can scramble down to the shore.
For a 5-mile walk along the shore, climb down the causeway and head east. But check the tide chart first. Two hours either side of high tide means you won’t be able to pass the cliffs that line part of the eastern shore without getting wet.
The nature of the shore and the views keep changing as you circumnavigate the island.
It’s best to return by the jetty and paved road, rather than continue along the shore, unless you’re prepared to wade across an estuary.
Getting there: From the south take Route 1 north from Belfast to Searsport. North of town look for the Sears Island Road on the right. Follow it to the end. From the north take Route 1 south of Stockton Springs. South of town look for the Sears Island road on your left.