Favorite Places in Maine: Giant’s Stairs, Bailey Island

In this view from the Giant’s Stairs Trail on Bailey Island, waves break against craggy rocks carved by eons of time and tide.
Ardeana Hamlin
In this view from the Giant’s Stairs Trail on Bailey Island, waves break against craggy rocks carved by eons of time and tide.
Posted Aug. 31, 2011, at 5:44 p.m.

Time spent on Orr’s Island and Bailey Island in summer resets one’s inner clockworks. The pace slows down and the visual beauty of the islands seeps in. You discover, as you observe the boat-filled harbor, the stone cribwork bridge, the 1950s-era motel perched beside the shore, that it’s possible to think in poetry.

Maybe that was why legendary Maine poet Edna St. Vincent Millay decided to summer on Ragged Island, just off Bailey Island. That Millay was there in her day, writing poetry, imbues the area with romance and literary cachet.

Also, Orr’s Island was the setting for Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel “The Pearl of Orr’s Island,” published in the 1860s. Stowe, famous for writing “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” trod the same island ground as Will Black, a freed slave and the first settler of Bailey Island.

A visit to Bailey Island must include the Giant’s Stairs Trail which winds above the ocean and offers views of Ragged and other islands, blue and mysterious in the distance. The agile can clamber down the rocks where waves spill white crests, followed by a churn of greenish-blue water, a color any poet would covet.

On the rocky shore, carved out by an eternity of tides, is a huge cavity, a kind of “installation art site” where visitors pile rocks and create still life pieces of driftwood, flotsam and jetsam left by the tide. The “artwork” is a joy to see, though the next high tide will take it all away. Then another set of visitors will create more “art” — different, yet somehow the same.

Drive to the end of the island, known as Land’s End, to find a shop by the same name that sells many Maine-made products, and where the Lobsterman’s Statue pays homage to the island fisherman who work on the deep, restless waters.

Getting there: From Brunswick, take Route 24 to Orr’s and Bailey islands. Cross the stone cribwork bridge and look for Washington Avenue on the left. Proceed to the Episcopal church where there is parking except for Sunday morning during worship service. Walk down Ocean Street to reach the Giant’s Stairs Trail.

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