Maine is, almost by definition, off the beaten track, and it has a lot of parks and natural areas that are not very well known. One of them is the Holbrook Island Sanctuary. Yesterday morning Kish and I went “off island” to the mainland to visit the Sanctuary and get in some hiking on a sunny, late summer day.
The Holbrook Island Sanctuary is a huge nature preserve in Brooksville that has been kept in a natural state for decades. The property was acquired by a nature lover, Anita Harris, who donated the land to the state of Maine in 1971, and things seem to have been kept as they were then. The area is so rustic that the roadways in and out are packed earth, rather than asphalt, and the only facilities are a picnic area and a few outhouses. But it offers lots of interesting trails, the ruins of abandoned buildings, some old family cemeteries, and a chance to explore some of the different Maine ecosystems, from rocky coastlines to mud flats to steep hills, marshes, ponds, and deeply forested woodland mixed with intermittent meadows. It’s a favorite destination for birders, hikers, and nature lovers. The Maine state park website says that “alert visitors can see abundant signs of deer, fox, muskrat, beavers, otter, porcupine, bobcat and coyote.” We apparently were not sufficiently alert — hey, it was pretty early in the morning, after all! — because we didn’t see any of those critters, but we did see a lot of birds.
The Sanctuary has nine trails, none of which seem to be super-difficult. We took the Back Shore trail, which is well-marked and winds through forest and meadows and takes you past one of the cemeteries, where the gravestones date back to the 1830s, down to a rocky shore on the Penobscot Bay. We got to the shore at close to low tide, which meant we got a good look at the shellfish shells and the seaweed-covered rock beach. From the shoreline you can watch sailboats glide by and catch a commanding view of Castine, Maine, on the opposite side of the bay.
The Holbrook Island Sanctuary is a pretty place, and a kind of hidden gem. With eight more trails to check out, we’ll definitely be back.