Casco Bay Islands

| February 12, 2012 | 0 Comments

Casco Bay earned the nickname the Calendar Islands in 1700, when an English military engineer by the name of William Romer once remarked that there appeared to be an island for every day of the year. This proved to be a somewhat generous of count, since there are just over 200; but the idea is a common misconception to this day.

The Portuguese sailor Esteban Gomez first mapped the Maine coast, including Casco Bay, in 1525. At that time he named the bay “Bahia de Cascos” or “Bay of Helmets” based on its shape. The first actual settlement was not until 1623 when the English explorer Christopher Levett built a residence on House Island.

In more recent history many of these islands served as World War II bases and look outs for German U-Boats. Many towers and forts still remain on some of the islands. In 1858 Fort Georges was constructed and armed for the Civil War, Spanish American War, and was used to store submarine mines during WWI.

Most of the islands can be found and explored in their natural state. Only a handful support communities of any size. Chebeague is the largest of the Casco Bay islands, and one of the few with a year round population. Peaks Island, the closest to Portland, is the island most populated and frequented by visitors.  It features lodging and dinning and of course great views of Portland on the east side, vast ocean views on the west, and a 5 mile biking/hiking trail.  Ferry service takes visitors from Portland or nearby Cousin’s Island carrying passengers, vehicles and freight to Peaks Island, Little Diamond Island, Great Diamond Island, Long Island, Chebeague Island, and Cliff Island.

The Bay supports some 850 species of marine life; from microscopic plants to migrating pilot whales. Each spring, fifty islands become nesting colonies for many of the 150 species of waterbirds that inhabit Casco Bay. It is also has a high salt level, which is a characteristic preferred by lobsters.

For More Information

Visit Casco Bay Islands for a profile and map of the primary islands around Portland.

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Category: Waterfront

About the Author ()

Along with my wife and partner Laura, we moved to Maine in 2000, after living in many areas of the United States & Europe, including NYC, Chicago, Dallas, Atlanta and Belgium. We love Portland and are proud to call it home. Our passion is real estate, and we currently own the company Maine Home Connection, providing personalized online home buying & selling services.

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