Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park

Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park is located in Brooksville, Maine. If you enjoy the seclusion of nature without many other visitors this state park is the perfect place for you to visit. Open year-round, the island can only be reached by boat via the eastern coastline of Penobscot Bay. It lies about half a mile off the mainland and there is a permanent dock on the island to tie down your boat.

The island itself is about one mile long and encompasses 115 acres of forests, fields and marshland. The coast offers scenic sandy beaches and rocky ledges. The steep hills on the island are actually ancient volcanoes. The forests contain predominately pine, spruce fir and mixed hardwoods. Owing to its secluded location you are likely to glimpse many species of wildlife including bald eagles, osprey, loons, deer, fox, beavers, muskrat, otters, bobcat, porcupine, coyote and harbor seals. There are also a multitude of beautiful natural wildflowers that are in bloom in the meadows from early spring through late fall.

Believe it or not there is no fee charged to visit Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park, but a donation can has been installed by the floats. One hundred percent of the proceeds go towards the maintenance and upkeep of this secluded island preserve.

The first documented settler on the island was Captain Jesse Holbrook from Truro, Massachusetts. He came to the island in the 1780’s just after the end of the Revolutionary War, and the island still bears his name. For the next several decades the island was stripped of its tall pine trees to build sailing ships in the nearby village of Castine. The island then changed hands and the new owners and their daughter raised sheep on the island until the early 1890’s. The island was then sold again, this time for $500 to Edward Kelleran Harris, the last private family to own the island. They cleared many fields for farming and also built a new summer home for their family. Their daughter, Anita Harris, lived on Holbrook Island until her death in 1985.

Ms. Harris was a nature aficionado and could not bear the thought that her island would be used for commercial purposes after her death. She decided to will Holbrook Island in its entirety to the State of Maine with the stipulation that it be forever maintained as a wildlife and nature preserve. To make this dream come true, most of the original buildings on the island have been torn down so the island is in a more natural state. One barn remains, along with a modern toilet facility for visitors. The construction of roads and the use of motorized vehicles are prohibited according to the terms outlined in Ms. Harris’ will, along with hunting, trapping and fishing. The island is simply to be used for visitors to experience the unspoiled Maine as the original settlers would have found it.

As a result Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park is only open for day use – there are no camping sites available. Open fires are not permitted but charcoal cookers or Coleman stoves may be used on the beach. Dogs are permitted but must be kept on a leash at all times. The island is ideal for swimming, kayaking, hiking, cross country skiing or snow shoeing in virtual seclusion with nature.

There are a series of trails throughout the island. About half of the trails are formal and can be used year-round while the other half are seasonal trails. All of the formal trails are mapped, marked and well maintained. Most of the hiking trails are easy to navigate and the trails are all less than a mile long. You can hike to Lookout Point or explore the Northwest Cove Trail for excellent bird watching and wildlife sightings. One trail leads to Arrowhead Beach, a spot with plentiful shale and flint deposits. These were rumored to have been used by Native Americans to make arrowheads. The Southwest Cove Trail leads to a picturesque beach and a view of Nautilus Island.

For more information on Holbrook Island Sanctuary State Park visit the Department of Conservation for the State of Maine: http://www.maine.gov/cgi-bin/online/doc/parksearch/index.pl.