Located between Stonington and Isle au Haut, this breathtakingly beautiful archipelago features eight MCHT island preserves open for exploration.
Merchant Row is great for:
Paddling – Carefully navigate your craft to reach sandy beaches and granite-lined coastlines ideal for an afternoon siesta.
Camping – Find secluded campsites on Saddleback and Nathan islands, where you’ll be treated to the best lullaby of all time—the sound of waves lapping the shore.
Swimming – Use caution before cooling off in Green Island’s old quarry. Same goes when venturing into open waters from beaches found on Sand Island, Gooseberry Island, or the Fort.
How to get there
The nearest public boat launch is located in Stonington. Also called the “Colwell Boat Ramp,” it is just behind the Isle au Haut Boat Services buildings on Seabreeze Avenue in downtown Stonington. Cowell offers no public parking at the boat launch site, but paid parking is available at the Isle au Haut Boat Services. Visitors may also access Merchant Row from Old Quarry Ocean Adventures in Stonington.
Many islands from which to choose:
- Saddleback Island: Located on the eastern edge of the archipelago, 78-acre Saddleback is MCHT’s largest Merchant Row preserve. The island’s shoreline is made up of smooth granite ledges, a few small sandy beaches, and an inlet accessible only during high tide. A loop trail begins at the north side beach, where you’ll also find a small campsite. There is a small cabin on the south side of the island, it is not available for public use, but is seasonally rented to MCHT donors on a limited basis. Contact us for more information. Download printable preserve map of Saddleback Island (PDF)
- Green Island: Most visitors to 48-acre Green Island head to its southeastern side to a small cove where a ladder on the old granite wharf provides access to a small meadow, a loop trail, and a swimming hole in an old quarry. Caution is advised due to old quarry stones, metal objects, and unsupervised swimming. Download a printable preserve map of Green Island (PDF)
- Sand Island: Nearly one mile west of Green Island and just south of Crotch Island is MCHT’s 10-acre Sand Island Preserve. This relatively flat island boasts a shoreline of bold granite ledges and a few pocket beaches. The sandy beach on the island’s western side is a popular place for picnickers.
- Gooseberry: Located on the southeastern edge of the archipelago, 5-acre Gooseberry Island features a shoreline of pink granite ledges, interspersed with pockets of sand and shell beaches. Though small, its much-loved swimming cove and ledges are popular for picnicking and sunbathing.
- Bills Island: Ringed with wide, flat granite ledges, 5-acre Bills Island sits on the southern side of the Merchant Row archipelago. Most of the island is covered in spruce-fir forests interspersed by grassy meadow.
- Nathan and Little Nathan Islands: Connected at low tide by intertidal ledges and flats, 5-acre Nathan and its much smaller neighbor Little Nathan (less than one acre) are roughly a mile north of the town landing in Isle Au Haut. The best landing site is on the island’s south side. There is a place to camp at the east end of Nathan Island (room for 1-2 small tents).
- Little Camp Island: This 2.8-acre island lies a little more than one mile east-southeast of the Stonington town landing. The largely treeless island is a popular picnic and clambake destination. Visitors enjoy its weathered shoreline and scenic vistas. Skiffs and kayaks may land at all tides on either one of two small beaches on the southwestern and north sides of the island. Larger boats may anchor to the north.
- The Fort: Dominated by shrubs and grass, this 3-acre island preserve is located just off Fifield Point in West Stonington, on the northwestern corner of Merchant Row. The Fort Preserve features two sand beaches, a couple of well-defined narrow paths, and includes “Little Fort,” a smaller rocky island accessible to the north during low tides. Look for the best anchoring and landing spot on the beach located on the main island’s eastern side.
- Other islands open to the public: There are many other islands in Merchant Row that offer public access, such as, Wreck, Round, and Millet Islands (owned and managed by Island Heritage Trust); and Harbor, Hell’s Half-Acre, and Steve Islands (owned and managed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry).
Notes on topography, flora & fauna
Merchant Row is the body of water between Stonington and Isle Au Haut in Hancock and Knox Counties home to a cluster of more than 50 islands. Two-thirds of the islands enjoy protection either in fee or through a conservation easement. Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Acadia National Park, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Chewonki Foundation, and Island Heritage Trust are among the organizations and agencies sharing the protection of this scenic and ecologically-rich archipelago.
If these islands could talk
How this place became open to the public
MCHT acquired these island preserves over multiple years with the help of generous landowners and financial contributions from many supporters.
This place belongs to all of us. Help us take care of it!
Preserve information & guidelines
Camp At Established Campsites Only
Limit Stay to 2 Nights
Groups of 6 or More and Commercial Users by Permission Only. Please call 207-729-7366.
Fires by Permit Only - Maine State Law.
Contact Maine Forest Service at 207-827-1800 for Permit.
Keep All fires Below High Tide Line
Do Not Cut or Break Tree Limbs, Dead or Alive
Leave No Fire Unattended
Completely Extinguish All Fires
Foot Traffic Only - Trails Are Not Suitable for Wheeled Vehicles
Carry Out All Trash
Including Human and Pet Waste and Toilet Paper
Keep Pets Under Control
Do Not Remove Archaeological Artifacts