Posted on September 5, 2022 and last updated on October 01, 2022

Jewell Island, Casco Bay

QUICK TRAIL FACTS

  • Preserve Size: ~221 acres
  • Trail Mileage: 3.3 miles in network
  • Pets: yes
  • Difficulty: easy to moderate
  • Sights: beaches, military ruins, views

Jewell Island, which runs parallel to Cliff Island in Casco Bay, offers many curiosities: concrete watch towers, World War-era batteries (they were built after 1922 and occupied between 1943-1946), and and a beach path colorfully decorated with dozens of scavenged lobster buoys. Its trails bring you to beautiful vistas, beaches, and campsites atop bluffs. The 221-acre island, a bit more than one mile long, is a state park, and its 3.3 miles of wonderful trails are maintained by the Maine Island Trail Association and volunteers.

On a nice weekend in the summer, expect to find its small harbor filled with anchored motor boats and sailboats, kayaks pulled up on its beaches, and most or all of its campsites occupied with tents. (Camping sites along the Maine Island Trail are mostly first-come, first-served.) The island is popular and fairly easy to get to from Portland and other coastal towns like Brunswick, Freeport, and Cumberland via private boat.

After a 30-minute boat ride from Mere Point Boat Launch in Brunswick, we picked up the main trail from Cocktail Cove. Look for stone steps at the southern tip of the cove to find one of two trails that head down to the military installations. The main path follows an old, wide road, making it both easy to walk and follow despite not having obvious blazes or other trail markings.

To reach the first of two towers, pass two paths on your right (these bring you campsites and to beautiful sea views). At about 0.4 miles from the southern tip of Cocktail Cove, you’ll see a narrow path to your right, which will bring you to the first concrete tower looming high above. Visitors are allowed to climb its five flights to check out the views from wide rectangular slits. From this vantage, you can see the second tower nearby, poking out from the treetops, as well as for miles all around. The second tower, which is slightly shorter, has a crenelated verandah around the top.

After you’ve taken in the views from the towers, you can continue straight down the path, heading south to check out the bunkers, Buoy Beach, and a second lovely beach. You’ll pass a path to your right that brings you in 0.2 miles to campsites, a secluded beach encircled by ledges, and rocky points. Across from this trail, a small path on your left takes you directly to a bunker entrance and Buoy Beach. If you continue straight here, in 50 feet or so you’ll arrive at a dark opening of a bunker. With a flashlight, you can walk through the tunnel. At one end, you’ll emerge into a barricade of brambles and a sign warning there are no maintained paths beyond this point. But if you do push through the brambles, you’ll come to a wide circular base for a mounted gun. Return the way you come, but follow the tunnel out to its northern entrance to check out a second gun mount. From this circular installation, you can take a 0.25-mile path through a meadow and small birches adorned with buoys to a wide, open beach (Buoy Beach). It’s spectacular. Be careful of poison ivy.

The 1.1-mile northern loop of the island trail system is also wonderful. It brings you to another protected cove, the Punchbowl, with a sandy/pebbly crescent beach and clear water. You’ll pass a few campsites along the way.

Directions: You can only access Jewell Island by boat. People often launch from Portland, other islands in Casco Bay, South Portland, Falmouth, Freeport, Harpswell, and Brunswick. Head to Cocktail Cove, on the northwest corner of the island, to anchor.

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Let me know if you have any trail updates or corrections!