Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Isles of Shoals

The Isles of Shoals are a group of islands and tidal ledges about ten miles off the coast of the New Hampshire-Maine border region (Portsmouth, where we are located, is right on the Piscataqua River, which forms the border between the two states). There are nine islands in the chain, five belonging to Maine and four to New Hampshire. The islands have a long history, serving as seasonal fishing camps for Native American populations with the first Europeans arriving in the early 1600's.

The history of the Shoals encompasses a range of people and events so diverse, I'll just make a list: Captain John Smith, the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the legendary pirate Blackbeard, the poet Celia Thaxter, several hotels, an artist colony, a grisly ax murder, a Unitarian-Universalist retreat, and a 2000 film starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn.

The islands have also been a source of inspiration for our branding. If you've looked at the map above, you'll notice Star Island, Smuttynose Island and as well the name "Shoals." Our logo even boasts a harbor seal, which are commonly found around the backside of Star Island and occasionally in Gosport Harbor.

The Shoals are still a vibrant community now although there are no more incorporated towns.

The Unitarian-Universalist church has a retreat/conference center ( on Star Island, which is easily the most developed of the nine islands.

Smuttynose Island is still home to the Samuel Haley house, the structure on our Shoals Pale Ale label. There is also a replica period building next to it which serves as a caretaker's house.

Appledore Island plays host to the University of New Hampshire/Cornell University Marine Sciences lab.

Cedar Island and Lunging Island are privately owned.

Duck Island was once a naval bombing range but is now home to a wildlife sanctuary and a population of harbor seals.

White Island is home to the White Island Lighthouse and the light keeper's cottage. The structures are now currently owned by the State of New Hampshire and in need of some maintenance. A local charity, Lighthouse Kids ( has been raising funds to restore the light and the keeper's cottage with an ultimate goal of having a museum on site. Please visit their website to learn more about the work they're doing.

Sue Reynolds, a retired teacher and founder of Lighthouse Kids, also runs day-boat trips to the Isles as well as fishing charters on The Uncle Oscar, a converted lobster boat. She was kind enough to take me out to Star Island for a few hours. I had a great picnic lunch on Star Island and snapped some great photos which you'll see below. If you ever need to go to the Shoals, The Uncle Oscar ( provides an excellent experience. Our captain that day, Tom Davis possesses a wealth of information and knowledge about Shoals history and lore and he's not afraid to use it.

On to the photos:

This view from the side of Star Island provides a great vantage point to see the Unitarian-Universalist retreat center. The most interesting part of my visit was the sense of peace and calm you feel when you're on Star. It'd be a great place to get away for a week in the summer. I didn't see any mermaids or bright red beehives though...

The UU folk have great welcome station right on the dock. You can even make reservations to have lunch out there during the summer.

Gosport Chapel, on Star Island, is an austere and charming church. This simple, one-room chapel has such a presence that's apparent from your first step in the door.

The bridges of Portsmouth as seen from the Isles of Shoals. The largest bridge, though it looks like it might from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, is actually the Route 95 bridge that spans the great Bay and connects New Hampshire to Maine.

Looks like a great place for draft line!

Finally, the obligatory product shot! Two different sides of the Samuel Haley house, brought to you by Smuttynose Brewing Company.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a great travel log! Nicely done, JT.