Ballpark Estimate: $100+ per day for guided tour
A water-borne version of the classic hiking trails the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, New England’s Maine Island Trail extends from Kennebunkport, Maine to the Canadian border. Overseen and administered by the non-profit Maine Island Trail Association, the trail is well-loved by multi-week adventurers and day trippers alike, offering to kayakers the chance to explore some of the most beautiful and remote sections of downeast Maine’s lengthy and ruggedly serrated coastline.
Maine Island Trail Association Membership
The trail adheres to the by now long-traditional camping model: primitive campsites, spaced roughly a day’s travel apart and free, for the using, on a first-come, first-served basis, for members of the trail’s custodial organization. Membership in MITA costs a scant$45; in return MITA maintains the trail, publishes an excellent guidebook, and secures usage of the islands from a consortium of private, public and preservation land trusts.
Included in membership is the updated-yearly Maine Island Trail Guidebook, the association’s invaluable (and members only) guide to the trail’s 150-plus islands and campsites. The guidebook includes weather and conditions tips plus safety warnings, and describes the trail’s flora and fauna of the trail in fine detail. Most valuable are the guidebook’s chart-lets of each island and the detailed descriptions of where to land and set up camp.
Paddling the Maine Island Trail can be done very much on the cheap: at a minimum, $45 for MITA dues if you plan to sleep out on the islands, zero dollars if you want to visit an island administered by MITA but open to the public.
Going With a Guide
If you don’t have a sea kayak, any number of registered Maine guides run intro overnight camping trips to the trail’s inshore islands. Rates are reasonable — about $80 a day for a daytrip, including all the gear you’ll need. Overnight trips, including gear and food, run about $100 a day.
Perhaps the best way to save money on the trail is to paddle its islands, bays and coves, its bold stretches of open coastline, not with an organized group but on your own. You travel at your own pace — fast and highly motivated or slow and without a schedule – as you make your own decisions about itinerary and destinations, all without having to adhere to an organized group’s schedule or a mixed group’s highly varied level of paddling skills.
Costs for Going It Alone
Paddling the trail on your own is truly inexpensive: MITA membership ($45), relevant charts ($18 per), compass ($60 or so, and critical to paddling this oftentimes fog-bound coast) and the cost of your boat and gear, including paddle, pfd, wetsuit or drysuit, etc.
If you plan to paddle solo or with a chum or significant other, you’ll also need collapsible water jugs ($8 each) or a ceramic water filter ($70), a camping stove ($50), a tent ($125), a sleeping bag ($150), and essential pieces of safety gear such as a VHF radio ($160) or an emergency gps beacon ($135), the latter helpful if you want to let friends and family know where you are on the trail while you paddle it for several days, a week or two or more. Add in the cost of food (about $10-15 a day) and you’re ready to go.
Of course, if you’re an outdoors aficionado, chances are already you’ve borne many of the equipment costs above, effectively reducing your cost to the price of MITA membership, nautical charts, gas for your car, camping stove fuel, batteries for your headlamp and VHF radio, and the cost food.
Regardless of your approach to paddling the Maine Island Trail, costs are low. Maine’s coastline is highly-varied and rugged and in many spots untouched: priceless attractions that come at a much higher where solitude isn’t quite as possible. You’re not paying for a B and B or motel room, yet will sleep out on and explore a coast where rooms cost at least $100 a night if not far more. You’ll hike islands where even modest waterfront property rarely cost less than a quarter of a million dollars.
Finally, don’t forget the savings on lobster. Though Maine lobstermen call sea kayaks speed bumps, few are unwilling to hand a lobster or two over the rail in exchange for a fresh ten or twenty dollar bill. Just be sure to ask for a nice bug — the universally accepted term for the ornery crustacean Maine lobstermen stockpile in inshore pens as they wait for wholesale prices, like the tides, to rise and fall.