Where are the Isles of Shoals?
Just 10 miles out
from Portsmouth Harbor in New England in the USA. They can clearly be
seen just six miles off the coast from Rye, NH. TOP
How many islands are there?
Current count is
nine, though this figure varies through history. Early explorers listed 18
isles and rock outcroppings. Seavey Island is connected to White Island at
low tide, and Malaga is sometimes considered an extension of Smuttynose.
These are very small rocky islands, half of them currently containing only
one or two buildings.TOP
What are their names?
Appledore, Star, Seavey,
Malaga, Smuttynose, Cedar, Lunging, Duck and White. (For more information on each
island click here.) TOP
Are the islands in New Hampshire or
Both. The Isles were so valuable in the early 1500s for
their shoals of fish, that when owners Mason and Gorges divided their real
estate holdings in the New World, they split them in half. Mason got the
New Hampshire Islands (Star, White, Cedar, Seavey) and Gorges got the
Maine ones (Appledore, Smuttynose, Malaga, Duck) TOP
Who owns the islands and what's on them?
The only hotel is on Star which is the current site
of summer conferences.There is a museum there
Appledore, once the site of the Laighton-Thaxter hotel, now houses the
Marine Shoals Lab and a few private residences. The automated light house
is on White. There is a single family residence on Cedar and Lunging.
Smuttynose has a summer caretaker. The other islands are uninhabited. TOP
How can I reach the Isles?
There is one official ferry departing regularly in
season from the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company dock on Market Street in Portsmouth, NH. The
narrated trip takes about 45 minutes to an hour each way. A number of
other private companies offer cruises around the Isles and a local
catamaran can get you there in 15 minutes , but only the Steamship Company
is allowed to stop-over. No other boats may dock. Private motorboats and
sailboats frequently visit the harbor, as in Anita Shreve's novel "Weight
of Water." TOP
Can I get onto the islands for the day?
Yes, the Isles Steamship Company
offers a walking tour of Star
Island in the mornings and a stopover of about three hours in the
afternoon in season. This is the only official way to tour Star. Visitors
to Celia Thaxter's garden take an additional short trip from Star to
Appledore via the MV Oceanic. All of the islands are privately owned and
there are no public docking facilities on any of the nine islands.
Visitors moored in the harbor are allowed to row small boats into the cove
at Smuttynose for a short visit during the day. ISHRA sponsored tours may
visit other island, but all are privately owned and unannounced visits
Can I camp on the Isles?
Sorry, there is no
facility for camping on any of the Isles of Shoals. TOP
How can I stay overnight at the Oceanic Hotel on
The Oceanic Hotel
first opened in 1873 and has been the site
of summer conferences for the last 100 years. Conference attendees stay at
the Oceanic (not to be confused with the ferry Oceanic, sister ship to the
MV Thomas Laighton) and in the many Victorian era overnight houses on the
island. The conferences are run by the Star Island
Corporation, founded by members of the Universalist Unitarian
Church and Congregational churches. They recently moved their offices from
Cambridge, MA to Portsmouth, NH. For information on upcoming conferences,
availability and rates, check their website. TOP
What about staying on Appledore?
Also owned by
the Star Island Corporation, Appledore is leased to Cornell and the
University of New Hampshire for their summer marine biology programs.
Students live in dorms on the island, and there is a wide variety of
classes available. Click here for details. TOP
Who was Celia Thaxter?
Born in Portsmouth, NH,
Celia moved to the Isles with her family at the age of 4 and lived much of
her life there. Her poetry became very popular in the second half of the
19th century. For much more information, visit Celia's Circle.
Can I see Celia's famous island
Although the 19th century hotel and Celia's cottage
on Appledore are gone now, a dedicated group of volunteers keep up a
recreation of her famous "Island Garden." There is a fee for visitors and
a significant walk from the boat along dirt roads. Visitors usually take a
second boat ride from Star to Appledore on the research vessel Kingsbury.
The info you need is on the Cornell web
Is the story "Weight of Water" true?
Shreve's best-selling novel, and now motion picture, is based on a real
double murder case that happened on Smuttynose Island in 1873. Although
the controversy continues, it appears likely that Louis Wagner did commit
the murders. Convicted for the murder of two Norwegian women living on
Smuttynose, Wagner was among the last prisoners executed by the state of
Maine. The film of the novel is soon to be released. Click to read about
the Smuttynose Murders. TOP
Does the picture on the bottle of Smuttynose beer
show the murder house?
No, that is the restored
Samuel Haley House which still stands. The site of the murder
House," as it is called burned a few years after the murder.
The Haleys lived on Smuttynose until it was sold to Thomas Laighton in
1839. Celia's father took over the small guest house there after his term
as lighthouse keeper on White, and there hatched his plan to build a hotel
on Appledore. TOP
What about ghosts, shipwrecks and buried
Legends abound and Shoals lore is
full of fascinating stories. There is evidence that at least one pirate
may have buried treasure on the Isles. A number of ships have certainly
been wrecked on the Isles. The best references for this information come
from Celia's book "Among the Isles of Shoals"; Lyman Ruttledge's "The
Isles of Shoals in Lore and Legend" and his guide "Ten Miles Out." You'll
find the graves of many Shoalers on the islands -- Celia and her family on
Appledore, The Haleys and the Spanish Prisoners
on Smuttynose, the Beebe Family, Rev. Tuck, Caswells and many others
on Star. There are legends of pirates Blackbeard
and Phillip Babb among others. The bodies of the two murdered
girls from Smuttynose are on the South Cemetery in
Who discovered the Isles? Who lived there?
Explorer Captain John
Smith of Jamestown
and Pocahontas fame was the first Europeans to map the shoals after his
visit in 1614. He named them "Smith Isles" but the title did not stick.
The Isles were heavily populated by fisherman in the early 1600s and
perhaps earlier. Over time, a hardened fishing
evolved on the Appledore, Star and Smuttynose and the area was, for a
whole, officially the town of Gosport. Thomas Laighton, Celia Thaxter's
father bought three of the islands in 1839. His hotel industry flourished
there even before the Civil War and the Isles were a popular tourist site
for writers like Whittier and Hawthorne, and for artists and musicians. TOP
What is ISHRA?
The Isles of Shoals Historical
and Research Association was founded in 1985 to promote the study of the
Isles. The group now numbers over 200 members and readers are welcomed to
join. Through the aid of the Portsmouth Athenaeum, ISHRA members are
currently cataloging and scanning thousands of Isles photographs for
research. For informaing on joining ISHRA, click
[ HOME | HISTORY | ARTS | TOURING |
BUSINESS | SEARCH ]
[ New | Site Map | Talk | Store | Sponsors | History Themes ]
[ Isles Home | Photos | Map | Gosport | Isles History | Thaxter | Links ]
PO Box 4458
Portsmouth, New Hampshire 03802