Mackworth Island
GOOD FOR: All Ages

Source:Outdoors with Kids Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont (AMC Books)
Address:Andrews Ave, Falmouth, ME
Hours:9 A.M. to sunset, unless otherwise posted
Fee: $3.00 adult Maine residents, $4.00 adult nonresidents, $1.00 children ages 5–11; $1.00 non-resident seniors; children under 5 and Maine residents 65 and older are free
Contact: ; 207-688-4712 c/o Bradbury Mountain State Park; Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands

Bathrooms: Restrooms near trailhead
Water/Snacks: None

USGS Portland East quad;

A short, easy loop trail circles the scenic island, famous for its fairy village where you, too, can create a fairy house from found natural objects.

Catch views of Casco Bay around every corner of the Mackworth Island trail.

As soon as you set foot on 100-acre Mackworth Island, it’s easy to see why the trailhead parking lot is often full. Its close proximity to Portland offers visitors quick and easy access to the splendid natural world. But it’s something more than that: from its unique blend of human and natural history to its famous fairy village, this place is magical. Plan to visit on a weekday or during nonpeak hours, early in the morning or late in the day, as parking is very limited. The guard at the end of the causeway—who has manned his post for the past ten years and weaves poetry about the island (see “The Fairy Question”)—will let you know whether or not parking is available. If not, consider a Plan B or a nearby trip, including Gilsland Farm Audubon Center just a few miles away (Trip 7) or Portland’s Eastern Promenade (Trip 3).

The 1.25-mile round-trip trail encircling the island has a prominently marked trailhead on the south end of the parking lot, near the restrooms and fee deposit box. In this open area, native wildflowers are seasonally abundant, including wood anemones, baneberry, goldenrod, and nightshade. The wide, level trail has a surface of compacted soil. Aside from the occasional rock or root, nothing about the trail impedes stroller or wheelchair accessibility.

As the trail moves into the forest edge, begin to look for signs of wildlife.The oak and pine forest here provides food and shelter for grouse, foxes, rabbits, skunks, squirrels, sparrows, warblers, and many more species. The trail offers plenty of places to rest and listen quietly to nature’s sounds: there are multiple benches and a few large swings with sweeping views of Casco Bay. Three separate sets of stairs at different locations along the island trail lead to the rocky beach. Here, the intertidal zone offers much for little fingers to explore. Can kids carefully lift and replace rockweed and stone to find green crabs hiding below? In the tide pools, can they find periwinkles, barnacles, and blue mussels? Do they recognize any of the shorebirds, including great blue herons, eider ducks, and cormorants?

Back on the trail, at the north end of the island, a short side trail leads to one of the island’s unique features, the pet cemetery. Here, former Maine Governor Percival Baxter (who donated Mackworth Island to the state of Maine in 1946) buried his beloved Irish setters and his horse. Another unusual feature of Mackworth is the Fairy House Village, located just beyond the pet cemetery on the trail’s inland side, marked with a sign stating that it “provides fairies with cottages during their visit to the island.”

Take time to admire the builders’ creativity and, if inspired to do so, create fairy houses of your own. If you do choose to add to the village, use only fallen items already on the ground, such as twigs, acorns, pinecones, and pebbles. As we all know, fairies look down upon hurting any living thing, including trees and shrubs.

Continue along the trail as it curves southwest back toward the parking area. Reference your trail brochure often to learn about the island’s other unique features, including the hollow but mighty Listening Tree, which has a growth inside resembling a giant ear.

by Mackworth Island Gatekeeper Steve King

You ask if there are Fairies here.
Well, I can tell you Yes my Dear.
Cause here are friends that help them be.
Like tallest pines and sparkling sea.
Like fox and hare and doe and fawn
And ducks that dive
And sun at dawn.
Like bay so bright
And starry night.
So yes my Dear
There’s Fairies here.

Plan B:

Within the greater Portland area, there are myriad alternatives for getting your family outdoors, including paddling Scarborough Marsh (Trip 1), biking Portland’s Back Cove and Eastern Promenade Trails (Trip 3) or hiking at Gilsland Farm Audubon Center (Trip 7).

Where to Eat Nearby:

Head north on Route 1 to find multiple dining options and grocery stores.


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