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The Cranberry Isles

The Cranberry Isles are an archipelago of five islands off the southeastern shore of Mount Desert Island, named for the wild cranberries that grow there in the fall. Great Cranberry and Little Cranberry (also called Islesford) are the largest of the group and the only ones with year-round residents, most of whom make a living lobstering, boat building, or doing carpentry. Sutton, Baker, and Bear Islands are inhabited only in the summer, and most of Baker is part of Acadia National Park.

“The whole place is one big family,” says Great Cranberry native Norman Sanborn. “I’ll go away for two or three days and leave my keys in my truck; if someone needs to borrow it, they can go ahead.” He and his wife, Kelly, are raising their two daughters, ages 11 and 9, on the island. “They’re free-range kids,” he says. “Everybody knows them, and they’ve got the entire island as their playground.”

There are a few boats that offer transportation to the Cranberries, but the most popular, and the only year-round option, is the Beal and Bunker Mail Boat and Ferry, which makes the 30-minute crossing from Northeast Harbor to Great Cranberry and Islesford. There are no hotels or bed-and-breakfast accommodations on any of the islands, but the short boat ride allows for an easy daytrip. On Great Cranberry, visitors can wander along several public trails or take advantage of the Cranberry Explorer, a seven-passenger golf cart that offers free shuttle service to popular spots around the island. On Islesford, the Islesford Dock Restaurant and Gallery is a favorite seasonal restaurant of Seal Harbor summer resident Martha Stewart, who arrives on her Hinckley picnic boat.

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