||Every birder should visit Machias Seal Island at least once.
(The author has been eight times.).
In recent years,
the number of people allowed to land on the island has been
severely restricted. Despite this, you will see the
birds at very close range both on the rocks and in the
The author of this page
has not visited Machias Seal Island in more than 10 years.
It is hard to keep accomodations and other details up to
date. For that reason I have provided webpages
sponsored by vendors. If you make a trip, please send
What Do You See
You can observe at very close range
breeding: Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Common Tern, and Arctic Tern. Common
Murres. Leach's Storm-petrel breeds on the island, but is
not usually seen because they enter and leave the nesting burrow at night. A
few pairs of Common Eiders breed on the island.
As the boat approaches
the island, you will all these birds on the water and flying into the island.
You may also see Manx, Sooty, and Greater Shearwater, Black Guillemot, Northern
Gannet on the boat trip to the island.
Machias Seal Island is a 15 acre island in the
Bay of Fundy off the coast of Maine and just south of Grand Manan. See the
map.(large graphic loads slowly). Visitors can
stay in Maine at Machias. Machias is about an hour drive north of Ellsworth,
When To Visit
The best time to visit is between the
middle of June and the middle of July. The Puffins can be on the island from
early June and immature Puffins are seen in the water around the island until
A visit takes about half a day. There is
plenty of other birding in the area to fill the rest of the day or you can
drive back to Boston after the trip. The trip is appropriate for children old
enough to remain quiet in a blind for 20 minutes and non-birding adults.
A visit requires a 45 minutes to 2 hour boat trip depending on port of
departure. . The boat trip can cause motion sickness in the unprepared. If any
trip is worth enduring seasickness, it is this one. If you suffer from sea
sickness consider taking the shortest trip from Cutler, ME.
sometimes cancelled because of weather conditions and landing on the island is
dependent on conditions as well.
Landing On The
Landings and actual visits to Machias Seal Island during the
nesting season are restricted, as the island is designated a migratory bird
sanctuary and is managed by US and Canadian authorities.
In order to
protect the nesting seabird colony from excessive disturbance, visits on the
island are limited to a selected number of days during the season, and only a
limited number of visitors are permitted ashore on any day. Visitors must stay
in designated areas and spend no more than three hours in a day.
tour operators are licensed to conduct landing tours to the island, an access
schedule is issued every year which allocates the dates on which island
landings will be permitted. The tour operators then book their landing tours
based on that schedule.
Tours to the island are conducted daily
(weather permitting) throughout the nesting season . These tours bring visitors
to the waters surrounding the island where all the nesting species can be
easily observed from the deck, and close range viewing of hundreds, if not
thousands, of puffins can be enjoyed.
Special landing tours are offered
on the selected dates, with the limited spaces filling up on a first come first
served basis. Advance reservations for landing tours are generally necessary
and recommended for all tours. A full boat load of passengers participant in
landing tours, with one group going ashore while the rest participate in a tour
on the waters close by the island.
It is not necessary to go ashore to
see the many birds as on most days the viewing is just as good if not better on
the water as it is on land.
Landing is always dependant on calm seas,
and is not appropriate for all visitors because of the potentially hazardous
conditions at the landing area on the shoreline. Many visitors are much more
comfortable enjoying the birding out on the water, and leaving the landing
experience to the more adventurous.
See visiting the island for more information on landing
Photographers will want to land on the island and
spend time in one or two of the blinds. Thousands if not millions of
photographs have been taken of these Puffins. If you are an amateur photorapher
or if this is your first trip, consider leaving the camera at home and just
enjoying the birds.
Landing on the island is not feasible for those in wheelchairs. As with the
whale watching boats in the Boston area, wheelchairs cannot just roll onto the
boat. According to Captain Andrew Patterson, wheelchairs have been accomodated
on past trips using "Yankee Ingenuity." Ask the individual captain about
accomodations for wheelchairs on the boat.
Two captains provide boat service to the island. One leaves from
Cutler, Maine and one
from Grand Manan. Reservations are required. Cost is from $100 per person. There are
no customs officials on either end.
Departure times vary with the tide
so be sure to call the captain 1-2 days ahead and check on the departure
Where To Stay
information provided by Captain Andrew Patterson and times are
from the departure port of Cutler, ME.
Bed & Breakfasts
Riverside Inn (East Machias)
207-255-4134 Beautifully designed B&B on the E. Machias River 15-20 minute
Captain Cates Bed & Breakfast www.captaincates.com
(Machiasport) 207-255-8812 Lovely B&B on the Machias River 30 minute drive
Micmac Farm Guesthouses & Gardner House www.micmacfarm.com
(Machiasport) 207-255-3008 Secluded cabins and B&B style guestroom on
Machias River 30 minute drive
Peacock House (Lubec) 207-733-2403
Attractive quiet B&B;Located east of Cutler - near Campobello Is. 30 minute
Home Port Inn (Lubec) 207-733-2077 Comfortable B&B and
Bluebird Motel (Machias)
207-255-3332 Clean and comfortable local motel 25-30 minute drive
Margaretta Motel (Machias) 207-255-6671 Reasonably priced - located
just east of town
Machias Motor Inn (Machias) 207-255-4861 In town located
on Machias River - next to Helens Restaurant
Eastland Motel (Lubec)
207-733-5501 Located on Rt. 189 on the outskirts of Lubec 20 minute drive
Blueberry Patch Motel & Cabins (Jonesboro) 207-434-5411 Located on
Route One - restaurant next door 45 minute drive
Cobscook Bay State Park (Edmunds) 207-726-4412 45 minute
Sunset Point Campground (Lubec) 207-733-2150 30 minute drive
(Jonesboro) 207-434-2542 45 minute drive
Herring Cove Provincial Park (Campobello) 506-752-7010
Located on Campobello Island, New Brunswick 45 minute drive
A Birders Guide To Maine by Elizabeth C.
Pierson, Jan Erik Pierson, and Peter D. Vickery Down East Books Camden,
Page author: Emmalee Tarry