ISSUE 45  |  New New England

Maine Getaway: A Simpler Way of Life on Deer Isle

November 13, 2015 10:00 AM

BY Erin Boyle

At the Deer Isle Hostel in Maine, guests sign up for more than a typical escape from reality. The hostel is on an island that’s just a bridge span away from the mainland, but for overnight guests the experience offers a glimpse into a way of life that might seem worlds away.

In addition to a good night’s sleep, owners Dennis and Anneli offer guests an opportunity to enjoy an alternative way of life that’s “simple, rewarding and dignifying.”

Photography by Anneli Carter-Sundqvist for Deer Isle Hostel except where noted.

Above: Photograph by Ali Kaukas.

Dennis and Anneli live year-round in a 17th century-style farmhouse that Dennis built using hand tools and local materials (including the granite used in the traditional stone foundation). The three-story structure is based on the 1687 Boardman House in Saugus, Massachusetts and includes private and dorm-style rooms for guests.

Above: Looking out at the homestead’s impressive vegetable garden. Dennis and Anneli raise pigs and chickens, and can and ferment their garden goods to eat year-round.

Above: Photograph by Ali Kaukas.

Guests at the hostel can enjoy a nightly communal meal grown and prepared on site.

Above: Photograph by Ali Kaukas.

Guests are expected to participate in the meal, either by bringing a contribution (olive oil, coffee, tea, and wine are welcome additions) or by helping with prep or cleanup.

Above: A cabbage from the hostel garden. 

Above: The hostel embraces life off the grid and encourages guests to do the same. Water is hand-pumped from a well on the property and solar panels power electric lights. The hostel goes without refrigeration, relying on a granite cellar to keep perishables cool. For guests seeking creature comforts, the hostel provides heated water and a metal watering can that can be hoisted and tipped for showering. Toilets are no-flush but odor-free. All bedding is provided by the hostel.

Above: The newly built Spruce Hut, available for $60 a night (single or double occupancy).

Above: Bikes are available for guests to use; opportunities for kayaking, canoeing, and hiking also abound on Deer Isle and the surrounding mainland and coastal islands in Penobscot Bay.

The Deer Isle Hostel is open seasonally from May through the beginning of September. Call 207.348.2308 or email for more information. 

Interested in heading off the grid? See Laura’s tips for Growing Vegetables in the Middle of Nowhere. Just looking for a place to spend the night? Earn Your Wilderness Stripes at the Minam River Lodge.