Mackworth Island, connected to the Falmouth mainland by a causeway off Andrews Avenue, is a State Park donated to the State of Maine in 1946 by Governor Percival Baxter for state public purposes and “as a sanctuary for wild beasts and birds.” The island, which also contains the Baxter School for the Deaf, is open daily 9 am to sunset. Parking is limited, so have a backup plan (the nearby Gilsland Farm Audobon is nice), or be prepared to wait. The visitor fee is currently $3 for Maine residents, $4 for non-Maine residents, and $1 for non-resident seniors and children 5-11 (Maine residents over 65 and children under 5 are free). An outhouse is available by the parking lot.
The flat, easy trail (handicap-accessible) that rings the island for about 1.4 miles is maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands, and the rocky beach surrounding the island is fun to explore, particularly at low tide. You will see seagulls and osprey, and the eastern end of Portland across the bay, as well as Fort Gorges and the islands. You won’t need a trail map, but if you are into those, you can find them at Portland Trails website or the Maine State Parks and Lands site for Mackworth Island.
About halfway around the island, you will reach the Percival Baxter pet cemetery, where the last resting place of Governor Baxter’s pets is surrounded by a stone wall. Just east of that spot, along the trail, is Mackworth Island’s fairy village, where children (of all ages) are welcome to construct houses of wood, rocks, bark, and any other natural items they can find on the ground, for the fairies that supposedly live on the island.
We visited as a family on a crisp January afternoon, and waited briefly for a parking spot to open up. The island was busy, but visitors were considerate, wearing masks and giving space as they passed others. Despite recent chilly temperatures, the trail was mostly clear of ice, with the exception of some slick patches on the north side near the parking area. Parts of the bay by the causeway were frozen, and glacial layers of ice covered the rocks above the beach on this north side, as well.
Benches and swings ring the island, and there are many good places for a picnic. We bypassed all these and enjoyed the views, taking a little over an hour, but in the summertime, particularly with young children, this island can be a full-day excursion, with a manageable walk, bird-watching, shell and sea glass collecting, looking for crabs and other tidepool life, and constructing fairy houses.