What Steinbeck Discovers About Deer Isle in Travels With Charley

Deer Isle, Maine, is a beautiful location and one that has intrigued writers and artists from around the world. One such writer was the renowned American novelist John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s famous travelogue, Travels With Charley In Search of America, includes a visit to Deer Isle where he had the best lobster he ever ate. To Steinbeck, Deer Isle stood out as a mysterious and mystical place. There was a magical aura around the secluded space that intrigued him. We can’t argue with that undeniable magic that is still here on the island today. However, there are some things that have definitely changed since Travels with Charley. (And some things that are still very much the same!)

Find out more about all of the interesting facts of Deer Isle when you download our free Vacation Guide. It’s full of the best recommendations for things to see and do near Pilgrim’s Inn, like learning more about local artisans through sources such as Travels With Charley.

Deer Isle in Travels With Charley

John Steinbeck seemed enchanted by Deer Isle in Travels With Charley. The start of his 10,000-mile journey began with a sense of pure wonder on our humble island, which Steinbeck lost himself in for a couple of days (literally). His bad sense of direction had him losing his way en route to Bangor and even in the nearby small town of Ellsworth. During his adventures, he traveled to Stonington and bought a kerosene lamp. He also ate lobster, a key activity that must be completed during anyone’s visit! He also drove along the coastline, taking in the beautiful scenes of Deer Isle, Maine in all their splendor.

Quotes About Maine and Deer Isle

“I wanted to go to the rooftree of Maine to start my trip before turning west. It seemed to give the journey a design, and everything in the world must have design or the human mind rejects it.”

“This Isle is like Avalon; it must disappear when you are not there.”

“One doesn’t have to be sensitive to feel the strangeness of Deer Isle. I would hate to try to force them to do anything they didn’t want to do.”

“Stonington, Deer Isle’s chief town, does not look like an American town at all in place or in architecture. Its houses are layered down to the calm water of the bay. This town very closely resembles Lyme Regis on the coast of Dorset, and I would willingly bet that its founding settlers came from Dorset or Somerset or Cornwall. Maine speech is very like that in West Country England, the double vowels pronounced as they are in Anglo-Saxon, but the resemblance is doubly strong on Deer Isle. And the coastal people below the Bristol Channel are secret people, and perhaps magic people. There’s aught behind their eyes, hidden away so deep that perhaps even they do not know they have it. And that same thing is so in Deer Islers.”

How has Deer Isle Changed Since Steinbeck’s Visit?

Steinbeck seemed to paint Deer Isle residents as mischievous and a bit perplexing.  In Travels With Charley, he included an anecdote about Mainers that was inspired by his frustration with the directions he received when he got lost. Steinbeck was told never to ask directions from a Maine native. When he asked why not, this reply was given. “Somehow, we think it is funny to misdirect people, and we don’t smile when we do it, but we laugh inwardly. It is our nature.” Steinbeck’s famous travelogue has even inspired repeat visitors to Deer Isle. These travelers wanted to see for themselves the mysterious air of Deer Isle and what it was truly like. Today, you will discover much friendlier and less mischievous inhabitants who are welcoming and willing to give you the right directions!

Stay at Pilgrim’s Inn

Steinbeck stayed at the home of his friend Eleanor Bryce during his visit to Deer Isle. However, our historic bed and breakfast has a timeless quality that is much the same from when Steinbeck was writing Travels With Charley. Our inn has been a staple on the island for many years and  continues to exude Maine charm. Become entranced like Steinbeck was with our beautiful island! Discover its many beautiful scenes during your stay at Pilgrim’s Inn!