, Newburyport, MA


July 26, 2013

The reachable Star

History, science, scenery blend on Isles of Shoals


“I sort of look at it as faded glory, because you go up the staircase and you can see how grand it was, and how a person could make an entrance. But there’s a faded part,” said Ann Beattie of Stratham, N.H. “It’s like camping on the ocean.”

Beattie, who was leading a conference for the Isles of Shoals Historical and Research Association during her stay, had read a bit about islands’ history before making her first trip to Star about 20 years ago and was so enchanted, she’s returned as often as possible ever since.

“It was almost like this magic went up through the ground through my feet. I could imagine people walking around here in Victorian clothing, I could imagine the fishermen out on the rocks in the 1600s,” she said. “Being where it happened made me feel like the history was alive.”

Betty Olivolo of Kittery, Maine, said she used to pride herself on never vacationing in the same location twice. But after attending a Star Island retreat 15 years, she has come back every year.

“A lot of it’s the people — amazing friends. It’s kind of like going to an adult camp, you want to go back and see your friends,” she said. “And it’s the amazing scenery. I’m a photographer, and no matter how many trillion pictures I’ve taken on Star Island, there’s always another angle, another little corner to peek around.”

The hotel’s sloping lawn dominates one side of the island, while the back features paths that wind through low-growing brush to the ocean, where sea gull chicks scurry into crevices and waves crash against the rocks. A small chapel sits on the island’s highest point, surrounded by a handful of stone cottages, one of which houses a tiny museum. There’s a small marine lab with saltwater tanks and terrariums, and guests can rent rowboats to explore some of the other islands.

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