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Star Island Releases 2016 Schedule

August 27th, 2015

<Life's Journey Profilep>One question we receive a lot throughout the year is, when is my conference next year? Well, wait no more. Here’s the schedule of our full-week conferences and Labor Day weekend conferences for 2016:

And you know we still have conferences happening during the remainder of our 2015 season, right? Click here to check out the chronological list of conferences and what’s still available.

Sustainability Digits: Cardboard, Water, Chickens

August 18th, 2015


We’ve been busy on Star Island measuring our resources. Here are some digits from the week of August 8 – 14:

Compost to Chickens: 611 lbs

Certain leftover foods can be sent to our flock of chickens on island. So instead of throwing out 611 lbs of food, we were able to feed our growing chickens (who will later be food for staff).

Cardboard for Compost: 273 lbs

With loads of cardboard on island, we recycle some, but also shred most to add to our compost. Why? Composting needs a combination of nitrogen and carbon. Our food waste provides the nitrogen; shredded cardboard adds carbon.

Water Per Person: 87 gallons

We create drinking water on Star Island from a mix of sources: reverse osmosis, treated rain water, and imported water. Last week our staff and guests used, on average, 87 gallons of water per person for showering, cooking, and laundry, among other purposes.

Baking for 300: Chewy Ginger Cookies

August 18th, 2015


Meals on Star Island are community gatherings. Long tables seating 10 are each their own microcosm of conversation. At breakfast people converse over their night’s sleep; at lunch the morning theme talk is parsed out; at dinner the day’s accomplishments are discussed. And when the meal is nearing its conclusion, talk turns to dessert, whether that be a cup of coffee and fruit after breakfast, or a cookie to punctuate dinner.

Busy throughout the day, our bakers fill us with the love that is sugar, butter, and flour. Here’s a recipe from their cookbook for chewy ginger cookies. Please note, the recipe is for 300 guests, so plan on sharing if you decide to follow this recipe.

Chewy Ginger Cookies

Wet Ingredients
7 1/2 lbs of butter
15 lbs of brown sugar
20 eggs
5 tablespoons vanilla

Dry Ingredients
37 1/2 cups of flour
2 tablespoons of salt
5 tablespoons baking soda
7 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
7 1/2 teaspoons of ground cloves
2 cups and 1/2 tablespoon of ground ginger

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until well blended.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three stages, mixing until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop to get uniform size, scoop out the dough leaving a two inch gap in between. Bake for 12 minutes, or until just golden on the edges.

Bake these just until they are golden on top. Then, let sit and firm up, and they are the perfect soft ginger chewy.

Find 300 friends and eat some cookies!

Want to know how to make Star Island’s Lemon Sugar Cookies? Click here for the recipe.

Baking for 300: Lemon Sugar Cookies

August 10th, 2015


Tucked away on the back of the Oceanic Hotel, to the side of the kitchen, and with amazing sunset views, our island bakery bustles with activity throughout the day. Our team of bakers work to fill our stomachs, and also our hearts. The most pleasant smells waft from the bakery throughout the kitchen and outside over the truck trestle. At appointed times, the bakery’s counter fills with bowls of sweet rolls, baskets of chewey cookies, and trays of delicate cupcakes. And when the island is at capacity, the bakery is creating these delicious treats for about 300 people at a time.


Knowing that most people stay on the island for just a week at a time, there are 51 other weeks during the year that you must be pining for Star Island baked goods. To help meet your needs, here’s one dessert that is of particular note as it is our Food Service Manager’s favorite: Lemon Sugar Cookies.

Please note, the recipe below will make enough cookies for 300 people.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Wet Ingredients
22 1/2 cups of sugar
15 cups of butter
23 eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla
2 cups of lemon juice

Dry Ingredients
2.5 gallons of flour
1/4 cup + 1/2 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 1/2 tablespoons + 3 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of salt
Zest from 30 lemons

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees farenheit.

Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs until well blended. Add the rest of the wet ingredients and mix for a minute.

In a separate bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients until well blended. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three stages, mixing until combined.

Using an ice cream scoop to get uniform size, scoop out the dough leaving a two inch gap in between. Bake for 12 minutes, or until just golden on the edges.

Let cookies cool on the sheet for 2 minutes before transferring them to a coooling rack.

Find 300 friends and eat some cookies!

A Century of Dining at the Oceanic Hotel

August 5th, 2015

DiningHallPicture300x300by Lois Williams, All Star 1 Conferee

There’s more to Star Island’s Dining Room upgrade than effective sound-proofing measures! It’s now an elegant, summery room with crisp white curtains, pale yellow walls and bright white woodwork. New are black-framed-and-white-matted photocopies of items of Shoals memorabilia related to food and drink at the Oceanic a century ago.

Two photographs of the Oceanic Dining Hall show white tablecloths on the same tables-for-ten still in use today. In one, waitresses are in white dresses and there are centrally-hung light fixtures; in the other, waitresses are in black and the fixtures are similar to today’s lighting.

An Hours of Meals poster shows Breakfast served from 7:30 to 10:00 A.M., with early breakfast at 6:30 A.M. for “Parties Leaving on the Morning Boat”, and a breakfast menu lists 11 kinds of fish. Dinner was served from 1:00 to 2:30 P.M. An 1883 dinner menu shows a dozen dessert choices and an 1880’s dinner menu includes a wine list.

Supper was served from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M., and there is an August 11, 1936 supper menu, showing that guests were offered a different choice of entries each day. Guest room wine cards from the 1890s tell us that a bottle of wine could be delivered to a hotel room!

Purveyor invoices show sources of food served in the Oceanic Dining Hall. The Poultry and Wild Game Stall in Boston’s Faneuil Hall in Boston sold fowl, broilers, geese, roasters and squabs to the Laighton Brothers in 1895 and again in 1896. Locally, a fruit, produce and butter purveyor on Market Street in Portsmouth billed the Oceanic Hotel for potatoes, bananas and maple syrup.

In 1896 the Laighton Brothers patronized a Portsmouth establishment on Market Street describing itself as Copper Distillers of Pure Molasses Rum. Another Portsmouth firm, Importers and Manufacturers of Fine Segars, sold the Laighton Brothers 700 cigars and 2400 cigarettes, abbreviated as “Cigitt.”

Finally, there are photographs of the covers of two editions of the Appledore Cook Book and the cover of Miss Parloa’s New Cook Book with Marketing Guide. Maria Parloa’s Appledore Cook Book, published in 1873 and 1880 and subtitled “Containing practical receipts for plain and rich cooking,” was intended for “new brides and housekeepers,” but “inspired by her time spent cooking at the Appledore House hotel on the Isles of Shoals.”

This display of photographs was completed by Conference Center Director Justina Maji with help from 2014 Vaughn Cottage Curator Caitlin Selby.

Want to learn more about the history of Star Island and the Isles of Shoals? Visit Vaughn Cottage on Star Island this summer and explore the exhibits that share the story of the Shoals.

Sorting Trash, Learning About Sustainability

August 5th, 2015

Trash Sorting Competition

On a recent sunny afternoon on Star Island, a group of youth from the International Affairs Conference gathered on the lawn in front of Brookfield to look on as a group of Pelicans – our summer staff – sorted through two large garbage bags.

Out of the bags, staff pulled such things as plastic cups, apple cores and tinfoil all in the name of education. The two bags – one from a staff location, the other from a guest area – were picked to see which group is better at separating out recycling and compost from trash. With a goal of reducing the amount of waste sent off island, and to limit our impact on landfills, Star Island tries to educate the entire island community about sustainability.
Organized by Sustainability and Environmental Education Intern Lily Hahn and Sustainability Liaison to Pelicans Kevin Brown, the afternoon provided a friendly, competitive way to visualize the impact of disposing items in the correct bins.

Free ice cream stood on the line for the group with the least amount of recycling and compost in the trash. Several Pelicans looked on behind the youth as more and more items came out of the bags and were placed in labeled piles. Conference youth often shouted out which pile a non-trash item should go. In the end, the conference bag contained fewer rogue items, and the Pelicans headed to dinner. However, with about 2/3 of each bag consisting of items other than trash, there is room for improvement on both sides.

Sunset Cruises from Star Island

July 22nd, 2015


One of the newest additions to Star Island‘s fleet, the M/V Utopia, is set to make weekly sunset cruises through Labor Day Weekend. These evening excursions bring guests around the Isles of Shoals to enjoy spectacular views and a unique experience. This is the first year we are trying these excursions, and hope that our excitement for this new service is matched by the excitement of our guests.

As this is a new offering, we are working on the particulars of the cruises throughout the summer. Here’s our plan:

  • Mondays: Sunset Cruises departing Star Island at 7:30 PM and arriving back to the island at approximately 8:30 PM. The evening cruise includes complimentary beverages and dessert. Earlier departure times will be necessary starting towards the middle of August. Price: $35/person. This cruise will take a maximum of 20 guests and a minimum of 10 guests.
  • Wednesdays: Lobster Dinner Cruises departing Star Island at 6 PM and arriving back to the island at approximately 7:15 PM. This cruise includes a picnic featuring freshly caught Maine lobsters, and filling sides. Complimentary drinks and dessert are also served. Price: $60/person. This cruise will take a maximum of 8 guests.

Income from these cruises will go to support the Star Island Annual Fund and the ongoing projects to maintain Star Island’s historic buildings and grounds.

Signing Up

On Wednesdays, we’ll send an email to everyone registered for a conference or personal retreat the following week to let them know about the Monday and Wednesday tours with the link to sign up.

You can also click here for the direct link to sign up. This page will be updated with the following week’s cruises.

The Utopia


The Utopia was built at Newington, NH by Bruno and Stillman in 1974. She is 42 feet long, powered by a Caterpillar diesel engine.

She was designed by Royal Lowell, one of the best known designers of Maine lobsterboats, and is a classic example of the best of Downeast workboat design.

She has just received a full upgrade by Warren Pond Boatworks including hull refinishing and paint, remodeled cabin and roof, new wiring and pumps, new safety systems, and new electronics.

The Utopia was previously owned by a famous local fisherman, Bob Cloutier. Bob fished with the boat from Maine southward as far as the Bahamas and the Gulf of Mexico, primarily for tuna. He is said to have “paved the road to Jeffrey’s Ledge” in search of Atlantic Bluefin tuna in the boat.

The Utopia has just finished a complete Coast Guard inspection and is now certified for 30 passengers and two crew. In addition to basic required safety gear she has a depth sounder, fixed fire suppression system, two GPS units, two radar units, two marine radios and two 15 passenger liferafts. She also has EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon).

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Our Mission

Our mission since 1915 is to hold and maintain Star Island and such other property as the Corporation may hold or acquire, as a center for religious, education, and kindred purposes consistent with the principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ.

Our Vision

Our vision is to create on Star Island an environment that frees all who come to renew spiritually, explore matters of consequence, and gain knowledge about the world as it might ideally be.

Contact Star Island

Phone: (603) 430-6272
Fax: (603) 430-6270
Island Phone: (603) 601-0832
Staff Email Address List

Star Island Corporation
Morton-Benedict House
30 Middle Street
Portsmouth, NH 03801

Get directions to the office

Content © 1999–2015 Star Island Corporation. Clouds photo © Axel Rouvin.
Other photos © their respective owners.