Welcome to Pine Island Camp

Distinguished by its program, small enrollment, and unique freshwater island location, Pine Island Camp has offered fun, traditional camp activities since 1902 in a rustic setting that develops a boy’s independence, imagination and character.

Today, with hundreds of summer programs available, a summer at Pine Island remains very much as it was a century ago and intentionally different from most camp experiences. A season at Pine Island is designed to help boys ages nine to fifteen develop self-confidence: campers have the independence to make substantial choices, the support of a community built on shared values, and enough time away to feel both truly on their own and an integral part of the community they’ve helped create.

Whether your son is shy or gregarious, big or small, this camp will challenge him to be at his best in the varied circumstances of simple outdoor living, albeit under the close supervision of our caring staff. Generations of Pine Islanders have found their summers at camp to be among the most meaningful of their lives.

The more you learn about this magical place, the less surprising you will find the fact that it all happens on a tiny wooded island in a pristine, quiet lake in central Maine.

Welcome to Pine Island Camp.


Our Mission

Independence coupled with a concern for others, honesty, generosity, good humor, and the ability to find joy in life — these are the qualities we want for our campers. Our purpose is to give boys an adventurous, happy, and safe summer experience where they can find these all-important qualities within themselves. To this end, Pine Island Camp keeps its enrollment small, its program challenging and imaginative, and its life simple, unplugged, and close to nature.

“There are no adequate words to thank you for providing our son with this summer. His step has never been lighter and more sure-footed. He’s never been more present and centered. Never happier.”


A Full Season Experience

Pine Island has just one session, running from the last week of June through the first week of August. All the campers arrive together, help build a unique and successful community together, and depart (reluctantly!) together. The great gift you give your son by allowing him to be away from home for six weeks is the opportunity to become an essential part of the community we create each summer at camp. Participation by every boy at Pine Island Camp is needed, and every boy gains the tremendous satisfaction of having helped build something unique and wonderful. We understand completely how hard it is to let your boy go. We also know from decades of experience that if you do, both you and he will be richly rewarded in ways that will last a lifetime.

Dates & Tuition

Dates: June 28 – August 11, 2024
Traditional Camp Tuition: $10,750
Expedition Camp Tuition: $11,500
Tuition for both programs increases by $250 after Nov. 30

Pine Island Camp offers partial and full scholarships to families who are not able to pay the full tuition. Scholarship funds are limited, so if you are interested in this option we encourage you to contact Sumner Ford as soon as possible.


Every new family has questions. Here are a few we frequently hear. Please contact us with your questions.

Why is PIC six weeks long; why isn't there a shorter session?

We get this question a lot. The simple answer is: it takes six weeks to build a successful community. It can’t be rushed. Our summers start with small successes: hiking a mountain, making a shelter, learning to row. They’re strengthened with good humor, music, and creative storytelling. In time, a group of boys who are learning and growing as individuals begin working together as a community. Each boy discovers that his participation is necessary and that what he has to offer is valuable. This is the greatest gift we offer our campers. And it just takes six weeks for everyone to get there.

What is the application process?

We’re glad that you’re considering Pine Island Camp for your son! The first step is to fill out the application. We will be in touch within a day or two to schedule a 1:1 meeting with Director Sumner Ford. Sumner meets with all new families to ensure each boy’s readiness for camp, and to answer your questions. If your son is ready for Pine Island, his application will be accepted.

I love your camp, but my son has hesitations. Any suggestions?

Committing to a summer away is difficult. There are countless reasons why a boy may be nervous to make the leap of faith to attend Pine Island. Most nine- to fiftteen-year-old boys are not ready to make this decision. The benefits of independence, making new friends, and entertaining oneself without screens are difficult to grasp for potential campers. If you are interested in your son attending Pine Island, we recommend following these steps:

  1. Attend a Zoom or in-person gathering with returning families and Director Sumner Ford. These are terrific opportunities to build excitement about camp.
  2. Ask us to connect you with a returning family. Our camp families are happy to meet with new families to help form friendships before camp begins.
  3. Regardless of your son’s hesitation, it’s well worth meeting 1:1 with Sumner. He can help bring the joy of being a camper at Pine Island to life, and address your son’s specific reservations.

I love your camp, but can’t convince my spouse/partner to let our son go. Any suggestions?

The book Homesick and Happy by Michael Thompson is an excellent read. It can help parents to see the time away at camp as a gift rather than a burden. Many parents feel they’re doing their best for their children by keeping them close. Childhood is short, and they don’t want to miss any of it. We understand. But boys who spend their summers at Pine Island learn and grow in ways that they can’t with their parents. They learn to advocate for themselves and take care of themselves. They make friends from around the world, are introduced to positive role models, and become a part of a community that accepts and welcomes them as they are. Pine Islanders return home more confident, resilient, and filled with stories and experiences that are all their own. Parents repeatedly tell us that the six weeks of separation brings them closer as a family. After sharing letters throughout the summer, they reunite at the end of each season, refreshed and renewed, with new stories to share.

Your camp looks perfect for my son, but part of the season conflicts with his sports commitments. Can he come for a shorter session?

At Pine Island, the campers all arrive together, build a successful community together, and depart (reluctantly!) together. It’s a big part of what makes the experience so valuable. However, while PIC is far from a sports camp many campers have excelled in sports at the highest levels in recent years. Pine Islanders swim, row, and sail for Maine Maritime Academy, American University, Hamilton, and Bates. They play hockey, lacrosse, basketball, and soccer for Bowdoin, Notre Dame, Duke, Colgate, and Cornell. They downhill and Nordic ski at Montana and Maine Nationals. They compete in the U.S. Biathlon Nationals. Even in this era of hyper-specialization, Pine Island alumni are proving that time spent at camp need not disqualify anyone from success in the world of sports. The cross-training campers get on the trails and waterways throughout New England helps protect them from the injuries that their counterparts who train year-round often endure. We understand the pressure to specialize in a sport beginning at a young age, but we’ve also seen that families who make time for PIC are richly rewarded.

Can we be connected with current camp families before we sign our son up for camp?

Yes! Prospective camp families are encouraged to attend our Pine Island gatherings in the fall and winter. These are a great way to meet campers and parents in your area. If there are no gatherings in your area, Pine Island also hosts virtual sessions throughout the year so that families can meet counselors, staff, campers, and parents no matter where they live. We also connect each new family with an experienced camp family prior to the start of the camp season.

How many campers do you accept each year, and where do they come from?

Pine Island accepts 85 to 90 campers, ranging in age from nine to fifteen. A special effort is made to select boys from a variety of communities and schools. A typical summer includes boys from at least fifteen states and five countries. Most of our campers return each summer until they age out of camp, but every year there’s room for at least fifteen or twenty brand new Pine Islanders.

How is healthcare managed at Pine Island? Where is the nearest hospital?

There is a medic (a 3rd- or 4th-year nursing student) on staff who is certified in emergency medicine. Furthermore, many other staff members are certified in Advanced Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder. The nearest hospital is in Waterville, a 15-minute drive from Pine Island, and the town of Belgrade’s very capable emergency services are just a few minutes away if needed.

How is healthcare managed on trips?

Every trip into the backcountry is sent out with a satellite phone to communicate with camp and emergency medical services if needed. Trip leaders are certified in either Advanced Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder and are well prepared to assess and stabilize injuries on the trail. Every trip has an evacuation plan and clear emergency protocols.

Are there ticks on the island? How are boys protected against ticks and mosquitoes?

Fortunately, there are no ticks on Pine Island, and a gentle breeze ensures very few mosquitoes. However, there are ticks and mosquitoes in the woods throughout New England. On trips and during mainland activities, we ensure that all campers use bug spray, on skin and especially on clothing. We use effective and safe DEET-free bug repellents. We have regular tick check protocols for boys doing mainland activities, at Whitehead Island, and out on other trips, and we also perform periodic camp-wide tick checks. It’s part of life in New England – wear bug spray and check for ticks.

If we find a tick attached to your son we: 1) remove it; 2) record the date and the area on the body that it was attached; 3) begin monitoring for symptoms of Lyme disease – this continues throughout the summer; and 4) call you. If it appears that the tick has been embedded for some time, we will take your son in immediately for medical attention.

How do I communicate with my son during the summer?

Hand-written letters! Each camper’s “ticket” to dinner on Sundays and Wednesdays is a letter home. A mail boat comes to the island six days a week to pick up and drop off mail. For many of your boys, this will be their first experience writing letters. Our counselors will help boys who need assistance writing letters, but it’s helpful to start talking about this at home before camp.

While some boys enjoy writing long, descriptive letters, many parents have received one-liners, often along the lines of: “Please send cookies. Thanks.” If you’ve received a letter like this, or you know your son can be less than forthcoming with his thoughts, please talk with him before camp about the things you’ll hope he’ll write home about. It may be helpful to send him to camp with a list of ideas written down in a notebook you send with him to camp, or taped onto the inside of the lid of his trunk. (For example: What activities have you been enjoying? What ranks are you working on? Have you gone on any trips lately? What have you been doing during rest hour? Are you having any problems? If so, have you mentioned them to your counselor or Sumner? What solutions are you working on? What has been your favorite meal so far? And so on.)

Remind your son that letters don’t have to be long and eloquent. They can be in the form of a (hand-written) text, or a cartoon, or a simple drawing with a caption – anything that conveys a bit about what he’s been doing and/or how he’s been feeling.

Finally, pre-addressing envelopes with your home address and the addresses of friends and loved ones is helpful. You can also draw a template of an envelope in the front of your son’s notepad – anything to remove potential roadblocks to writing a letter. And once camp begins, you can help your son by modeling the type of letters you hope to receive. Letters to and from camp are treasures!

How is homesickness managed?

Because of Pine Island’s small size, staff notice immediately if a boy is homesick and takes steps right away to help him through it. If a boy is very homesick or is homesick for more than a couple of days, Director Sumner Ford will discuss strategies with his parents on the phone.

How will I know if my son is doing okay?

In addition to the hand-written letters that you will receive from your son, you can also call the camp office and request an update.. While your son is away at camp, no news is good news. Our staff will call you if your son is sick, or injured, or is simply not thriving at camp. All parents also receive an email each week that includes a general update from camp, as well as a few photos to provide a glimpse into life at PIC. The photo collection is kept intentionally low-key, so as not to interfere with the flow of camp.

Where do you find your summer staff? How are they vetted?

The majority of our summer staff members were campers at Pine Island. Almost all the rest are referred to us by current and recent staff members. Director Sumner Ford visits colleges that have produced top-notch counselors for Pine Island, where he meets and interviews prospective summer staff. All staff undergo state and federal background checks, and we speak with all references, regardless of how well we know each person we hire.

How are staff members trained?

All staff participate in our training program before the campers arrive on the island. Staff training covers health and safety, trip leading, teaching activities, working with children, and more. Most of our staff receive a Maine trip leader certification at the end of this training and many earn Advanced Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder certification in courses offered at Pine Island Camp or elsewhere. Waterfront staff receive WSI and Lifeguard certification before arriving at camp for our own intensive in-camp training.

Who decides campers' daily schedules?

The campers do! Each morning, every boy signs up for two activities. Some boys try a variety of activities throughout the summer, while others decide to hone their skills in one or two. (link to daily schedule on website) In addition to activities, campers enjoy several hours of free time each day. They can swim, play dustball and basketball, enjoy a book, or take out a boat. Pine Island also sends out one or two camping trips every day. Pine Island offers trips for all ages and ability levels. Each boy chooses his own trips with guidance from the staff.

What type of food is served at camp?

Pine Islanders rave about the food our kitchen turns out! We use fresh ingredients as much as possible, with food service deliveries three times a week and produce deliveries twice a week from a local farmer. The selection of locally sourced meat and other products offered by our suppliers is growing every year and we continue to add what we can. Meals are served family-style at Pine Island, and fresh fruit, vegetables, or salad are part of every meal. Between meals, healthy snacks like fruit and trail mix are available in the dining hall.

Is there electricity on Pine Island?

Campers live on Pine Island without electricity. They pump water from the well to fill their water bottles and to brush their teeth. They use flashlights and lanterns at night. There is electricity in the kitchen, which operates the refrigerators, stoves, and dishwashing machine, and provides running water for the kitchen crew.

Does PIC have any unique traditions?

Traditions create connections between generations of campers. Alums can share conversations with current campers about countless traditions that make Pine Island unique: the King’s Game, the Welders and Far Leaguers, Saturday Night Shows, and tales of Action and Adventure spun at Campfire, to name just a few.

What is your camper/staff ratio, and how many campers return to PIC each summer?

Our overall camper/counselor ratio is nearly 2:1. The camper/counselor ratio in each tent is 4:1. Our retention rate is 90%.



Pine Island Camp was founded in 1902 by Clarence Colby on Pine Island, a beautiful small island in Great Pond, the largest of the Belgrade Lakes in central Maine. Colby’s original ideas and ideals are very much present at Pine Island today and the philosophy he established is as important and relevant to young people today as it was over 100 years ago. Independence coupled with a concern for others, cooperation, an intelligent sense of humor, honesty, and respect for the natural world and how to experience it safely are all things we strive to teach boys each summer.

Dr. Eugene L. Swan bought Pine Island Camp in 1908. An exponent of a vigorous outdoor life and a pioneer in the camping movement, Dr. Swan laid down the outlines of our adventurous tripping program and many of the unique traditions that define Pine Island. His son, Eugene L. Swan, Jr., took the helm in 1947 and was actively involved with the camp until his death in 2000. Jun, as Pine Islanders knew him, opened the Whitehead Island outpost and brought a master teacher’s warmth, humor, and imagination to the camp. Montague G. Ball, Jr., a career educator, led the camp through the 1970s and 1980s and was renowned for his humor and masterful storytelling.


Jun’s son, Ben, a camper, counselor, and assistant director and also an experienced teacher, became director in 1990, along with his wife Emily as business manager. Together they saw the camp into its second century, now as a not-for-profit organization, and have worked with the board of directors to create a smooth transition to the next generation of Pine Island leaders. With Sumner Ford, Pine Islander since the age of nine, as director, and veteran staffer Sarah Hunter as communications director, Pine Island’s long tradition of strong leadership continues.

“Your letters about our child are inevitably thorough, caring, and on point. You have a way of addressing even issues that were an ‘issue’ in such a way that a parent feels cared for and heard.”


This is our business mailing address for all months of the year:

Pine Island Camp
P.O. Box 242
Brunswick, ME 04011
(207) 465-3031

Sumner Ford, Director
Sarah Hunter, Director of Operations
Ben Swan, Executive Director
Emily Swan, Business Manager


By Phone: (207) 465-3031
This phone rings in our office on the Mainland. It is staffed every day during the morning hours, and messages are checked and calls returned frequently throughout the rest of the day.

By US Postal Service Mail
Pine Island Camp
HC0 Box 200
Belgrade Lakes, ME 04918

By UPS, FedEx, and Other Courier Services
Pine Island Camp
234 Pine Island Road
Belgrade, ME 04917