Finally, around Bucksport begins the real Down East coast. Here you'll find the busy commercial center of Ellsworth, but also the peninsulas and islands that give Down East much of its mystique and scenic allure. Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island is the major draw. Other high spots are the Blue Hill Peninsula and Deer Isle, Bar Harbor, the Schoodic Peninsula and, way Down East, Eastport, Lubec and the Quoddy Loop.
BLUE HILL PENINSULA / DEER ISLE
Of all the Maine peninsulas stretching out to sea, this is one of the most appealing. Less touristy than some of those to the southwest and more refined than others, the area beside East Penobscot Bay is a hilly, unspoiled landscape flanked on all sides by waters with names like Goose Cove and Eggemoggin Reach. There are sophisticated enclaves such as Castine and Blue Hill, and the rough-edged fishing village of Stonington. The area's beauty and remoteness make it a favorite of artists and craftsmen.
Poised on a promontory jutting into East Penobscot Bay, this charming seaport town was forged from a military heritage and a maritime disposition. Founded in 1613 as a French trading colony that evolved into the first European permanent settlement in New England, Castine was a major battlefield through the French and Indian wars, the American Revolution and the War of 1812. The town's only through street is named Battle Avenue. Its maritime bent is evident in the windjammers in its deep-water harbor and by the Maine Maritime Academy, as dominant a physical presence on the steep Castine hillside today as its enormous training vessel State of Maine is on the harbor when in port. Located well away from the mainstream, Castine became a summer colony for big-city "rusticators." They built well-tended Federal-style houses dressed in what appears to be the local uniform, pristine white with black shutters in town as well as shingled, Victorian-era mansions on the outlying shores. History is more noticeable here than in most such places, if only because there's a large historical marker at almost every turn.
The Wilson Museum, Perkins Street, Castine.Built in 1921 to house the extensive collections of anthropologist and geologist J. Howard Wilson, this is a highly personal place reflecting the tastes of Dr. and Mrs. Wilson and their world travels. "There's a bit of the whole world here," said the woman on duty. "The way it's laid out tells you the history of mankind back to Cyprus in 3000 B.C." Included are everything from remarkable beaded Indian moccasins and ceremonial leggins, ship models, an Indian pueblo model, firearms, stone artifacts and pottery to modern paintings by 21 artists spilling onto a rear porch above the harbor. The Wilsons' daughter, Mrs. Norman Doudiet, is the museum director and guiding force. The property also contains a working blacksmith shop, a hearse house with Castine's funeral vehicles from a century ago, and the 1763 John Perkins House, the area's oldest house, which was moved to the site and restored in 1970.(207) 326-8753. Museum open Memorial Day through September, Tuesday-Sunday 2 to 5, free. Open Sunday and Wednesday 2 to 5 during July and August are the Blacksmith Shop and Hearse House, free, and the Perkins House, $4.
>> Castine Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Castine Inn, 33 Main St., Box 41, Castine 04421.(207) 326-4365.
Pentagoet Inn, Main Street, Box 4, Castine 04421. (207) 326-8616 or (800) 845-1701.
The Manor Inn, Battle Avenue, Box 873, Castine 04421.(207) 326-4861.
>> Castine Lodging Suggestions
Castine Harbor Lodge, 147 Perkins Street, Box 215, Castine 04421. (207) 326-4335.
So small that the unknowing tourist could miss it, the tranquil treasure known as Blue Hill lies between the 940-foot-high hill from which it takes its name and an inlet of Blue Hill Bay. The village is the center of an area long known for fine handicrafts, especially pottery. Rowantrees Pottery, the institution inspired in 1934 by Adelaide Pearson through her friend Mahatma Gandhi, is still going strong in a rambling house and barn out Union Street at the edge of Blue Hill. Rackliffe Pottery at the other end of town is an offshoot of Rowantrees. Blue Hill is also known for the Kneisel Hall School of Music, founded by Dr. Franz Kneisel and called "the cradle of chamber music teaching in America." Concerts by guest artists and well-known faculty members are given summer weekends in a rustic concert hall off upper Pleasant Street.
>> Blue Hill Lodging Suggestions
Blue Hill Inn, Union Street, Box 403, Blue Hill 04614.(207) 374-2844 or (800) 826-7415.
>> Blue Hill Dining Suggestions
Arborvine, Main Street, Blue Hill. (207) 374-2441.
Jonathan's, Main Street, Blue Hill. (207) 374-5226.
Jean-Paul's Bistro, Main Street, Blue Hill. (207) 374-5852.
>> Brooksville Lodging Suggestions
Eggemoggin Reach Bed & Breakfast, 92 Winneganek Way, Off Herrick Road, Brooksville 04617. (207) 359-5073 or (888) 625-8866.
Deer Isle, the second largest island off the Maine coast, is far different from its better-known and larger neighbor across the way, Mount Desert Island. Back in the mid-18th century, Deer Isle ranked second only to Gloucester, Mass., as a fishing port. Later, it was the source of granite for New York's major bridges, Rockefeller Center and the John F. Kennedy Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery. At its height, Stonington, its biggest village, had 3,500 people, steamer service, a theater/opera house and something of a boomtown atmosphere.Today, the commercial fishing fleet remains active, and lobster traps are piled all around a village often permeated by the odor of fish. Granite is still quarried, but Stonington's population has dwindled to fewer than 1,300 hardy souls who, they say, rise with the sun and retire when darkness sets in. The appeal of Deer Isle lies in the endearing charms of tiny hamlets like Deer Isle (the name of the second biggest community, as well as of the island). Two hamlets on either side of the island are called simply Sunrise and Sunset. Scenic views appear at every turn of roads that meander hither and yon around bays and inlets. The world-famous Haystack Mountain School of Crafts at Sunshine is worth the drive for the breathtaking view from its unsurpassed setting on a steep, forested slope with stairs down to East Penobscot Bay. It has attracted many craftsmen to the area and inspired others to stay.
>> Deer Isle/Stonington Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Goose Cove Lodge, Goose Cove Road, Box 40, Sunset 04683. (207) 348-2508 or (800) 728-1963.
The Pilgrim's Inn, Deer Isle 04267. (207) 348-6615 or (888) 778-7505.
>> Deer Isle/Stonington Lodging Suggestions
Inn on the Harbor, Main Street, Box 69, Stonington 04681. (207) 367-2420 or (800) 942-2420.
>> Deer Isle/Stonington Dining Suggestions
Bayview Restaurant, Sea Breeze Avenue, Stonington. (207) 367-2274.
The Cafe Atlantic, Main Street, Stonington.(207) 367-6373.
Sisters, Route 15, Little Deer Isle. (207) 348-6115.
>> Ellsworth Dining Suggestions
Union River Lobster Pot, 8 South St., Ellsworth.(207) 667-5077.
MOUNT DESERT ISLAND
Maine's largest island is also its biggest draw. Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi, is the second-most visited after the Great Smokies. When Samuel de Champlain encountered the island in 1604, he named it L'Isle des Monts Deserts for its barren mountains (for years it was part of the French province of Acadia, which gives the park its name). The fifteen rounded peaks of the Mount Desert Mountains are mostly bare and rocky at their summits, with evergreen forests below. The 1,530-foot-high Cadillac Mountain is the tallest along the East Coast. At sea level, noble cliffs rise above the thundering surf and, in Somes Sound, form the East's only natural fjord. There are fresh-water lakes, sandy beaches, and wetlands and forests full of wildlife.The national park encompasses some of the most scenic and rugged portions of the island. That is not to denigrate the rest. Bar Harbor is the urban epicenter, but Seal Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor, Manset, Bernard and Somesville all have their charms.The boating possibilities are endless, ranging from canoeing and kayaking to a sunset dinner cruise to the Cranberry Islands. Sightseeing boat tours and deep-sea fishing expeditions leave from Bar Harbor, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor. Lobster fishing and whale-watch expeditions are popular. Nature cruises conducted by park naturalists are some of the best.
Acadia National Park. The park covers more than 50 square miles of the island. Other sections are to the northeast on Schoodic Peninsula and offshore on Isle au Haut and other islands. Situated where northern and temperate zones overlap, the park has an amazing variety of flora and fauna including plants of the Arctic.The twenty-mile-long Park Loop Road, with a detour up Cadillac Mountain, covers the park's major points of interest. Among the highlights:Sieur de Monts Spring, named after the first French governor here, is covered by a small octagonal structure but still bubbles water from a fountain. The Robert Abbe Museum of Stone Age Antiquities details some of the area's history, especially of the native Indians. The Wild Gardens of Acadia has more than 300 plants indigenous to the area's forests, mountains and shores labeled and grouped in thirteen sections, from deciduous weeds to dry heath and bog. Beyond Sand Beach is Thunder Hole, where the waves rush into a small cave and roar out with a thunderous sound, when tides and surf coincide. The 100-foot-high Otter Cliffs are the highest headlands on the East Coast. Near Seal Harbor, the Park Loop Road turns inland toward Jordan Pond. The road passes deep-blue Eagle Lake and detours up Cadillac Mountain.Elsewhere in the park, Sargent Drive, which borders Somes Sound, yields great views between Northeast Harbor and Somesville. Farther down the peninsula past Southwest Harbor is a remote section of the park containing the Ship Harbor Nature Trail and the picturesque Bass Harbor Light.The park's Carriage Paths, 50 miles of winding gravel trails built in the 1920s by summer resident John D. Rockefeller Jr., are a bonanza for hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Bar Harbor enjoys a choice location halfway down the island along Frenchman Bay. It has been a resort town since the late 19th century when thousands of city "rusticators" came for the summer, eschewing what they considered the pretentions of Newport, Lenox and Saratoga. In the 1880s, Bar Harbor's eighteen hotels could accommodate more than 25,000 guests, and the elite began building fashionable cottages that were the largest in Maine. The big hotels are long gone, but the village has the island's largest concentration of motels, B&Bs, restaurants and shops. The sand bar that gave Bar Harbor its name is accessible for two hours on either side of low tide. The bar, which surfaces at the foot of Bridge Street, gives access to Bar Island, where there are trails and shoreline to explore and swimmers find the clear water considerably warmer than at Sand Beach. If the tide's in, settle for a walk along the quarter-mile-long Shore Path from the Town Pier to Hancock Street, passing shorefront mansions from the Golden Age.
>> Bar Harbor Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Bar Harbor Inn, Newport Drive, Bar Harbor 04609.(207) 288-3351 or (800) 248-3351.
>> Bar Harbor Lodging Suggestions
Chiltern Inn, 3 Cromwell Harbor Road, Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-0114 or (800) 404-0114.
Balance Rock Inn, 21 Albert Meadow, Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-2610 or (800) 753-0494.
The Inn at Bay Ledge, 1385 Sand Point Road, Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-4204 in summer, (207) 875-3262 in winter.
Ullikana Bed & Breakfast, 16 The Field, Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-9552.
Bar Harbor Tides B&B, 119 West St., Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-4968.
Sunset on West, 115 West St., Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-4242 or (877) 406-4242.
Manor House Inn, 106 West St., Bar Harbor 04609.(207) 288-3759 or (800) 437-0088.
Atlantic Oakes By-the-Sea, Route 3, Bar Harbor 04609. (207) 288-5801 or (800) 336-2463.
Park Entrance Oceanfront Motel, Route 3, Bar Harbor. (207) 288-9703 or (800) 288-9703.
>> Bar Harbor Dining Suggestions
George's, 7 Stevens Lane, Bar Harbor. (207) 288-4505.
Thrumcap Café & Wine Bar, 123 Cottage St., Bar Harbor. (207) 288-3884.
Mache Bistro, 135 Cottage St., Bar Harbor. (207) 288-0447.
Havana, 318 Main St., Bar Harbor. (207) 288-2822.
Cafe This Way, 14½ Mount Desert St., Bar Harbor.(207) 288-4483.
124 Cottage Street, 124 Cottage St., Bar Harbor.(207) 288-4383.
Jordan Pond House, Park Loop Road, Acadia National Park. (207) 276-3316.
>> Otter Creek Dining Suggestions
The Burning Tree, Route 3, Otter Creek. (207) 288-9331.
Northeast Harbor is the yachting harbor. It's surrounded by the island's ritziest summer colony, as indicated by the tony shops along the village's Main Street.
Asticou Terrace and Thuya Gardens, Route 3, Northeast Harbor.It's a ten-minute hike up a steep but well-maintained switchback trail to the gardens surrounding Thuya Lodge, former home of landscape artist Joseph Henry Curtis. You also can drive, but the hardy hiker feels better rewarded with a spectacular hilltop spread of annuals, plus hardy laurel and rhododendron that you don't expect to see so far north. Other attractions are a gazebo, a free-form freshwater pond, a shelter with pillowed seats and deck chairs in the shade just as you'd find in the gardens of a private estate, which this once was. A plaque relates that Curtis left this "for the quiet recreation of the people of this town and their summer guests."(207) 276-3344. Open July and August, daily 7 to 7. Free.
Asticou Azalea Gardens, Junction of Routes 3 and 198, Northeast Harbor. You can walk amid azaleas in early summer here. Twenty species were moved from the former Rief Point gardens of Beatrix Farrand in Bar Harbor, while new varieties are added each year in this showplace funded by John D. Rockefeller Jr. Around a free-form pond are azaleas and rhododendrons at their remarkable best in June, a Sand Garden with an arrangement of sand and stones as in Kyoto, Japanese-style evergreens and bonsai. There are gravel paths raked into lovely patterns to walk and stone benches for contemplation in this, one of the most perfect gardens anywhere.Open April-October, daily 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Free.
>> Northeast Harbor Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Asticou Inn, Route 3, Northeast Harbor 04662. (207) 276-3344 or (800) 258-3373.
Southwest Harbor is located along Somes Sound, barely two miles but a world apart from Northeast Harbor. Boosters call this the quiet side the "right side" of the island, and celebrate that identity in a three-day Quietside Festival in late June. This is a working harbor, where fishing and boat-building are year-round occupations.The Wendell Gilley Museum of Bird Carving features wildlife exhibits and carving demonstrations.
Mount Desert Oceanarium, Clark Point Road, Southwest Harbor.Everything you want to know about lobsters and other sea life is available at this establishment, now at two locations on the island. The original Oceanarium here along the working waterfront offers a marine aquarium with a touch tank and a fisherman's museum. The owners are particularly involved in enhancing Maine's lobster industry. Lately, they've established the more visible Lobster Hatchery and Maine Lobster Museum, off Route 3 at the entrance to Mount Desert Island, where visitors can board a lobster boat, see harbor seals in a 50,000-gallon tank, explore the lobster museum and study the ecosystem along the Thomas Bay Marsh Walk.(207) 244-7330. Both facilities open Memorial Day to Labor Day, Monday-Saturday 9 to 5. Combination ticket, adults $10.65, children $7.85. Individual ticket prices vary.
>> Southwest Harbor Lodging Suggestions
Lindenwood Inn, 118 Clark Point Road, Box 1328, Southwest Harbor 04679. (207) 244-5335 or (800) 307-5335.
The Kingsleigh Inn, 373 Main St., Box 1426, Southwest Harbor 04679. (207) 244-5302.
>> Southwest Harbor Dining Suggestions
Fiddlers' Green, 411 Main St., Southwest Harbor.(207) 244-9416.
Seaweed Café, 146 Seawall Road, Manset. (207) 244-5072.
>> Bernard Dining Suggestions
Thurston's Lobster Pound, Steamboat Wharf Road, Bernard. (207) 244-7600 or (800) 235-3320. Open daily, 11 to 8:30. Closed October to Memorial Day.
>> Hancock Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Le Domaine, U.S. Route 1, Hancock 04640. (207) 422-3395 or (800) 544-8498.
It's a long way around, but this part of Acadia National Park is not to be missed. As far as civilization goes, most of this area is a world apart from Bar Harbor. Drive around fashionable Winter Harbor to see how the other half lives before heading down the six-mile, one-way loop around Schoodic Point, where the crashing surf is awesome. One could spend hours here watching gulls, climbing rocks, admiring passing lobster boats and viewing Mount Desert Island across the way. The park offers plenty of space for picnics and privacy.
>> Schoodic Peninsula Lodging Suggestions
The Black Duck on Corea Harbor, Crowley Island Road, Box 39, Corea 04624.(207) 963-2689.
>> Schoodic Peninsula Dining Suggestions
Ocean Wood Gallery & Restaurant, Birch Harbor. (207) 963-2653.
>> Machias Lodging and Dining Suggestions
Riverside Inn & Restaurant, U.S. Route 1, Box 373, East Machias 04630.(207) 255-4134.
Micmac Farm, Route 92, Machiasport 04655. (207) 255-3008.
THE QUODDY LOOP
The two-nation wonderland where easternmost Maine meets southwestern New Brunswick is remote and picturesque. Naturalists call it the last coastal frontier on America's East Coast. The craggy and forested coast, offshore islands and wispy fog envelop the Bay of Fundy shoreline into a sheltered time warp. Birds start twittering with the summer sunrise at 4 in the morning. The 26-foot tides are the world's highest. Sardine factories and aquaculture are the principal livelihoods of Eastport and Lubec, situated across from each other on Passamaquoddy Bay.Across the short Roosevelt International Bridge from Lubec Narrows lies Franklin Delano Roosevelt's beloved island of Campobello, where the Roosevelt Cottage is a must-visit. The Quoddy Loop also includes Deer Island and, at the head of Passamaquoddy Bay, the sophisticated resort town of St. Andrews, at the southwestern tip of New Brunwick. The Quoddy Loop involves two ferry rides and about 70 meandering miles of leisurely driving, but makes a memorable excursion for anyone in the area.
The one-time sardine capital of the world is down to a single remaining sardine packing plant. Other canneries now process and pack salmon harvested from pens in Passamaquoddy Bay. The village of 1,900 is trying to shed its down-at-the-heels look, and the spectacular surrounding scenery compensates, as does its proximity to Campobello Island.Curiously, the easternmost point of land in the United States is at West Quoddy Head in South Lubec. The West Quoddy Light, an 1809 landmark with red and white candy stripes, stands atop a jagged cliff pounded by the open ocean. The 483-acre Quoddy Head State Park offers trails to the lighthouse, an island and a bog. A raised boardwalk goes through the coastal plateau peat bog, which has been declared a National Natural Landmark. Its dense moss and heath vegetation typical of the Arctic tundra are unusual. The Downeast Interpretive Center has been relocated from Lubec to the newly renovated West Quoddy Light Keepers Visitor Center.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Campobello Island, N.B.Just across the Lubec Narrows from Lubec is this 2,800-acre park a unique example of international cooperation. Nearly sixteen miles of scenic drives and nine miles of walking trails allow visitors to see coves, duck ponds, bogs and fog forests that typify the area. From 1883 when he was a newborn until 1921 when he was stricken by polio here, Franklin D. Roosevelt spent most of his summers on Campobello. Movies in the park reception center provide a touching introduction both to the Roosevelts' tenure here and to the island.
The Roosevelt Cottage, a 34-room red house high above Passamaquoddy Bay, still looks lived in, almost as if the Roosevelts had simply left for a quick boat ride to Eastport to pick up groceries. You can walk right into some of the rooms, which are human-size rather than grand. Unobtrusive hostesses answer questions or leave you on your own. Most of the furnishings were used by the family. You'll see the megaphone that hailed latecomers to meals, a collection of canes, the large chair used to carry the handicapped President, the family telescope, and eighteen simple but inviting bedrooms. Outside are lovely gardens and paths to the shore. Next door is the Hubbard Cottage, the last Victorian summer residence in the park, now used as a conference center. Its rather luxurious main floor is open for tours except when conferences are in session. (506) 752-2922. Cottages open daily 10 to 6 (Atlantic Time), Memorial Day to mid-October. Park open year-round. Free.
>> Lubec Lodging and Dining Suggestions
The Home Port Inn, 45 Main St., Box 50, Lubec 04652. (207) 733-2077 or (800) 457-2077.
>> Lubec Lodging Suggestions
Peacock House, 27 Summer St., Lubec 04652.(207) 733-2403 or (888) 305-0036.
Betsy Ross House B&B, 61 Water St., Lubec 04652.(207) 733-8942. Six rooms with private baths. Doubles, $95.
Eastport seems bigger than its population of 1,928 suggests, which may be fitting for a place that considers itself America's smallest city. On an island at the foot of a long peninsula and maddeningly difficult to reach by car, the once isolated fishing village is evolving into something of a tourist destination. The picturesque waterfront is the scene of seaport and acquaculture development. More than 100 plant species and nearly 30 bird species have been observed at Shackford Head, a new park with three miles of craggy shoreline jutting into Cobscook Bay.
>> Eastport Lodging Suggestions
Weston House, 26 Boynton St., Eastport. (207) 853-2907 or (800) 853-2907.
Kilby House Inn, 122 Water St., Eastport 04631.(207) 853-0989 or (800) 435-4529.
>> Eastport Dining Suggestions
Schooner Dining Room, 47 Water St., Eastport. (207) 853-4046. Entrées, $6.95 to $12.95.