Off the Main Path in Maine
In the second instalment of his Road Trips series, Maine-state native Mattie Bamman gives an insider’s scoop on planning a Maine road trip — lobster recommendations included.
If you unravel all the inlets and islands, Maine’s coast is 5,597 kilometres long, making it just a bit longer than the California coast. With boulder beaches, thunder holes and huge blocks of quartz-laced rock that are just perfect for climbing, Maine offers numerous adventures and, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from taking many road trips with my family, it’s that you cannot see the coast in one day, one week or even one month.
Route 1 runs the length of Maine, featuring plenty of fresh produce stands, lobster feeds, rustic hotels and docks worn gray by winter wind. One of the first things to do on a Maine road trip is relax; the driving will be slow-going due to summertime congestion, and there’s so much to see that there’s really no excuse for going fast. If you want to cover some distance, head over to Interstate 95.
Maine’s most famous seaside towns and cities, including Kittery, Old Orchard Beach, Portland, Bath, Camden and Belfast, are located in southern and midcoast Maine. Bar Harbor, with its legendary Acadia National Park, is found in northern Maine.
Very few travellers visit the portion of the Maine coast that runs north from Bar Harbor to the border of New Brunswick. Known as Downeast, this is the area I’m from, and it’s comprised of small towns, harbours filled with lobster boats and undeveloped coast. It makes for a quiet road trip, ideal for those who like to travel off the beaten path. Plus, if you prefer your travels outside of peak road trip season, the fall foliage in Downeast is fantastic.
To help you plan your road trip along the coast of Maine, I’ve included a short list of my favourite beaches, islands and restaurants. They begin in Downeast and continue down through midcoast and southern Maine.
Jonesport: To visit this quiet fishing village is to step back in time.
Schoodic Point (near Winter Harbor): Schoodic Point isn’t located on Mt. Desert Island, but it’s part of Acadia National Park. Just an hour from Bar Harbor, it has hiking trails and a scenic loop road. At the point itself, visitors can walk on shelves of rocks, and the waves absolutely explode in stormy weather.
Down East Lobster Company, Trenton: This seafood shack offers real Maine prices along with a funky atmosphere—all on the road to Bar Harbor. Stop in to pick up fresh seafood or take a seat at the picnic tables and have them cook it up for you.
Belfast Art Galleries: Galleries abound in Belfast, making it one of my favourite gallery-hopping locales.
Shopping in Camden: Local artisans have filled Camden’s storefronts with Maine-made products, from wool sweaters to chocolates. Boat companies, such as Schooner Surprise, also offer tours around the harbour and nearby coast.
Peaks Island, Portland: Local ferries regularly leave Portland for Peaks Island, and the ride takes just 20 minutes. Rent bicycles upon arrival and tour the quiet coves, then stop into one of the local bars or restaurants for a drink and local grub.