Outdoor Activities Enjoying Maine’s Natural Beauty
For nature lovers, downeast Maine offers eco-tours, wildlife cruises, bird watching, and fascinating natural phenomena.
A great treasure of Down East is the area’s unspoiled natural beauty. Here are six outdoor activities for those who enjoy nature.
Tours of Lubec & Cobscook
The waters and tides of downeast Maine define life here, not only for humans but also for plants and animals. Tours of Lubec and Cobscook leads a walk that explores plant and animal life in the intertidal zone, between the low tide mark and the high tide level, a wide area that changes with the tide, every minute of every day. Exploring the constantly changing shore around Lubec also gives an appreciation of the effect the tides have on all of life downeast.
It’s a true nature walk; participants will both learn and enjoy. Boots and extra clothing are advisable. Call ahead. (1-888-347-9802)
Whale Watching or Puffin Cruises
The Bay of Fundy and the Gulf of Maine are fertile feeding grounds for whales raising their young during the summer months. Whale watching cruises leave from a number of towns, and explorers will also see dolphins, seals, bald eagles and seabirds. The Sylvina Beal out of Eastport is an interesting sail on a wooden schooner, offering whale watching cruises every afternoon.
Another wildlife cruise is a trip to Machias Seal Island, where Maine’s largest colony of puffins raise their young in the summer. Cruises with The Bold Coast Charter Company leave from the picturesque lobster village of Cutler and deliver not only an exceptional birding experience but scenic views of Maine’s Bold Coast.
Both of these cruises take explorers out onto the waters of downeast Maine and into the world of the sea, offering another view of Maine’s coastline and the waters that create it.
Birding at Cobscook Bay State Park
Cobscook Bay State Park is serene and beautiful, its peninsula almost surrounded by the salt waters of the bay that advance and retreat, creating new landscapes every hour. Two short trails are excellent places for bird watching, and over 200 species have been identified in the park. There’s not even a need to walk the trails; birders can simply sit in the day use area and watch the birds and the tides.
Midway between Whiting and Dennysville, a sign on Route 1 marks the road to the park. At the park entrance a small fee is required, but visitors can also ask for a free birding list.
The Reversing Falls in Pembroke
Cobscook is an Indian word meaning “boiling tides”. The power of Maine’s tides is dramatically evident at Mahar Point in Pembroke. Here, at the end of Leighton Neck, is a park with picnic grounds and front-row seats for the spectacle known as the Reversing Falls.
The rising tide from Cobscook Bay rushes over rocks and through a narrow gap between the point and an island, creating a rapids of extreme tidal currents. The roar of rushing waters is constant. Both Whiting and Dennys Bays fill and the tide slowly turns; for only a few minutes, the currents are quiet and peaceful. Then the noise of the waterfall begins again as the waters rush in the opposite direction, out of the bays.
Seals are often spotted here in the rapids, and the park is an idyllic setting for picnics, walking, and birding. Experiencing the phenomenon of the reversing falls is best if visitors arrive at least two hours before high or low tide. Those times change every day, but tide charts help in planning this visit. (Use the chart for Eastport.)
Treasure Hunting for Rockhounds at Jasper Beach
This beautiful crescent beach is hidden from the highway by a bank of gravel and rocks, and after climbing to the top of the bank, rockhounds realize they have found a treasure. The beach is covered with all sizes and shapes of colorful pebbles. The rocks here are not truly jasper but a rare volcanic rock, polished by the constant tides. The unusual rocks and the seclusion of the beach make this a serene hideaway.
Cautions: Because the beach is covered with pebbles and rocks, there is almost no level place to set a beach chair. Parking is limited. The beach is easy to miss. Only a small sign on Route 92 between Bucks Harbor and Starboard marks the road to the beach.
Washington County’s Blueberry Barrens
Washington County has thousands of acres of wild blueberries and the little town of Cherryfield bills itself as the Blueberry Capital of the World. In early summer, the fields are dotted with beehives used to pollinate the plants. By August, fields are blue with the wild sweet fruit and migrant workers rake those thousands of acres by hand. In September and October, the low plants turn a blazing red. Only a few short miles from the downeast shore and seascapes, the barrens are a different world.
An essential when traveling downeast is DeLorme’s Maine Atlas and Gazetteer. Armed with these detailed maps, visitors can wander the gravel roads of the barrens. A good starting point is Station Road off of Route 1 in Jonesboro.
These excursions will serve only as appetizers to nature lovers. Downeast Maine is rich in unspoiled natural beauty.