Infinite Peninsulas, Inlets, Coves, Harbors, Islands Populate Coast
Maine’s Mid-Coast encompasses U.S. Route 1 and other communities off the beaten path. The coastline offers beauty, history, culture, and plentiful outdoor activities.
A journey along Maine’s Mid-Coast region on U.S. Route 1, which heads northeastward until eventually reaching Canada, affords the chance for some diversion to see other communities. Any trip there invariably means seeing such sights on the rockbound coastline as fishing ports, coves and inlets, protected harbors, lighthouses, and distant rugged islands.
Yet another option is to tour the Mid-Coast countryside on the 57-mile route between Brunswick and Rockland on the Maine Eastern Railroad. Trains run May through the fall, Wednesdays through Sundays. Phone: 866-637-2457. (A possible extension to Brunswick of the Amtrak’s Downeaster train, which runs between Boston and Portland, is now under consideration.)
But by car in Brunswick, the home to Bowdoin College and the Brunswick Naval Air Station, where it’s also possible to explore tree-lined neighborhoods with examples of many eras of American architecture, travelers can leave Route 1 temporarily and head south on Route 24.
Maine’s Harpswell Peninsula & Bailey Island
The destination ahead is the peninsula of Harpswell and its distinctive geographic features of which Great Island, Orr’s Island, and finally Bailey Island are part. On the way, lobster shacks, chowder houses, and restaurants serving seafood specialties abound. Each of the string of islands is joined by bridges. The last one—which links Orr’s and Bailey—is a one-of-a-kind Cribstone Bridge that is the only such remaining engineering structure left in the world.
The pavement on the bridge, currently undergoing major renovations after withstanding the elements of the Maine coast for many years, is completely gone. A temporary bridge has been built alongside it with the expectation the work will be completed in 2010. The Cribstone Bridge, which is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark, was built in the 1920s as a honeycomb of granite slabs—laid crosswise and then lengthwise—to allow the strong tidal currents to flow through it.
Cook’s Lobster House Next to Cribstone Bridge on Bailey Island
Across from the bridge is another local landmark, Cook’s Lobster House, which first opened in 1955. In 1998, the restaurant appeared in a national Visa credit card TV commercial. In the summer, Portland’s Casco Bay Cruise Lines offers tours of the surrounding bay leaving from the dock at Cook’s.
Bailey Island, which is only 2.4 miles long and scarcely a half-mile wide at its widest point, allows for views of the open ocean and rolling lawns going down to the shore. Judith Gaines, in “A world apart” in July 10, 2005, Boston Globe, wrote:
“On many maps, Bailey Island looks something like a lobster, and for much of its history the inhabitants have been lobstermen, fishermen, and boat builders drawn to the natural harbors and coves, along with a few teachers, preachers, farmers, and a scattering of odd but entertaining con men, artists, and visionaries.”
When again back on Route 1 headed north, the town of Rockland is about an hour away. It is surrounded by nearby islands and scores of visible lobster buoys bobbing on the water’s surface. Rockland is home to the Farnsworth Art Museum and a number of galleries. From there, visitors can take a ferry to the islands of Vinalhaven, North Haven, and Matinicus. Owl’s Head Light, one of three lighthouses in the area, is visible on the trip out of Rockland Harbor.
Beyond Rockland on the coast is Rockport, with a thriving arts community and a 19th-century opera house where concerts are performed. The town is home to the Center for Maine Contemporary Art and the Maine Coast Artists Gallery.
Hiking, Shopping, Sailing in Camden
Both Rockport and nearby Camden have some of the Maine windjammer fleets. The two towns offer instructional programs in sailing, kayaking, and furniture making. Rockport’s Maine Photographic Workshop has courses in film, video, photography, and digital media.
Attractions in Camden include the Mount Battie hiking trail in Camden Hills State Park, which overlooks the town and Penobscot Bay. Also in the vicinity are country roads, rolling hills, lakes, and blueberry fields. In addition, it’s possible to visit a lobster pound or see lobsters caught live on the water. For shoppers, Camden’s boutiques, galleries, clothing stores, and gift shops offer opportunities to browse downtown with slow traffic and mostly casual motorists.
Schooners & Sailboats Tour Penobscot Bay
In the summer, Camden Harbor is full of yachts around the world some from as far away as the Mediterranean as well as schooners. Schooner Olad is one of the sailboats that tours Penobscot Bay. Captain Aaron Lincoln, a Maine native, takes his passengers past the Curtis Island lighthouse outside Camden’s harbor, by other sailing vessels, Maine’s rocky coastline, and mansions.
Lincoln wrote on his July 26, 2009, blog after the death of CBS newsman Walter Cronkite that Cronkite had sailed the Olad with his family when it was in the Bahamas. “Some, who worked for him, felt that the experience had motivated him to buy his first boat.”
Just north of downtown are mansions on wooded lots. Many of the homes, once occupied by sea captains, are now operated as bed and breakfasts.
In the fall, color transforms the local countryside into displays of red, orange, and gold. Peak colors in the state usually occur in areas of higher elevation and inland, followed by coastal areas. Along with coastal Maine, peak foliage is ordinarily during the second week of October.