Maine Coast | Reader's Digest

Maine Coast

Although Rte. 1 offers its share of eye-catching delights, the twists and turns that characterize the coast in this corner of America are best seen from secondary roads that meander down long peninsulas and across out-of-the-way islands.

  from Reader's Digest | July 2007

4. Popham Beach State Park
The Kennebec River empties into the sea here, some 150 miles from the source of its headwaters at Moosehead Lake. Sandbars, salt marshes, and a sandy beach are intermingled in this meeting place of fresh and salt water. Among the salt-tolerant vegetation that flourishes here is cordgrass, one of the plants characteristic of such salt marshes. Other hardy survivalists able to endure the alkaline conditions include seaside goldenrod, sea lavender, and beach pea, all of which can be seen along the paths that lead to the beach. At the end of a strip of land jutting into the sea, you can also visit never-completed Fort Popham.

5. Reid State Park
Passing through a landscape in which evergreen forest rims the ocean shore, Rte. 127 leads to Reid State Park, an attractive mix of rocky headland, marsh, and dunes. Piping plovers and least terns nest on the park’s long beaches, which are salted with grains of feldspar and schist. Among the other minerals found here — don’t be surprised if you come across a rock hound peering through a magnifying glass — are quartz, calcite, mica, garnet, and hornblende. Stroll along one of the many paths for an introduction to a rich blend of seaside vegetation, including blackberries, raspberries, meadowsweet, and be on the lookout for poison ivy.

6. Wiscasset
In the early 1800s, Wiscasset was the home port for dozens of clipper ships that carried fish and lumber to distant lands. Today, though, with its picture-perfect setting of pretty homes on wooded slopes along the Sheepscot River, it seems hardly surprising that Wiscasset has become a haven for writers and artists.

Although traffic through the center of town can be heavy on summer weekends, the side streets are usually quiet. Among the delights to be sampled there are the old-time courthouse, clapboard mansions, bed-and-breakfast inns, and shops offering antiques, pottery, and artwork.

7. Boothbay Harbor
Once a little fishing village, Boothbay Harbor has evolved through the generations into a bustling summer resort. Windjammers and other craft set out from the quaint waterfront for sightseeing tours of lighthouses, seabirds, whales, seals, and offshore islands. Charter boats offer deep-sea fishing trips, search ing the waters for bluefish and tuna. Rte. 96, which heads down to Ocean Point, is a particularly scenic byway, with glimpses of foamy, seething surf and thick pine forests along the way.

8. Damariscotta
The Indians who once farmed and fished here called the area Damariscotta (”meeting place of the alewives”). Every spring these small fish of the herring family swim up the Damariscotta River to spawn. To witness this yearly ritual, stop at the Damariscotta Reversing Falls — so named because the rush of incoming tides is sometimes strong enough to overcome the natural flow of the river.

Many species of birds also make annual migrations to this historic town, with the osprey being perhaps the most impressive. Usually arriving in mid-April and staying through September, these fish-eating hawks have wingspans of up to six feet. Thanks to excellent vision, they can spot prey from far above. The mighty predators then swoop down and plunge right into the water to snatch prey with their razor-sharp talons.