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

9. Pemaquid Point
Most visitors travel down Rte. 130 to Pemaquid Point for a glimpse of its famous lighthouse, a beacon to sailors since 1827. Also of interest here are the Fishermen’s Museum, the Pemaquid Art Gallery, and the surf-pounded rock formations washed by the Atlantic Ocean. Living in tide-swept crevices amidst the stones are green sea urchins and limpets, snail-like mollusks known for their ability to cling steadfastly to the rock even in the most punishing surf.

Christmas Cove, off to the west and reached via Rte. 129, was reportedly visited by Capt. John Smith on Christmas Day in 1614. With its well-protected harbor, this summer hamlet is a favored destination for the many sailboaters who cruise up and down the rugged coast.

10. Waldoboro
Follow coast-hugging Rte. 32 up to charming Waldoboro, which was named for a wealthy Bostonian who tried to start a settlement here in 1748. Many hardships met the German immigrants who arrived with Samuel Waldo, and the community was soon dissolved.

Other adventurers eventually came ashore, however, and Waldoboro has been active in the shipbuilding business ever since. (It launched the world’s first five-masted schooner in 1884.) Some 10 miles to the south, the village of Friendship is renowned for the gaff-rigged sloops that bear the town’s name.

11. Port Clyde
The drive down the peninsula to Port Clyde passes tiny villages and peaceful, pristine wilds and sea-shore. Andrew Wyeth, the American painter, spent many boyhood summers here. To this day artists come from all over to find inspiration in the far-reaching vistas of islands, sea, and sky.

Some 12 miles offshore, appearing as little more than a speck in a lovely seascape, is Monhegan Island, which can be reached by ferry from Port Clyde. Although no cars are allowed on the remote and tranquil island, nature trails abound, winding through stands of red spruce and balsam fir to veritable gardens of wildflowers and the crests of wave-battered cliffs towering over the sea.

12. Rockport
In addition to its picturesque harbor and interesting shops, Rockport offers a variety of cultural entertainments. Chamber music concerts are presented weekly in the opera house, and works by well-known local painters hang on the walls at the Maine Coast Artists Gallery. Pictures of a different sort can be viewed at the Maine Photographic Workshops, which also offers evening lectures.

13. Camden Hills State Park
Gray squirrels leaping through the treetops, woodpeckers hacking at the branches in search of insects, a harmless garter snake slithering for cover behind a rock — these are but a few of the animals found at Camden Hills State Park. Nature trails thread through the 5,000-acre refuge, and a toll road ascends Mt. Battie, where, at about 800 feet above the sea, an unobstructed view unfolds before your eye in every direction.

Below is the village of Camden, hugging the deepest part of a cove. Forests dotted with evergreens cloak the slopes that rise from the harbor’s edge. These evergreens make a special contribution to the setting, for here as elsewhere along the Maine coast, the fragrance of pine needles mixes with the salty air of the sea to create a memorable sensation.

Camden is also a good place to learn about the region’s settlers. The restored 18th-century Conway House, an early homestead complete with barn and blacksmith shop, is well worth a visit.