Fresh-water lakes, whitewater rivers, the highest tides in the country, quiet coves and crashing surf define Down East & Acadia, a region prized by artists and historians, adventure seekers and nature lovers. Here you’ll find Acadia, the first National Park in the East; Somes Sound, the only fjord on the East Coast; St Croix Island, the landing site of the French in the New World; and Machiasport, where the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War occurred.
The region’s landscape ranges from raw and spectacular to quiet and subdued, encompassing craggy granite cliffs and desolate blueberry barrens. Rugged fingers of land tipped with granite fingernails reach out to the sea, inviting exploration. Poke around classic villages and working harbors, browse shops and galleries, explore nature preserves and wildlife refuges. The scenery alone has earned coveted National Scenic Byway status for two routes. The 43 mile Acadia Byway winds along Route 3 from Trenton to Bar Harbor, then follows a section of the National Park’s Loop Road through Mount Desert. The 29 mile Schoodic Scenic Byway circles through Gouldsboro, Winter Harbor and a remote section of Acadia National Park.
Visit the internationally known Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, on Deer Isle. Take in a performance at the art deco-style Criterion Theatre, in Bar Harbor, or Grand Auditorium, in Ellsworth, or the recently reopened Stonington Opera House. Join a local celebration: the Winter Harbor Lobster Festival, in Machias, the Eastport Salmon Festival, Native American festivals in Bar Harbor and Pleasant Point, an arts festival on the Shoodic Peninsula and the annual Blue Hill Fair.
Historic sites abound. Learn of the role local patriots played in the Revolution at the Burnham Tavern, in Machias, and about Maine’s Native Americans at the new Abbe Museum, in downtown Bar Harbor. Marvel at the talents of Jonathan Fisher, Blue Hill’s first pastor, at the Parson Fisher House. Take a walking tour through Castine, where signs detail the town’s early history, or Cherryfield, which has a 75 acre National Register Historic District comprising 52 architecturally significant buildings. Detour off Route 1 to admire the Ruggles House, in Columbia Falls, an architectural gem.
Outdoor adventures are plentiful. Take a whale-watching or puffin-sighting cruise. Canoe the St Croix River. Go bird watching at Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge. Try fly-fishing in Grand Lake Stream. Or simply take it all in from the summit of Cadillac Mountain, on Mt Desert, the highest point on the Atlantic Coast in North America, or from the Coastal Trail at West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, in Lubec, the first town in the lower 48 warmed by the sun’s rays each morning.