Maine’s Big Sur Scenic Highways

Schoodic Scenic BywayUS 1 from Ellsworth to Calais is truly a road less traveled. Most tourists never get past Bar Harbor and miss the crashing surf at Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Point, the tiny fishing villages, and the small cities near the Canadian border. This route includes the Schoodic Scenic Byway and much more.

Start at Ellsworth and head north on US 1 for 9 miles to the Hancock-Sullivan Bridge across Taunton Bay. Pull over after 1 mile at the Frenchman Bay Scenic Turnout for views of Cadillac Mountain and Mount Desert Island. Sixteen miles east of Ellsworth, turn right on Me. 186 for Acadia National Park’s Schoodic Point. For the next 6 miles the road winds along the eastern shore of Frenchman Bay to Winter Harbor Village. Less than a mile from town, turn right for a side trip to Schoodic Point, a 2,266-acre preserve with a 6-mile drive along the windswept granite shores of Schoodic Peninsula, views of Mount Desert and Cadillac Mountain, hiking trails, and tidal pools full of life. The park road ends at the tiny fishing village of Wonsqueak Harbor.

Turn right on Me. 186 a few miles north at Birch Harbor. At the end of Me. 186, continue north again on US 1 and continue for 2 miles, turning right to visit Bartlett Maine Estate Winery, where the Bartlett family has been making fruit wines since 1983. Follow US 1 for 3 miles to reach Washington County, the Sunrise County. Once the territory of the Passamaquoddy Indians, it is larger than Delaware and earned its sobriquet by being the first place in the United States to greet the rising sun each morning. It could as easily have been called the Blueberry County—about 30 million pounds are harvested each year.

Turn right onto Pigeon Hill Road in Steuben to visit the 7,400-acre Maine Coastal Islands Wildlife Refuge, where more than 300 bird species—including bald eagle, peregrine falcon, and roseate tern—have been sighted. A few miles farther, at the head of Narraguagus Bay, is Milbridge, a center for seafood landings and processing. Stay on US 1 at the junction of US 1A to visit Cherryfield, the “blueberry capital of the world.” To skip Cherryfield and cut out several miles of driving, take 1A north for 8 miles to Harrington. Continue for 3.5 miles past Harrington to Columbia Falls and stop by the Thomas Ruggles House, built for a rich lumber dealer in 1818. Machias Seal IslandJust past Columbia Falls is a right turn onto Me. 187 for a 10-mile side trip to the boatbuilding and fishing communities of Jonesport and Beals. In Jonesport, look for the puffin mailbox of Capt. Barna Norton to sign on for a cruise to Machias Seal Island or Petit Manan Island. Take Me. 187 back along the shore of Chandler Bay to US 1.

Once back on US 1, it’s less than 2 miles to the turnoff for Roque Bluffs State Park, with its sandy beach and freshwater swimming pond. The shire town of Machias is just 5 miles beyond the turnoff. Turn right on Me. 92 just south of town to visit the Fort O’Brien State Historic Site, near where the first naval battle of the Revolution was fought in 1775, and Jasper Beach, with its pebbles of jasper and rhyolite.

About 16 miles past Machias, turn right onto Me. 189 for Quoddy Head State Park, Lubec, and Campobello Island. Turn off Me. 189 after 9.5 miles to go to Quoddy Head State Park, with adjacent West Quoddy Head Light. The park’s steep ledges offer a vantage point for the Bay of Fundy tides, which rise 20 to 30 feet. The lighthouse, perched atop a 90-foot cliff on the easternmost point of land in the United States, is visible from 20 miles at sea.

Once back on Me. 189, continue toward Lubec. This easternmost town in the United States was once home to 19 sardine factories. It’s also the access point for the International Bridge to New Brunswick, Canada’s Campobello Island, and the 2,800-acre Roosevelt Campobello International Park, summer home of Franklin D. Roosevelt. As you climb the hill after clearing customs, turn around and look across the Narrows, where the strongest tidal currents on the East Coast flow at 15 miles an hour. Friar’s Head Picnic Area, on the left just before the entrance to the international park, offers views of Lubec, Eastport, Cobscook Bay, and the mouth of Passamaquoddy Bay. If you’re headed for Eastport and want to save about 40 miles of driving, consider taking the ferry. The Deer Isle ferry leaves just a few miles past the park entrance; from Deer Isle you can take another ferry to Eastport.

Retrace Me. 189 to the junction of US 1 and head north toward Calais. After 3 miles the road enters the southern boundary of the Edmunds Unit of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, a breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife, including the reclusive American woodcock. Many of its 7,200 acres border Cobscook Bay, and when you watch the tide come in from the shores of Cobscook Bay State Park, it’s easy to understand why Native Americans named the bay “boiling tides”—they average 24 feet in height.

Seven miles past the state park entrance, watch for the turnoff to Pembroke Falls, one of the nation’s largest reversing falls, a tidal phenomenon. The road to the falls is poorly marked: Turn right off US 1 onto Leighton Point Road; after 3.2 miles, turn right and continue for 1.2 miles past the Clarkside Cemetery. When the road forks, go left and continue 1.7 miles into the park. The tip of Mahar Point provides a fine view of the fierce white water created when Dennys Bay and Whiting Bay flow into Cobscook Bay. Watch for bald eagles, ospreys, and seals.

Halfway between the Equator and the North Pole lies the town of Perry, named for Commodore Oliver H. Perry, a hero of the War of 1812. Two miles from the Perry town line, at the junction of US 1 and Me. 190, turn right onto 190 for Eastport. For the first few miles the road passes by the Pleasant Point Indian Reservation, home to over 850 Passamaquoddy Indians. It’s another 5 miles to downtown Eastport. To see Old Sow Whirlpool, one of the world’s largest, turn left onto Water Street at the end of Me. 190, pass the entrance to the Deer Isle ferry, and continue to Dog Island at the end of the road. The whirlpool is best about two hours before high tide.

Back at the junction of US 1 and Me. 190, continue north on US 1 for 2 miles to the 45th Parallel Picnic Area. The red granite stone marking the halfway point was erected in 1896 by the National Geographic Society.

St. Croix RiverAbout 5 miles from here, pull over at the next rest area to view the red granite cliffs of the St. Croix River. Between Robbinston and Calais look for 12 small, sequentially numbered granite markers on the river side of the road. Lumberman and journalist James S. Pike put them there in 1870 to time his racehorses. St. Croixlsland International Historic Site, at the Calais town line, is named for two long coves that meet to form a cross. Samuel de Champlain landed here in 1604, making this island in the middle of the St. Croix River the site of the country’s first white settlement north of St. Augustine, Florida.

The city of Calais, along the bank of the St. Croix River across from St. Stephen, New Brunswick, is one of the busiest ports of entry along the 3,000-mile U.S.-Canada border. Continue north on US 1 through town for 5 miles to the approximately 20,000-acre Baring Unit of the Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge. With the Edmunds Unit to the south, it’s the northernmost in a chain of migratory bird refuges that extends from Maine to Florida. A fitting sentinel at the end of this road to the border, the American bald eagle has taken up residence here. Nesting areas line the entrance to the refuge at Charlotte Road.