Bold Coast Scenic Byway
- DesignationNational Scenic Byway (2021)
- Intrinsic QualitiesHistoric
- Length125 miles
Characterized by rocky coastlines, the Bold Coast Scenic Byway provides an opportunity to experience the unique beauty, culture, history, and recreational opportunities of Downeast Maine and Coastal Washington County.
Story of the Byway
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway perches at the nation’s raw and rugged easternmost edge, a place of wild beauty with a history of human settlement dating back 12,000 years. Travelers can explore diverse recreation opportunities within breathtaking natural settings that provide a physical timeline of the Native American and settlement history that shaped America’s eastern seaboard. Byway travelers can swim, bike, hike, paddle, and cruise their way through a coastal landscape created by molten lava then sheared off by grinding ice. Deep mossy forests and high coastal ledges contain rare or unusual habitats and species. Unspoiled rivers support wild Atlantic salmon. Night skies remain brilliant with stars. People harvest wild blueberries, as they have since glaciers receded. Descendants of early Passamaquoddy, founding settlers, and Revolution heroes keep our ancestry alive; here, history is celebrated, held sacred, and perseveres over time. The Bold Coast Scenic Byway connects travelers with the nation’s last vestige of a natural resource-based maritime culture, where turning tides and changing seasons dictate daily life. Today, this byway connects a network of public conservation lands abundant with natural resources, coastal and riverine villages with well-preserved historic districts and working waterfronts, and the people that continue to inhabit, value, and depend upon these landscapes. Byway travelers can stretch their legs on trails traversing bold coastlines shaped by glaciers, view the island where European explorers including Samuel Champlain first settled, visit the site of the first naval battle of the American Revolution, and paddle rivers that once transported native Americans, European explorers, and the “King’s pines.”
The stunning Bold Coast features waves crashing on the rugged granite shore, weathered lobster wharfs, fishing boats plying the sea, and clam diggers working the mudflats at low tide. The nation’s first sunrise lights up the red and white candy-striped lighthouse at West Quoddy Head, and nowhere else do wild blueberries grow in such natural abundance. Blueberry barrens stretch over vast rippling landscapes in ever-changing hues from its white flowers in spring to deep purple berries in August to flaming red foliage in autumn.
Local and regional arts and crafts are easily accessible at the many theatres, outdoor venues, gift shops, and galleries throughout the region that showcase the work of local artisans and musicians. The Waponahki Museum and Resource Center in Pleasant Point is a museum of the Passamaquoddy Tribal culture, language, and traditions. Visitors can celebrate Indian Day with the community, an annual celebration of the arts and culture of the Passamaquoddy Tribe. The Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor and the Passamaquoddy Cultural Heritage Museum in Indian Township also provide comprehensive historic information and opportunities to learn about the Passamaquoddy culture. Winter Harbor and Eastport are home to year-round opportunities through Schoodic Arts for All and Eastport Arts Center. Eastport’s Tides Institute & Museum of Art is a cross-border institution emphasizing the cultural ties between Maine and New Brunswick and New England and the Atlantic Provinces. Visitors during the summer can enjoy free public concerts on Wednesday nights from aspiring musicians from around the world.
Long, narrow peninsulas and coves shape the Bold Coast shoreline, and the coastal forests are thick with trees, ferns, and moss. Ancient glacial forces created a system of interconnected inland waterways, a vast plateau of wild blueberry barrens, and a range of coastal and inland mountains. Together these landscape features make for a diversity of hiking options, from cliff-side coastal trails to meanders through forests and fields, up small but steep mountains, and along inland waterways. Some of the best hiking spots are the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, Shackford Head State Park, and the Hamilton Cove Preserve although there are many others.
The byway begins near Gouldsboro. Visitors will travel around the Schoodic Peninsula and continue north along the Maine Coast past Milbridge, Addison, Cutler, Eastport, to Calais, where the byway ends. Along the way, visitors should stop to explore the many state parks, peninsulas, and bays.
Points of Interest
Lubec, a coastal town with a beautiful red and white painted lighthouse in Washington County, Maine, home to Quoddy Head State Park. Lubec is the easternmost municipality in the contiguous US and is the closest continental location to Africa.
Cobscook Bay is located in Washington County in the state of Maine. It opens into Passamaquoddy Bay, within the Bay of Fundy. Cobscook Bay is immediately south of the island city of Eastport, the main island of which straddles the two bays
Narraguagus River Bridge
The stunning Washington County Railroad Bridge spans the scenic Narraguagus River, now only open to pedestrians who can admire its impressive architecture up close. The bridge is part of the Down East Sunrise Trail.
Northern Bold Coast
Begin your day in Lubec, the easternmost municipality in the contiguous United States and the closest continental location to Africa in the United States. While this small town doesn’t have movie theaters or shopping malls, there are plenty of things to do that bring you back to your authentic roots. Go hiking on one of the many trails in town and keep an eye out for unique birds, or take a boat trip out into the harbor. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a whale as you take a boat tour to get up close and personal with the lighthouses!
Follow Maine Route 189 to Whiting where you will turn onto Route 1. Enjoy the scenic views of Cobscook Bay State Park and the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge as you drive around Cobscook Bay. Keep an eye out for the reversing falls and aquatic life in Pembroke. There are a number of local restaurants as you reach Perry that are great for a quick lunch stop.
In Perry, turn onto Maine Route 190 and head south toward Eastport. Eastport is home to the deepest port on the East Coast. Learn more about the history of the area at one of the many museums or go birding at Shackford Head State Park. In the Passamaquoddy Bay, watch out for Old Sow, believed to be the biggest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. In Eastport, there are many restaurants known for their fresh seafood as well as many BnBs.
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