Explore the Maine Coast Way Down East
Coastal Washington County features some of Maine’s most spectacular scenery, as well as some great fun adventures.
Driving Down East on Route 1 from the south, your first stop will be just off Route 1 on Route 187 which will take you into the pretty little town of Jonesport and Beals Island. This small hamlet of 1370 is a fishing and lobster community that was settled in the years preceding the Revolutionary War. It was originally a part of Jonesboro under a grant given to John Jones and other settlers by the Massachusetts General Court. On February 3, 1832, it was separated from Jonesboro and incorporated as Jones’ Port. The main village of Jonesport is located on the Moosebec Reach and Indian River. A bridge across the Moosebec Reach joins Jonesport with Beals Island.
The United States Coast Guard has maintained a station in Jonesport since 1967. Another local landmark is the stately Sawyer Memorial Congregational Church which was dedicated on June 7, 1887.
If you are ready for an adventurous hike you will find it just across the bridge from Jonesport at the Great Wass Archipalego. Here you will find a winding and moderately challenging trail. As you enjoy your trek along this pristine coastal landscape take the time to relax on a rock and take in the ocean view. Be sure and take photos of this piece of Maine’s hidden coastline. Upon finishing your hike you will head back across the bridge and again pick up route 187 which will loop you back to Route 1 in Jonesboro. Proceed north on Route 1 in Jonesboro until you see on your right the sign Roque Bluffs Road, which you will turn on and follow for 5 miles to a T-intersection, where you will turn right still on Roque Bluffs Road and continue to Schoppee Point which will lead you directly to Roque Bluffs State Park.
The diverse habitats of the park provide an abundant support system for wildlife. Bird watching can be enjoyed year-round. Bald eagles are frequently seen, as are many waterfowl, including Redhead and Gadwell ducks; while pipers and interesting species of gulls can be seen along the beach during the summer months.
A beautiful half mile crescent sand and pebble beach along Englishman Bay offers bracing saltwater swims on warm summer days and in the park across the road from the ocean you can swim in the warmer fresh water of Simpson Pond. The park offers changing rooms, picnic and children play areas adjoining the parking areas.
There are five hiking trails offering varied lengths, from 1 to 2 miles. The Pond Cove Trail is a 2 mile hike over largely flat terrain through meadows and offers a scenic view over Pond Cove.
To continue your fun adventure just off the beaten path return to your car and turn left out of the parking area onto Schoppee Point, you will pass through the small village of Roque Bluffs where you will again pick up Roque Bluffs Road to the north for 8 miles where it loops back onto Route1. You will go north on Route 1 about a mile into Machias, the Shire Town of Washington County. Before the arrival of Europeans to the Machias area, Native Americans of various tribes made an annual September pilgrimage to the shores of the Machias River at Clarks Point. Here have been found extensive clam heaps, providing evidence of their gatherings. It is believed that the Norsemen were most likely the first Europeans to arrive in America’s most eastern conclave. The community has a rich history having been successfully settled in 1763.
In 1775, the Burnham Tavern was the meeting place of the settlers to enjoy a drink, when news of the battles of Lexington and Concord reached them they raised a liberty pole on the village green. On June 12, 1775 a group of 40 locals under the command of Jeremiah O’Brien went out into Machias Bay on the Unity and defeated the British ship Margararetta which became known as the Lexington Battle of the Sea.
In 1784, Machias was incorporated as a town by the Massachusetts General Court. The town has a rich history and is a perfect spot to rest on your adventure as Machias is blessed with both great accommodations and dining. Machias is an Indian name meaning “Bad Little Falls”
For a fun adventure in Machias check out a kayak tour. Daily during the summer season, Sunrise Canoe & Kayak offer scheduled daily tours on Machias Bay where you will have the opportunity to enjoy some spectacular scenery as well as view seals and bald eagles as you traverse the water. Other special tours are available as well as canoe and kayak rentals. Sunrise Canoe & Kayak is located at 168 Main Street (Route 1) Machias, ME 04654. It is on the left going north on Route 1, in the same complex as Pat’s Pizza Restaurant. Telephone contact is 207-255-3375.
After your stop in Machias, you will continue your adventure down east, by driving north on Route 1 with Lubec as your destination. When on Route 1 in the Town of Whiting, you will come to an intersection with Route 189 on your right with a sign directing you to Lubec and Campobello Island, NB. Turn right on Route 189 and follow it down into the Town of Lubec.
You will see a sign on Route 189 directing you to turn right to West Quoddy Head State Park and West Quoddy Head Light House. It is approximately 4 miles off of Route 189. The famed candy stripped West Quoddy Head Light House was built in 1808 during the Presidency of Thomas Jefferson to protect mariners from the frequent fog banks that are created by the Bay of Fundy. The best way to describe the nature trails that loop through the park over its scenic coastal terrain is unforgettably breath taking. After experiencing this treasure, journey back to Route 189 and turn right into downtown Lubec. You will find that Water Street truly reflects Lubec’s historic seafaring past. At 41 Water Street, you will find Lubec Brewing Company, where you can enjoy an array of fine crafted beers and a menu of organic homemade entrees. Upon leaving and starting back to Route 1, your Lubec visit would not be complete without a stop at Monica’s award winning chocolates. It will be on your left at 100 County Road (Route 189). Her gourmet chocolates are out of this world, Monica’s shop also features beautiful Peruvian alpaca sweaters as well as jewelry. With some chocolates in hand you can proceed up route 189 until you reach Route 1. Here you will turn right on Route 1 to complete the final leg of your adventure in Eastport.
You will stay on Route 1 until it intersect with Route 190 in Perry. You will travel down Route 190, 9 miles passing the Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation until you reach downtown Eastport, the eastern most city in the United States. Eastport is a quaint New England seaport. The Passamaquoddy people have lived in the area for eons and the first American colonist to settle was in 1772. Eastport was incorporated as a town by the Massachusetts General Court in 1798. On Water Street you can enjoy the unique shops and galleries that abound. A wonderful sea adventure lies in store for you on board Captain Butch Harris’ Windjammer Fleets new 47’ lobster boat, as a guest aboard you will see spectacular wildlife and experience an adventure you will treasure. Checkout for a reservation by calling: 207-853-2500 or by going on line to www.eastportwindjammers.com. After your cruise, stop down to Quoddy Bay Lobster and enjoy the very best lobster roll in New England as chosen by Yankee Magazine for three years running. The Sr. Editor of Activities Guide of Maine agrees that their lobster rolls are something to die for.
Hopefully for your trip just off the beaten path, you left your electronic gadgets packed and have enjoyed an active but stress-free adventure that you will treasure and bring you back Down East soon again.
— Text: Jim Harnedy. Jim joined the Activities Guide of Maine team as Sr. Editor in 1992, and was closely involved with the magazine’s evolution through the years. He was the author of a number of books, his most recent being Forgotten Tales of Down East Maine (The History Press).