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Escaping to Maine in summer can be some of the most rewarding road tripping you ever might experience. Touring “Downeast,” Maine’s central coast, reveals many hidden treasures in enchanting seaside towns. All along Hwy 1 from Rockland to Bar Harbor, Maine’s picturesque rocky coast is your travel partner.
Start your Downeast Hwy 1 tour in the town of Rockland. The first of many towns nestled along Penobscot Bay, picturesque Rockland serves as an ideal welcome mat to the area. Catch up on some local culture at the Farnsworth Art Museum and Wyeth Center, where you can learn about three generations of Maine’s most beloved art family, the Wyeths. If you’re lucky enough to be here during the first week of August, don’t miss the Maine Lobster Festival. Sure, it seems every town in coastal Maine has a “lobster fest”, but this is truly the granddaddy of ‘em all and not to be missed.
Just a few miles up the road you’ll find yourself in Camden, a town that promises to get you connected with the heritage of coastal Maine. One favorite activity while visiting this charming little town is to climb aboard one of several old-time schooners that offer half-day and full-day cruises around scenic Penobscot Bay. Like other small Maine towns, Camden comes alive especially during the summer months, when local artisans seem to come from all around to sell their wares. It all makes for great summer days strolling the streets of this appealing village.
If you’re into this idea of exploring charming small towns in search of hidden treasures and alluring eateries, and learning what Maine is all about, head up the road along the coast to Belfast, a town with oodles of authentic Maine charm. You can also take a ride on the famous Belfast Moosehead Railroad or enjoy a relaxing seaside lunch, watching the sailboats and kayaks out on the water.
Just across the bay ¬from Belfast lies the town of Searsport. Brush up on your maritime history with a visit to the state’s oldest maritime museum, the Penobscot Marine Museum. It includes several buildings that capture 18th century life in this nautical village and presents exhibits with artifacts of Maine’s heritage, including the unique Glass Plate Image Archive.
Travel the highway a spell, and soon you will reach Bangor, home to two American cultural giants. One is the famous lumberjack, Paul Bunyan, whose statue towers over tourists in Bass Park. Said to be the largest statue of Paul Bunyan in the country, the likeness is over 31 feet tall. The other giant here is the famous author Stephen King, who made his residence in Bangor for a number of years, and who includes the town in many of his novels. If you want a good scare, visit King’s home, and you will find it as macabre as any place in his stories. If children are in your traveling party, be sure to head over to the Maine Discovery Museum, where exhibits on anatomy, geography, and nature both delight, and inform, kids and adults alike. And if you are lucky enough to wander into town at the right time, you will be able to experience the annual American Folk Festival, held at the Bangor waterfront. This festival draws people from all over the country to join in the celebration of Folk music, dance, and crafts. It is an event not to be missed.
Nature lover’s will adore the Standwood Wildlife Sanctuary, located just a few miles due east Hwy 1 in the town of Ellsworth. This 200-acre sanctuary offers a meditative respite for strolling the miles of foot paths while becoming acquainted with Maine’s natural spectacles.
Summer life in Maine reaches its extremes in the town of Bar Harbor. Normally a quiet village of 2,000 residents, ten times that many pack in for the summer months. However, it’s for good reason: Bar Harbor is an enticing New England summer resort town which also provides the gateway to some of the finest natural wonders east of the Mississippi River, in Acadia National Park. The park itself encompasses more than half of the enormous Mount Desert Island as well as several smaller islands. Take time to explore the 27-mile Loop Road. Along the way you’ll encounter places to fish, sea-kayak, bicycle, ride horseback, picnic, or just sit back and enjoy the views of the Atlantic seashore.