Downeast Maine is a beloved vacation destination for its amazing glacial carved rockbound coastline. Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain is the first place in America to see the sun, offering breathtaking views of Frenchman’s Bay. Bar Island in Bar Harbor is one of Maine’s marvels, reachable by car at low tide but only by kayak or boat at high tide. Vacationers traveling to Downeast Maine can explore Mt Desert Island, the natural wonders of Acadia National Park, or take a scenic boat ride to see over a dozen lighthouses in a day trip.
Furthest “Downeast” Passamaquoddy Bay offers amazing 20 foot plus tides! A visit to Down East Maine offers the adventure of hiking, biking and exploring the coast, with the comforts of staying at a Maine resort, lovely historic inn, RV campgrounds or a more traditional brand hotel.
Bar Harbor draws the most visitors to Mount Desert Island, but there are many other towns in the Downeast Region that is just as diverting.
More About Downeast & Acadia Maine
Mount Desert, Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor Region
The term “Down East” comes from the days when schooners were used to carry cargo along the coast. The prevailing winds here blow from the southwest, pushing sailing vessels downwind, to the eastward, hence the name Downeast Maine. You’ll discover beautiful and very different sections of Downeast Maine.
The East Penobscot Bay region, south of Mount Desert Island, is the first piece of this vacation puzzle called Downeast Acadia. Castine, Orland, Blue Hill, Brooklin, Deer Isle and Stonington make up this exceptional grouping of peninsulas and islands. Like fingers, these parcels of land jut into the bay. Each village offers a glimpse of the way life should be. You’ll find quiant B&Bs, scrumptious food, colossal vistas and quiet coves you’ll fall in love with. Castine is a charming small town, home to the Maine Maritime Academy. Blue Hill attracts craftspeople and musicians, while nearby Brooklin has the Wooden Boat School. On the island of Deer Isle, visit the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts.
Further Downeast, travelers may choose to find a lodgings in Ellsworth or Trenton when visiting the Acadia Maine region. Vacation stays are typically more affordable on the mainland than lodges on Mount Desert Island. Both the city of Ellsworth and Trenton make convenient vacation stops when touring along the Maine coast as each are close enough to spend a day trip on the island and continue further Downeast, while exploring Schoodic Peninsula – part of Acadia but on main land.
Mount Desert Island
Mount Desert Island, one of New England’s largest islands, is linked to the mainland and its vistas are indescribable. With seventeen mountains and four lakes, Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor are magnets that draw thousands every year. The Park and its 120 miles of hiking trails, colossal views from Cadillac Mountain, and the roar of Thunder Hole provide visitors to Downeast Acadia with memory-filled vacations. Artists flock to photograph or paint the landscape.
At the heart of Downeast Acadia is the bustling resort town of Bar Harbor is a treasure of delights for all ages. There are art galleries and museums including the Abbe Museum, where you’ll find Native American artifacts. The July and August music festivals will keep you humming. Whale-watching cruises depart daily, and Maine seafood is freshly prepared at many restaurants. Bar Harbor’s neighbors, Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor, attract visitors by land and by water.
The western side of the Downeast Acadia Maine region, known as the “quiet side,” offers a slower pace. Northeast and Southwest and Bass Harbors have ornamental gardens, estates, hundreds of sailing craft, the Wendell Gilley Museum and the Seal Cove Auto Museum, and the annual Oktoberfest. These small towns are ideal for those looking for a more remote location on the island while having the opportunity to visit Acadia National Park and take coastal boat tours. Shipbuilding in these Maine coastal villages continues to be a proud heritage at Hinckley.
A little further “Downeast” of Mt Desert Island is Winter Harbor and Schoodic Point Peninsula Area of Maine. The Schoodic Scenic Byway has commanding views of Downeast Acadia, however, many are not aware of this small section of Acadia National Park.
The quiet beauty of Washington County along the Downeast Maine coast, with hundreds of miles of rugged coastline stretching from the Milbridge area to Passamaquoddy Bay and up to Calais, reflects an era gone by. A secret to truly discovering Washington County is leaving Route 1. Wander along roads leading to peninsulas and visit Winter Harbor, the Schoodic Peninsula, Steuben, Milbridge and Jonesport. From Jonesport sneak over to Beals Island and Great Waas Island for hiking trails. Historic Machias hosts the annual Maine Blueberry Festival each August.
The eastern part Maine’s Downeast is the road less traveled, “a place to get away” from the maddening crowd. Vacationing here is tranquil and relaxing, whether you’re sitting on the porch of a cabin listening to the loons or canoeing the St. Croix River. Fall foliage abounds in its brilliant colors. Cobscook Bay State Park or the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge offers trails and vistas where you can see eagles, woodcock, and a variety of flora.
Lubec, the easternmost town in the Downeast Region and the United States, has a beautiful state park, West Quoddy Head, where a 90-foot cliff overlooks the Bay of Fundy. There’s a new international trade port in Eastport, and the Passamaquoddy Indian Tribe has a museum on Route 190. The highest tides in the continental U.S. can be viewed in the Calais area; an excellent viewing spot is the park and boat landing on Route 1 in Robbinston. Come to the “Sunrise County” and discover the unspoiled beauty of Maine.