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Everyone knows the directional points on the compass, but you have to know something about Maine to know “Downeast.” Back in the day, “Downeast” described the direction sailing ships traveled to get here from New York and Boston. That is, downwind and to the east. Over time, here in Maine, we refer to Downeast as the further part of Route One from Belfast to Lubec.
The ocean tides of Downeast are some of the highest on the planet, with highs and lows occurring twice daily. It truly has to be seen to be believed. And here is where you will find Maine’s jewel, Acadia National Park. Worth a visit in any season, the wildness of Maine comes together in one breathtaking setting here in Acadia. It is not overstating to say the ocean, the mountains, wildlife, lakes, granite cliffs, and piney woods are spectacular vacation highlights.
Ellsworth is the gateway to Acadia and also features a time-travel trip via the Downeast Scenic Railroad. In addition to Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island is comprised of many small villages and it has more to offer – galleries, restaurants, museums, gardens, and boutiques.
Bar Harbor, the largest, is known as the summer resort of the “rich and the famous,” and regularly appears on lists of America's Favorite Towns.
Milbridge is a perfect stop for all things quintessentially Maine -- wildlife (whales, puffins, moose), seafood and blueberries, and historic sites all on the shores of Narraguagus Bay.
The classic seaside town of Bucksport has a working waterfront and history from as far back as 5000 years ago with the Red Paint People through the Revolutionary War and 1812 conflict, there are fascinating stories to tell.
Of course, when we think of Downeast Maine, we think of Acadia National Park, Maine’s national treasure and most visited site. Connected to the mainland by a bridge, Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, yes, they are all you have heard them to be and definitely worth a visit. Travelers can bike to their hearts content on miles of interconnected carriage roads - and hike one of 26 mountains. Plus, 22 lakes and ponds, beaches and natural wonders provide plenty of vacation interest.
But just a little bit off the beaten path lies so much more. To get to Winter Harbor, Maine, a small fishing town in the Downeast and Acadia region, you have to take the scenic route. The Schoodic National Scenic Byway wanders along the rockbound coast from the town of Hancock to the village of Birch Harbor and, along the way, it passes right through Winter Harbor. The town fits right in, as it’s small, charming and beautiful.
Other worthy stops, the coastal towns of Stonington and Deer Isle, linked to the mainland by bridges, are known not just for their giant lobster fleet, but for their arts community as well. Stonington and Deer Isle are steeped in the arts. Artist’s studios and shops can be found throughout both towns, many of them an outgrowth of the renowned Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle. The school is perched on a steep hillside above the water. If you come during the summer, you can take a tour. Stonington harvests more lobsters than any other Maine port.
And of course, in the heart of it all, Bar Harbor, star of most of America’s top ten lists. It has appeared on Top Ten Most Beautiful, Top Ten Best To See Foliage, and Top Ten Prettiest Coastal Town, just to name a few.
Bar Harbor is known for its stunning coastal beauty, its many yachts and lobster boats, and its view of craggy cliffs, islands and ocean in settings that can range from sparkling sunlight to soupy fog. Downtown Bar Harbor, in the villages surrounding Acadia National Park, are a shopper’s delight. A leisurely stroll down Main Street will take you past store windows with paintings, artwork, clothes, and books. This might be a good time to check out menus too. With so many restaurants to choose from – you will want to plan your meals carefully. Many stores are open year-round – look for crafts by native American artisans, local artists in art galleries and Maine’s gemstone, the tourmaline.