Cobscook Bay is a unique topographical feature on the extreme eastern border of Maine, very roughly shaped like the letter “C”. There are two small towns at the very edges of the C, Eastport on the top (northern) edge and Lubec on the bottom (southern) edge. In between these quintessential Maine seaports is Cobscook Bay. The highest tides in America funnel in and out of Cobscook Bay twice a day, accelerated by the very narrow openings into the bay from the Atlantic Ocean, which rises and lowers sixteen feet between each high and low tide. On the eastern side of the Bay, just across the international bridge from Lubec, is Campobello Island, the home of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s summer “cottage” and one of the only international parks in the world. Campobello is described in an earlier blog post and is well worth a visit once the international border is reopened.
Cobscook Bay State Park is accessible via US-1, approached either via ME-9 from Calais to the north, or via US-1 through Machias to the south. Either approach brings you through the very barren and scenic blueberry lands of downeast Maine. A trip to Cobscook Bay brings you back in time as well, since none of the small towns here in Washington County have been gentrified into the kind of tourist Meccas which Camden, Boothbay and Bar Harbor to the south have become; here you see working forests and working waterfronts, where loggers and lobstermen ply their trades as they have for a century or more. In fact, on the waterfront in Lubec there is a memorial to fishermen lost at sea, with a shocking and tragic number of names engraved there.
Cobscook Bay State Park is one of my favorite Maine state parks as it is divided into several distinct sections, all offering rustic, spacious and secluded campsites with one section right on the ocean. Here’s the spot that served the Little Guy:
I recommend that a visit here include both Eastport to the north of the Bay, and Lubec to the south. On the way to Eastport is scenic Shackford Head State Park, where a number of hiking trails wind along the ocean.
Just be careful hiking here as there has been a recent infestation of fire ants, which you are especially likely to see on the many boardwalk paths which traverse the boggy areas of the trail.
Eastport itself is a quaint and delightful seaport, struggling in the pandemic but still with an air of civic pride despite the closure of so many seasonal restaurants and lodging establishments. There was a cruise ship docked at the town pier; a local vendor told me that the crew was not permitted to leave the ship and had been stuck there for several months, unable even to set foot on the dock; supplies were ordered via phone or computer and trucked to the pier. Apparently only the end of the pandemic will spell the end of confinement for this unfortunate crew.
This statue adorns the town park by the pier and is an Eastport landmark, as is the famous Raye’s Mustard factory, the last stone-ground mustard in America. Sadly, the factory is now closed to the public (pre-pandemic you could tour the factory, see the mustard made and obtain free samples!) but there is a shop on Main Street which serves a dazzling variety of mustards along with other condiments and condiment-themed kitchen gear and apparel — definitely worth visiting! To order some of this fine gourmet mustard, visit www.rayesmustard.com. Highly recommended!
On the south side of the Bay is lovely Lubec, Maine, the gateway to Campobello and the jumping-off point to Quoddy Head State Park, the easternmost park (and point) in America. Here’s a photo of Lubec harbor:
Lubec is reached off of US-1 at Whiting via ME-189; there is a well-marked side road (paved) to Quoddy Head State Park, home of the iconic Quoddy Head Light.
The lighthouse sits on a spectacular point of land overlooking the open Atlantic, but even more spectacular are the hiking trails which leave the parking lot at the lighthouse; the photos absolutely do not do the views justice.
The interplay of light and fog here defies description and, as many times as I have been here, it always feels new and different because the conditions are never the same twice.
If Eastport is a struggling seaport town soldiering valiantly on against the pandemic, Lubec is a tragedy; street after street of abandoned homes and shops with every vestige of the tourist trade destroyed. The only shop open in Lubec was the hardware store, leading me to believe that only the lobstermen remain of this once vibrant seaside community. I sincerely hope that all who read this blog will make the effort to visit these lovely, isolated and iconic eastern Maine coastal villages and spend a little time and money here, as it is well worth the trip.
Two caveats, however. First, to reach Eastport you must leave US-1 at Perry and follow ME-190 south through the Passamaquoddy Indian Reservation. These beleaguered people are justifiably sensitive about their historical treatment and do not want visitors; please respect their sovereignty and do not attempt to stop there or take photos, as the Reservation is definitely not a tourist destination. Secondly, this part of Maine is not called “the Bold Coast” for nothing! If you plan a kayak trip here, BE VERY CAREFUL — the tides are powerful enough to drag lobster buoys underwater and if you paddle south and west from Quoddy Head, there is literally no place to pull out and rest! It’s just steep, rocky cliffs for miles and miles reaching their antediluvian feet into the cold and restless Atlantic. I would say that only expert paddlers should venture onto these waters without a guide. Back in Cobscook Bay, however, there are a number of good paddling spots provided one keeps an eye on the tides! All in all, one could spend a week in this part of Maine, paddling, biking or hiking, and I sincerely encourage you to do so!