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Maine's highway 1: A highway companion

  • August 7, 2004 - 11:00 PM

1. Port Clyde: Sure, stop at the L.L. Bean flagship store in Freeport on your way to Port Clyde, because virtually the only shopping you'll find down Hwy. 131 is at the plank-floored Port Clyde general store. You will find saltwater meadows, clapboard farmhouses and the white granite and brick Marshall Point light, which has stood watch since 1833 on the eastern side of the harbor.

Look for the Miller's Lobster sign along the road. Locals consider it a hidden gem. Like most lobster pounds, seating is at a picnic table on the dock, and you are your own wine steward.

The Elizabeth Ann and Laura B both leave from the Port Clyde dock for the island of Monhegan three times daily during the summer. Walk the 17 miles of trails, explore the artist colony, or eat a sack lunch along the rocky shore.

On your way back to Hwy. 1, stop at Owl's Head State Park to see the Owl's Head light. A mere 30 feet tall, it sits on a high cliff overlooking Penobscot Bay, and is one of the most accessible lighthouses.

2. Camden: This seaside village is quintessential Maine. Sylvan hills tumble to the sea, white church steeples point skyward, and several windjammers -- the turn-of-the-century wooden schooners -- dock in the harbor. You won't find any chain motels or fast food joints here, but restaurants and stately old inns abound. Stay in your own cottage adjacent to Camden Hills State Park at the Lodge at Camden Hills. Just don't get too cozy in the jetted tub or in front of the fireplace to watch for the coyote who trots across the lawn each evening ($225 to $249, 1-800-832-7058).

3. Brooklin: If you like wood boats of any kind, Brooklin is for you. Near the bottom of Blue Hill peninsula, a cluster of buildings houses WoodenBoat magazine and the WoodenBoat school. Enthusiasts come from all over the world to learn hands-on seamanship skills and boat building at the school, and students rave about the teachers and camaraderie. The school is open to visitors Monday through Saturday while classes are in session.

4. Acadia National Park: Most of the park is on Mount Desert Island about 15 miles from Hwy. 1 near Ellsworth. The drive to the touristy town of Bar Harbor is dotted with kitschy petting zoos and go-kart tracks. Fortunately, it's just a jumping-off point for Acadia's more rugged charms. Hike the Ocean Path from Sand Beach to Otter Point for stellar shoreline views. Stop at Little Hunter's Beach and listen as the tide rakes rocks back and forth. Climb Cadillac Mountain for an impressive panoramic view. Rent a bicycle and pedal the car-free network of carriage roads, or plop your kayak in protected bays. Then reward yourself for all your efforts with warm, buttery popovers at Jordan Pond teahouse.

On the "quiet" side of Acadia, the Bass Harbor head light is worthy of several frames of film, and the little town of Southwest Harbor offers many historic B&Bs, including the 1904 Kingsleigh Inn. Try to get the turret suite on the third floor, which includes a telescope for stargazing and harbor watching. ($110 to $260. 1-207-244-5302).

5. Jonesport: Summer fog can be almost pliable in this village on a poke of land 12 miles from Hwy. 1, but it's worth feeling your way there. John Norton, a seaman with long, tangled curls that blow in the salty breeze, launches his "Chief" from Jonesport to Machias Seal Island daily. If the weather is clear, birders can land on the island, home to thousands of puffins, as well as arctic terns, razorbill auks and common murres. ($60 per person, 1-888-551-4895 or www.machiassealisland.com).

While you're nature watching, cross the bridge from Jonesport to Great Wass Island, a preserve managed by the Nature Conservancy. Hiking trails lead through jack pine stands and peat bogs to impressive slabs of exposed pink granite shore. Expect to see osprey or other wildlife, but few humans. If you'd rather experience the Great Wass archipelago from the water, several guides throughout Maine offer kayak tours to the area.

Online: Go to http://www.startribune

.com/drive for an expanded, printable version of this story with more Web links. You'll also find an interactive map, more photos and discussions.

The Drive is a series running monthly through October.

Part I: The Pacific Coast Highway

Part II: The Blues Highway, Mississippi to Memphis

Part III: U.S. Hwy. 1 in Maine

Part IV: Montana byways

Part V: High roads in New Mexico

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