Around Schoodic Peninsula
The Schoodic peninsula is famous for several things: its scenic beauty, its lobsters, Acadia National Park, and its reputation as a haven for artists – not necessarily in that order, it just depends on whom you ask! Across Frenchman Bay from Bar Harbor and bounded by Gouldsboro and Frenchman bays and the Atlantic Ocean, its picturesque harbors are home to fleets of lobster boats that work the coastal waters. Watching the boats is a favorite past-time (eating their catch is another!). Fresh lobsters are available in most of the villages on the peninsula.
So what is there to do around here? There is sightseeing, hiking, kayaking, gallery hopping, antiquing, beachcombing, or just watching the surf crash at Schoodic. There is also swimming at Jones Pond, biking the park loop, birdwatching, fishing, golfing, picking fresh berries (in season), and picnicking on the shore. Attend a lecture or music program, or a night tour or lecture at Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) at the national park. Or, just sit outside and enjoy the incredible night sky.
While you’re on the peninsula, be sure to see:
Schoodic Point. The biggest attraction in the area is the Schoodic Peninsula section of Acadia National Park. It’s in Winter Harbor, about four miles from the cottage, and features spectacular coastal scenery. You can bike it, hike it, picnic (there are no food concessions in the park, but you’ll pass several on your way there), or just stay in your car the whole time on the one-way loop road. It’s all free and open to the public. A few miles after entering the park, you can turn left and drive to the top of Schoodic Head for a panorama of the entire area and splendid views of the mountains of Acadia across the bay. Then follow the signs to Schoodic Point, stopping at the gate house on the right if you want to pick up a map. Continue on to the parking area at the point where you can watch the surf pound against the granite coast – always gorgeous, spectacular on an in-coming tide. Retrace your route back to the loop road and keep following it along the rocky coast until you come back to Rt. 186 in Birch Harbor. Turn right and you’ll be headed back toward Cove Cottage.
Jones Pond. This gorgeous fresh-water “pond” on Rte. 195 (about a mile from US 1) is a great place for swimming and kayaking, with picnic facilities and a dock and boat ramp.
Hammond Hall. The home to Schoodic Arts for All and Winter Harbor Music Festival has events and art exhibits all year long. For two weeks each August, SAFA sponsors an arts festival with dozens of workshops, performances, and exhibits of local artistic endeavors.
Corea Heath. Corea has a 1000-acre forever wild front yard separating it from the rest of civilization. About two miles from the turn onto Rte. 195 in Prospect Harbor, is the 600-acre Northern Corea Heath. Take the path through the heath to see a large beaver lodge on the pond. On the opposite side of the road is a former super-secret navy listening post and cold war relic, which is now a 400-acre part of Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The latter has a very easy-to-walk elevated path to an overlook that gives visitors a view of this huge arctic bog, home to rare plants and unusual plant communities, as well as habitat for all sorts of wildlife. Just a short walk and it seems like you’ve entered a different world.
The Village of Corea. Corea harbor, with its colorful fleet of lobster boats, often shows up on calendars and post cards, labeled “Typical Maine Fishing Village.” In fact it isn’t typical at all because such villages are rapidly vanishing on the coast of Maine as working harbors give way to more recreational uses. To get the most out of this one while you are here, explore it at a walking pace and discover some of the best spots in town for yourself: the bench and rocky beach near the end of Cranberry Point Road (one of the best spots to find sea glass); the sandy beach at the seawall; the shortcut path to the beach on Crowley Island (at low tide, you can even walk out to Bar Island, but keep an eye on the sand bar – the tide comes in quickly here, and you don’t want to get stuck out there); and the towns’ first cemetery, currently being restored by volunteers.
- There are three farms on the peninsula offering organic fruits and vegetables. A weekly farmers’ market offers more vegetables as well as fresh breads, eggs, flowers, jams, maple syrup, cheeses, meats, and much more.
- McC’s Marketplace on Rte. 186 in Birch Harbor is a small but well-stocked grocery store with a liquor license.
- Winter Harbor IGA on Main Street in Winter Harbor is a larger grocery with some local products.
- Tuesday morning Farmers’ Market in Winter Harbor offers not only local fruits and vegetables, but cheeses, meats, eggs (if you’re early and lucky), breads and pastries, East Indian foods, honey, flowers, and a lot more.
- If you can’t get what you want at one of these, there are large super markets in Milbridge (18 miles north) and Ellsworth (24 miles south), with lots to see and do in between.
Some favorite places to shop on the peninsula include:
Chapter Two. Rosemary and Gary have put together one of the most interesting and varied selections of local artisans’ work anywhere around. It’s in Corea, just a few miles beyond the turn-off for Lighthouse Point Road. You’ll see beautiful art work in many different media, hand-hooked rugs, jewelry, notecards, gifts, and a good collection of new and used books.
Winter Harbor 5 & 10. This really Is a Five and Dime of the old sort. Peter has just about everything crammed into this variety store: needful things for the home, office supplies, souvenirs, beach togs, and toys. Just look, you’ll find what you want in here somewhere!
Watering Cove Studios/U.S. Bells. Just a short drive on the West Bay Road (Rte. 186 north) is a real bell foundry with a retail shop on the premises plus some cool pottery. You can watch a video of a bronze pouring on the website, or call to check the day’s schedule and go watch it live.
Prospect Harbor Soap Company. If you are headed toward the Park from Cove Cottage, this place is on the right just after you pass the park road and approach the village of Winter Harbor. Master mixer Alexis makes a wide variety of soaps, lotions, soy candles, and other lovely items from natural ingredients to wow the body and soul. Just go in and inhale – you won’t leave empty handed.
Lee Art Glass. Located in the former post office in South Gouldsboro on Rte 186, the shop was started by Rod Lee back in the last century. The new owners use the original molds and create beautiful glass pieces in gorgeous colors and patterns.
Artisans and Antiques in Winter Harbor. This is a group shop with antiques and works by local artists.
Littlefield Gallery. Also in Winter Harbor near the Bar Harbor ferry, it has works by artists from around the country who summer in the area.
As for places to eat on the peninsula, the main thing to know about the restaurants is that many of them close early, even during the summer season. Consult the websites above for all the options, but if you want recommendations, try…
Chase’s Restaurant. On Main Street in Winter Harbor, this is a long-running Downeast diner with great chowder and local seafood. It can get crowded, so go early and expect to wait.
Corea Wharf Gallery. It’s on the left, just past the post office in Corea. Walk down the gravel road to Joe Young’s wharf and treat yourself to an al fresco lunch on one of the prettiest harbors in Maine. Great food, great people and the best view from a dining establishment on the peninsula!
Me & Ben’s. Feel like a hot dog? Then head to Main Street, Birch Harbor, just around the corner from Nautica Pub. The young, entrepreneurial triplets who operate this establishment offer them a zillion different ways. Open till 3:00 p.m.
The Pickled Wrinkle. The only real bar in the area and a favorite of the locals, it’s at 9 East Schoodic Drive in Birch Harbor, across from McC’s Market at the only left turn in the village. They serve lunch and dinner, with live jazz on Mondays and Thursdays, and a horseshoe pit out back. They also serve the best haddock around – all-you-can-eat on Friday nights!
There are a couple of other of favorite places, not on the peninsula but south on US 1 in Sullivan (ten or twelve miles away).
Tracey’s. This is the only lobster pound in the area and the place to go if you don’t want to cook your own lobster or clams. Delicious!
Chester Pike’s Galley. A great diner open only for breakfast and lunch, and both are terrific. They also serve dinner on Friday nights, and the wait is as long as the food is good! serve dinner on Friday nights, and the wait is as long as the food is good!
Venture north or south of Schoodic and enjoy more of the same beauty and activities, as well as whale and puffin watching, live theater, winery tours, and visits to more of the lighthouses that dot the coast. Mount Desert Island, home to Bar Harbor and Acadia national Park, is a forty minute drive or ferry ride away – you can catch a ferry from Winter Harbor and take advantage of the free island-wide bus service on the island, or make the drive and enjoy the sights along the way. East Quoddy lighthouse and Campobello Island, an international island and once the summer home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, is about an hour and a half drive north off of Lubec, or from Eastport via ferry. Calais and the Canadian border are two hours away (passports are required in Canada and on Campobello). It’s a long but beautiful drive through Blue Hill to Stonington on Deer Isle. Rock quarries in Sullivan showcase art and pottery, and for classical music fans, there are Sunday and Wednesday night concerts in Hancock.
Be as busy as you want, or just relax on the deck and watch the world go by. Maine, the way life should be!