It’s an old Mainer saying that “you can’t get there from here.” And when we’re talking about Midcoast communities like Sebasco, Popham Beach and Boothbay, it’s true you can’t get all the way there via 95 North. It’s gorgeous country, boasting numerous islands, peninsulas and a mainland full of scenic nooks and crannies. The Midcoast area is well worth getting off the Turnpike and onto I-295 and then to U.S. Route 1, which takes you through Bath, Wiscasset and Damariscotta and to smaller roads and smaller villages.
It’s a tried and true tourist favorite to take the Casco Bay Lines cruise from Portland to Bailey Island, a 5 3/4-hour round-trip, including a two-hour layover at Cook’s Lobster & Ale House. You’ll pass lighthouses, forts and 19th-century summer colonies. But you can also drive to Bailey Island via Harpswell and Orrs Island, communities that have more than their fair share of stunning seaside views per capita.
The craggy coastline of the Midcoast region is quintessential Maine, with the lobstering and fishing villages, working waterfronts and quaint old Main Streets you’d expect. Maine Open Lighthouse Day, the weekend of Sept. 8, is a big deal in this region, which has the majority of Maine’s lighthouses. You can drive to some, such as Pemaquid Point Light near Bristol, Marshall Point Light near Port Clyde and Rockland Breakwater Point in Rockland Harbor. Other lighthouses, such as Mark Island Light, Goose Rocks Light and Saddleback Ledge, you’ll need to see by boat. Isle au Haut Boat Services has regularly scheduled lighthouse, puffin and combination lighthouse-and-puffin trips in the summer, with lighthouse specialty trips Sept. 8–9. (Put the puffins on your must-see list for next summer.)
Removed from bright city lights, take a moment to admire the night sky. And, if you’re so inspired, head Down East for the tenth annual Acadia Night Sky Festival, Sept. 5–9. The festival celebrates the natural beauty of a place where the Milky Way shines bright in the largest expense of dark sky east of the Mississippi. Workshops, speakers and excursions are available for everyone from families making memories to serious amateur astronomers.
Amy Paradysz is a writer, editor and photographer who lives in Scarborough.