This season is your chance to go a little deeper into Maine’s Midcoast. This territory is not technically on Interstate 95 North, but hop off the Turnpike at Exit 52 (Falmouth, Freeport) and take 295 to the Brunswick or Topsham exits, then hit Route 1. This main route toward Downeast Maine takes you through some of our favorite places. Hit the highlights, but also turn off the beaten path. How? Here’s a short list of classic, don’t miss spots, and the hidden treasures nearby. Take the side roads off Route 1 and discover your own.
THE JOSHUA L. CHAMBERLAIN MUSEUM
For 50 years this tan building near Bowdoin College was the home of the Governor and Civil War hero. Learn more about the legend, including his years as student, professor and president of Bowdoin. (226 Maine St., Brunswick)
THE ANDROSCOGGIN SWINGING BRIDGE IN BRUNSWICK
This narrow suspension bridge, painted deep red, was built in 1892 for workers at the Cabot Mill who lived in Topsham. Remember their heritage as you stroll from Brunswick to Topsham, where a park winds along the river banks. (Mill St, Brunswick)
THE MAINE MARITIME MUSEUM
A must-see for anyone with an interest in nautical history. It’s right near Bath Iron Works, where ships are still being built. Boat tours from the museum include lighthouse tours along the mighty Kennebec River. (243 Washington St., Bath)
Stroll into Bath, one of the cutest (but underappreciated) downtowns of the Midcoast. Walk down Front St., shopping along the way (Reny’s! Antiques!) but don’t forget to turn left on Summer St. to see the beautiful Patten Free Library and the William Zorach’s exquisite “Spirit of the Sea” statue, a midcentury gem.
POPHAM BEACH STATE PARK
Take 209 south from Bath to this sandy beach and its adjacent Civil War-era fort, Fort Popham. Walk for miles, bodysurf in the waves or at low tide, walk to Fox Island.
BATES-MORSE MOUNTAIN CONSERVATION AREA
Just a few miles away from Popham, this conservation area, which provides fertile coastal research for Bates College, includes spectacular salt marshes and a pristine beach a two-mile walk down a bumpy road. The beauty is worth it but bring bug spray. The small parking lot fills up quickly. (373 Morse Mountain Rd., Phippsburg)
PEMAQUID POINT LIGHTHOUSE
Head all the way down Route 130 from Damariscotta to see this spectacular 1827 lighthouse set on rocky ledges at the end of a long neck of land. (3115 Bristol Rd., New Harbor)
OYSTERS IN DAMARISCOTTA
Damariscotta is the capital of Maine’s ever growing oyster farm culture. Stop for a dozen fresh oysters on the wharf or at the Shuck Station Raw Bar (68 Main St., Newcastle) or visit Riverside Butcher Co. (49 Main St., Damariscotta) for the turf in your surf and turf.
MT. BATTIE, CAMDEN
Definitely go to the top of Mt. Battie for nonstop views of Camden Harbor and Penobscot Bay (pictured above). Drive up or pick up the walking trail (a little steep in places) up the mountain’s south facing side from the trailhead at 54 Megunticook St., Camden.
Feeling like you want to do some wading or throw your kayak in the water? Keep going down Route 1 into Lincolnville, turning off at Howe Point Rd., just before you cross the Ducktrap River heading north. Explore tide pools and get a taste of a secret oasis, seconds from Route 1.