Along the scenic coast of Maine expect lighthouses, quaint villages with colorful buoys and fishing boats in the harbor and the opportunity for great seafood dinners, although the wild blueberry pies caught my attention as well. And perhaps the best way to explore the coast of Maine is by bicycle as numerous people do.
In popular Acadia National Park you can hike up a mountain for more amazing Maine coastal views. Then too there is the great shopping in Freeport, Old Portland or relax on the sandy beaches in the south. This is just a bit of what we experienced, and yes, my friends and I are heading back for another cycling trip!
Maine is considered one of the most cycling friendly states in the USA. Not only are the drivers very considerate around cyclists but on the day we arrived two cycling groups invited us along. Noticing our cycling jerseys and bicycles an employee from LL Bean located in Freeport said they offered an evening cycling ride and a local club invited us to join them. The only warning I have is that there are few bike route signs so maps are essential. Okay, another thing if you head inland expect major climbs as things get hilly quickly.
You can either cycle the East Coast Greenway which goes from the Canadian border and continues through Maine on its way to Florida or base yourself on a few locations and go on daily trips, which is what we did.
The Maine Beaches
The roads in this area are flat with little traffic except in a few of the towns. There are 30 miles of sandy beaches in this area along with golf courses and numerous hotels but we headed over to the tourist town of Keenbunkport to check out the shops and restaurants. Cross the Kennebrook River and head right along Ocean Drive which has a park with views of the ocean, town and sailboats off shore. Stop for a visit of the stone building that is St. Anns Episcopal Church, before continuing past some really elegant homes including one owned by the Bush family.
When you arrive at a T-junction turn right and drive to Cape Porpoise. At the town center go right along a winding road with plenty of views of the bay with the many fishing boats before arriving at Cape Porpoise Town Landing and Park. Find a place to park and you must go into the restaurant for some seafood to enjoy at one of the picnic tables overlooking fishing boats to one side and an pile of lobster traps on the other. I can recommend the clam chowder.
We continued along to passing Marsh Point where we had to stop as a class of artists was at work painting the scene in front of them. This area is a bit touristy but I still loved it and it is a good introduction to the coast.
Portland and Casco Bay
Portland itself features an old port and picturesque shopping area worthy of a visit as in the 18th and 19th century this area was a bustling shipping center. Just to the north is the Eastern Promenade Trail along the coast suitable for a nice walk or cycle ride. Continue further and you will find large bay surrounded by parks.
The lighthouse route starts in Portland goes through the historic port area before crossing the harbor on a bridge with bike lanes. You can expect to see Cape Elizabeth and Portland Lighthouses along with Fort Wellington Park as you cycle along the scenic shore on this 41 mile route. As you travel along do check them out as well as Two Lights State Park and Crescent Beach State Park for some swimming and where one sign at a snack bar warned to guard our food as the seagulls loved their cooking as well. You may also wish to drive through the nearby pretty university campus to Spring Point Ledge Light which overlooks the harbor.
A little to the north is Freeport, brim full of interesting shops including the head office of LL Bean, which has several stores. It all began with Leon Leonwood Bean over 80 years ago. The bike route has you starting in Freeport and riding over gentle hills for 20 to 35 miles to quaint Brunswick and Casco Bay.
Mid Coast Maine
The central part of the town of Brunswick feature a nice park located next to the home of pretty Bowdoin College which also housing an art museum. If you continue along you get to see some nice homes and can either continue to Freeport via Casco Bay or head back.
We were pushed for time otherwise we would have stopped in Camden for the view of Penobscot Bay. However we did stop in Rockland, home of the Maine Lobster Festival for lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants and there is a Lighthouse Museum just around the corner as well. Time permitting it is worth the easy cycle out to the park to see the Owls Head Light. Climb up the steps and you will get some amazing views of the coast
Acadia National Park Area
Established in 1916, Acadia National Park welcomes over 2 million visitors a year. First, stopped at the Hulls Cove Visitor Center located at the entrance to pick up maps and we also viewed the interesting film on the history of the park. Then you will want to cycle early before there is too much traffic the 27 mile Park Loop Road (one way) stopping at attractions such at Thunder Hole where the surf explodes as high as 40 feet amidst the rocks. You continue through the forested parkland passing a few lakes with perhaps a short detour up Cadillac Mountain if you don’t mind the tough climb.
Another ride took us to the Schoodic Peninsula which is perfect as the road in the park is one way and quite on weekdays and gave us excellent views across Frenchman Bay to the main part of the park with a number of fishing villages along the way. Do stop in Winter Harbor for baked goods for a break before continuing into the park proper on the loop road and do take the optional extension to see the fishing village of Corea.
Although not located in the park on another day trip take the bridge to Deer Isle and climb on your bike for a super scenic loop ride of 31 to 46 miles to the village of Stonington with some nice restaurants and galleries. This is not a hard ride but do expect a few short and steep climbs along the way.
Afterwards why not head to Bar Harbor for dinner at one of the seafood restaurants along the waterfront, some shopping or join the line for one of the many day cruises where you may be lucky enough to see a whale.
As with any bicycle touring vacation pack comfortable cycling clothing. These very scenic coastal rides will keep your busy for a week but there are many more opportunities for great cycling in Maine.