Foliage without crowds: Maine’s Schoodic region delivers big time

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Last week I wrote about the Moosehead/Katahdin region as a favorite place to view the leaves but leave the crowds. This week, I’m sharing another: Maine’s Schoodic Region, that lovely, rural, magical area just northeast of Ellsworth. It packs a wallop, with not one, but two Scenic Byways, a portion of Acadia National Park, the fabulous Donnell Pond Public Reserve Lands, and the Petit Manan section of the Maine Coastal  Islands National Wildlife Reserve. Artists’ studios and galleries pepper the peninsulas and backroads, adding even more incentive to mosey about this gem. The mix of hardwoods and softwoods, ocean and lakes, mountains and barrens create a color palette unrivaled.

When Routes 1 and 3 split in Ellsworth, everything changes. The crowds (or what’s left of them, especially at  time of year) follow Route 3 to Mount Desert Island. Stay on Route 1 heading north, and within a few miles, you’ll leave the crowds, traffic, and box stores behind, so too, the chain hotels and fast food joints.

Not that this region is every really busy, but at this time of year, it’s almost empty. The summah rusticators have flown the coop, the families have headed home, leaving the region to those who don’t mind that some shops and restaurants have closed and those that haven’t have cut back hours. It’s cozy, local, chummy. It’s not a good choice  for fussbudgets, but for those who savor authentic Maine, well, this is the real deal.

Here’s the route:

Cut inland on Route 182, a.k.a. the Black Woods Byway. When foliage peaks, this route, which snakes through the hills and ponds of the Donnell Public Reserved Lands is a spectacular chunk of color made only better by hiking Schoodic and/or Black Mountains for the views.

Detour into Cherryfield. While it doesn’t offer a lot in the way of visitor services, it makes up for that lack with spectacular architecture. Detour further  for another dose of Maine: Dodge north toward Deblois for a dip into the rose-colored blueberry barrens of autumn (quick joke: What’s green in spring, blue in summer, red in autumn, then black? Answer: a Maine wild blueberry barren).

Return via Route 1, taking time to walk the trails of Petit Manan, then mosey down to Gouldsboro, with an out and back to Corea, a true lobstering community (it doesn’t get any more real than Corea).

Next, continue along the Schoodic National Scenic Byway, which loops out to the pink granite fingernails of Acadia National Park’s Schoodic finger. There are some nice picnic areas in this, the only mainland section of the park.

Finally, work your way back to the starting point, being sure to visit the numerous artists’s studios and galleries tucked in the woods just off the main drag: painting, furniture, quilts, pottery, rugs, weavings… all that and more.

Sleep

Three Pines B&B, an off-the-grid bed and breakfast on an organic farm overlooking the reversing falls. Really, what more could you want?

Oceanside Meadows, a combination bed and breakfast in two adjacent historical buildings and ecology center—the 200-acre property extends from a sand beach cradled by rocky shore through dunes across fields through woods back to a salt marsh, and the owners have mapped and created guides to it all.

Elsa’s, a lovely B&B owned by a family with roots dating back generations upon generations; ask nicely, and you might even end up with a lobster dinner.

Main Stay Cottages, an oceanfront complex of cottages and a main house, within walking distance to the village.

Albee’s Shorehouse, oh I love this collection of unfussy oceanfront (as in just feet from the waves) cottages (not for everyone, but a treasure for those who appreciate simple pleasures).

EAT

• Chester Pike’s Galley, Route 1, Sullivan, for some of the best honest home cookin’, fabulous Friday fish fries, and to-die-for desserts; bright, cheerful atmosphere.

Maple Knoll Pizza, Route 182, Franklin, hole-in-the-wall serving decent ‘za.

Le Domain, Route 1, Hancock, for tres French cuisine; the fixed-price menus make it affordable; you won’t feel out of place dressed up a bit, but it’s not required.

Chipper’s, Route 1, Hancock, wide-ranging menu, nice dining area, new lounge, and fabulous chowder; finer dining but not fancy.

Crocker House Inn, Hancock Point, old -time charm combined with well prepared Continental fare; reliable and good; country classic.

Gerrish’s Store, Winter Harbor, sandwiches, soups, and baked goods; once a true old fashioned country store, it’s lost its soul over the years and given in to newfangled ways like free Wifi.

•  Chase’s, Winter Harbor, nothing fancy, nothing rave-worthy except that it’s usually open when everybody else is closed; atmosphere leans toward grub-and-gossip dive, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Well, we’re here on MDI planning to try this very thing. Seems like a lot to do on one day! We were going to split in two…

  2. Definitely a lot to do in one day. I’d hope folks would stay over a night or two, but you can loop through Donnell and back in a day, as long as you don’t go down all the byways or try to hike.

  3. I was up in the Bar harbor area and someone actually told me about some pizza place out in franklin that everyone raves about. It was called Maple Knoll pizza. I decided to take a ride out there and I was pleasntly surprised of how incredible the pizza and calzones where. Not sure if you were aware but they just got online. Buzzy the owner gave me a menu and his url: http://www.mapleknollspecialties.com

    I even picked up some of this stuff he makes called Relsa. it’s not relish…it’s not salsa but it’s like a teasing taste of both and it’s incredible. Anyways, if you are in the area…definitely stop by the place. It was worth the drive.

  4. Yes, you’ve found one of the hidden gems, a good reason for taking the Blackwoods Scenic Byway. I have Maple Knoll in my guidebooks. Have yet to try the relsa, but I’ll add it to my list. Thanks!

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