Maine's Bold Coast: Exploring Down East

February 25, 2022  |  Lubec, Maine

The Maine coast is known for its rugged beauty, its working fishing harbors, adorable coastal villages, and of course, lobster rolls. Almost as soon as a visitor crosses the bridge over the Piscataqua River, there are sights to see. It's just a matter of what you're in the mood for. Lighthouses? Fishing harbor? Lobster roll (Psssst... My choice for the best lobster roll along with the best view is Five Islands Lobster Company)?

Three colorful lobster boats lay at anchor on Johnson Bay on a foggy morning near Lubec, Maine.

Misty Morning on Johnson Bay

Three lobster boats, each with its unique color of green, red, and orange, lay anchored in Lubec Harbor, gently bobbing up and down in the calm waters of Johnson Bay. The colors of the boats stand out in stark contrast against the soft, hazy background, creating a warm and inviting scene. The thick fog that envelops the harbor adds a touch of mystery to the image, giving it an ethereal quality. The stillness of the water and the quietness of the harbor are only broken by the occasional sound of seagulls in the distance, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and serenity.

But here's the thing about visiting the Maine coast: It stretches so far- we have more coastline than California- that you can't possibly see it all, and most people never get much past Acadia National Park. But the further down east you go, the more beautiful it gets.

A fogbow arches over two lobster boats at anchor in the harbor in Lubec, Maine.


Lobster boats wait at anchor in Lubec Harbor beneath a fogbow on an autumn morning.

If you can make the drive, a little over four hours from Portland lies a quiet coastline with all the majesty of Acadia, and all the charm of the quaint fishing villages that dot the coast. The town of Lubec, the easternmost town in the the contiguous United States, is perfect for a getaway.

Start in the town of Lubec, nestled on Johnson Bay, just across from Campobello Island. Lubec is a sleepy fishing village, and the harbor is dotted with lobster boats at anchor. The town has a few restaurants, motels, and other lodging options. It's a great town to walk around in, grab a bite to eat, and just relax and watch the boats come and go.

West Quoddy Head lighthouse stands in the background as flowers grow in the foreground.

Tall White Asters at West Quoddy Head

West Quoddy Head lighthouse stands silent watch over Passamaquoddy Bay on a bright, sunny day in Lubec, Maine. In the foreground, tall white asters gracefully splay their petals among the lush green grass. The contrast between the vibrant wildflowers and the red and white striped exterior of the historic landmark structure create a stunningly peaceful image of a summer morning in down east Maine.

Just down the road from downtown Lubec lies Quoddy Head State Park, the home of West Quoddy Head Lighthouse. West Quoddy Head Light is distinguished by its candy cane striping on the tower, set high on the bluff overlooking Passamaquoddy Bay. Quoddy Head State Park features a number of trails that take you along the rugged coastline, treating you to some incredible views along the way.

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse stands watch over the waters of Quoddy Narrows and Passamaquoddy Bay in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States.

West Quoddy Head Light Station

West Quoddy Head Lighthouse stands watch over the waters of Quoddy Narrows and Passamaquoddy Bay in Lubec, Maine, the easternmost town in the United States. The lighthouse's unique red and white candy striped exterior contrasts starkly with the gray, cloud-filled sky and surrounding green and brown grasses. Below, it is low tide on the bay, and the rocky coastline is revealed, covered with barnacles and seaweed in shades of deep green. This a scene of quintessential down east Maine on an autumn morning.

I've found Quoddy Head State Park to be among my favorite spots to watch a sunrise in Maine. It's not as crowded as Acadia, somewhat off the beaten path. But what it lacks in amenities it makes up for in peace and quiet, and in a quiet, rugged beauty you simply can't escape.

The foggy view from the Cutler Coast Trail in down east Maine on a summer morning.

The Cutler Coast

Limited Edition

Black Point Cove, near Cutler, stands out as an exceptional example of the unspoiled beauty of down east Maine’s rocky coastline. The rugged clifftop plunging down to the sea and the deep green waters give a unique charm to the cove, while demanding visitors respect the unforgiving surroundings. Waves crash over the rocks with a relentless ferocity, yet a feeling of tranquility pervades the scene, due to the natural beauty and isolation of the cove.

Limited Edition of 100 Fine Art Prints. Each print includes a Certificate of Authenticity, hand-signed, with serial number. COA will be delivered separately.

From Lubec, if you head back south you can find a series of preserves and trailheads maintained by the Maine Coast Heritage Trust. There are a number along the coastline here. The crown jewel of the trails, maintained by the Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands, is the Cutler Coast Public Land. This preserve offers over 12,000 acres of blueberry barrens, woodlands, and cobblestone beaches overlooking the Bay of Fundy. I detailed an adventure my wife and I had there last summer in this blog post.

A dinghy sits in the mud in Barney's Cove near Jonesport, Maine, at dusk.

Dusk in Barney's Cove

This peaceful scene in Barney's Cove in Beals, Maine captures a quintessential fishing harbor. A small white dinghy lies left in the mud at low tide as the evening twilight dusts the sky with a lovely orange hue, illuminating the harbor in the distance, where several lobster boats are anchored. Before them, an old shack stands on a wharf in the shallow cove, giving the tranquil location a feeling of timelessness and nostalgia.

A little further south along the coast from there is Jonesport. Jonesport is a classic New England lobstering town. Just across Moosabec Reach from Jonesport lies Beals Island, where I photographed Dusk In Barney's Cove, above. These working waterfronts and harbors provide such rich character to photograph, especially at dawn or dusk. I enjoyed wandering the docks, photographing the lobster boats and witnessing an amazing sunset. The photograph above though, was something special. I was photographing with my friend Kristen Wilkinson, feeling a little frustrated, as I'd been looking for the perfect scene with a dory or dinghy. We were headed back to the car and as we rounded a corner from behind a fisherman's shack, this scene came into view. I immediately jumped down into the mud and went to work, with the last light of the day quickly fading.

To me, it's classic coastal Maine.