The island communities along Maine's downeast coast are destinations for nature lovers, photographers and anyone who wants to get away from it all.
The town of Beals on Beals Island is connected to the mainland at Jonesport. Beals is a popular seabird watching spot, with Great Wass Island Preserve being the major draw. The 1,540-acre preserve composes nearly all of the southern part of Beals, and has 13 miles of walking trails from which visitors can view gray seals, osprey and nearby Moose Peak Lighthouse. Lobster boat racing takes place annually on Independence Day weekend. And the town began a new winter tradition in 2010 by building the tallest-known Christmas tree made of lobster traps – topping out at 50 feet.
It's a 30 minute ferry ride to reach Swan's Island off the southwest coast of Mount Desert Island. The Swan's Island Lobster & Marine Museum is a short walk from the ferry dock and offers exhibits of antique fishing equipment, lobster gear, historic navigation equipment, boat models and photographs. Fine Sand Beach is a favorite spot for swimming and sunning. The water here has a sandy bottom, and children can search for snails, crabs and starfish in tide pools. Hockamock Head Lighthouse has recently been restored and has one of the largest keeper's houses in Maine. The light station makes a great picnic destination for visitors bicycling or driving.
Eastport is the easternmost city in the continental United States located at the tip of Maine's downeast coast on Moose Island. The city wharf is the departure point for scenic, whale watch and sunset cruises aboard two classic passenger schooners known as windjammers. The Tides Institute & Museum of Art shares the cultural connections of the downeast region and Atlantic Canada, while the The Eastport Commons is a shopping destination showcasing the work of local artists and craftspeople. Raye's Mustard Mill, the only traditional stone ground mustard mill in America, is a must-visit. Despite being small, Eastport puts on some big community events. The Eastport Fourth of July celebration is the largest in Maine, while the Salmon Festival and Pirate Festival draw crowds for delicious food and fun events.
Islesford, also known as Little Cranberry Island, is another popular day trip off the southern coast of Mt. Desert Island. The town's annual 4th of July Picnic always draws a crowd for steamed lobster, barbecue chicken, burgers and homemade desserts. The National Park Service operates the Islesford Historical Museum which displays equipment and household objects once used by local fishermen and residents. The Islesford Dock has a restaurant, art gallery, pottery studio and gift shop, along with great sunset views over the mountains of Acadia National Park.