The Maine Coast: Route 3, US 1

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Leaving Acadia National Park, you don’t have much of a choice of which road to follow.  Maine Route 3 is the only highway connecting Mount Desert Island with the town of Ellsworth on the mainland.  Ellsworth is a small city that feels larger than it really is, since there aren’t many other towns nearby.  But, it does provide a good place to stock up on supplies before heading to Acadia National Park, and there are plenty of hotels here (if you can’t find one closer to the park).

Ellsworth is also the crossroads of Maine Rte. 3 and US Highway 1, which travels the entire coastline of Maine.  The two highways run together through Orland, Bucksport, and Searsport, before parting ways in Belfast.  Then, you can either follow Rte. 3 west to Augusta, or stay on US 1 for a few more peeks at the coast.

I had just enough time left in my day to do a little sightseeing on my way south, so I stuck with US 1.  The first attraction you can’t avoid is at Bucksport:

US 1 and ME 3 cross the Penobscot River on two bridges.  The first is an almost unnoticeable bridge that takes you onto Verona Island — but the exit from the island is much more dramatic.

There are two bridges here.  On the left is the Waldo-Hancock Bridge (so named because it connects those two counties).  It was built between 1929 and 1931, and was taken out of service in 2006, when the new Penobscot Narrows Bridge opened to traffic.

Here’s a secret of the new bridge that I didn’t know at the time.  Notice the tip of the support tower? It looks taller than it needs to be, and there’s a good reason.  At the top of the column, there’s an observatory — 420 feet above the Penobscot River.

Below the bridge, near the tower that houses the observatory, there’s a cut-away sample of the bridge, showing what it looks like on the inside, where its suspension cables connect to the road deck.

Since I had a lot of ground to cover before dark, I decided not to drive into Fort Knox State Park — which is located just north of the bridge.  Had I known that entrance to the park would allow for a trip to the top of the bridge, I would have chosen differently.

A visit to Fort Knox State Park will allow you to experience the observatory, but it will also give you the chance to see the historic fort, built here between 1844 and 1869 to protect the river and Bangor, Maine, which is about 20 miles upstream.

If you enjoy antique stores, or junk stores, your next stop will be in…

Searsport

I can’t pass up a barn that’s packed full of odd items, so the “Treasures and Trash Barn” provided a good reason to stop.  It’s densely packed with almost everything you could imagine, from old road signs to huge boxes full of hundreds of faucet handles.  There’s also a more conventional antique mall across the street, if you’d prefer a more organized antiquing experience.

After Searsport, I somehow avoided the downtown area of Belfast.  Not intentionally: Rte. 3 and US 1 make a loop around the outskirts of town, then Rte. 3 splits off.  My next stop was in…

Lincolnville

US 1 isn’t always on the coast, but it returns to the waterfront at tiny Lincolnville, where a block of shops and restaurants line up at the side of the road.  It’s an especially beautiful place in late afternoon…

… when the sun, low in the western sky, lights up the view to the east.

There’s a seafood restaurant on the water (which, in these parts, is called a “Lobster Pound”).  Dinner would have been nice, but I needed to keep driving.

Just a few miles further south, US 1 squeezes through…

Camden

Camden, nearby Lincolnville, and Rockport (the next town to the south), call their area the Jewel of the Maine Coast, where the mountains meet the sea.  Camden is the largest town in this string of coastal jewels, and it has a classic New England-style downtown district.  Traffic on US 1 slows to a crawl as it passes through this idyllic Main Street.

Sadly, I didn’t have enough time to find a parking spot and walk the streets.  As you can see by the picture I took (by holding my camera out the window), the sun was already getting close to setting.  So now, Camden is on my list of places worth visiting, the next time I’m in coastal Maine.  (You can see some of Camden in the Drivelapse video, below.)

Rockland

At Rockland, US 1 turns inland, and heads west.  I took just one picture here, at the Knox County Courthouse, circa 1874.

Continue on US 1 south.  Eventually, US 1 will hit I-295, but shortly before you get to the freeway, you’ll pass through historic Bath, Maine, our next stop.

Drivelapse Video

Here’s a dash-cam, time-lapse video of the drive from Bar Harbor to the Penobscot Bridge in Bucksport…

… and from Bucksport to Camden, Maine:

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