Maine Scenic Drives: Schoodic Scenic Byway

The Schoodic Scenic Byway offers a landscape and lifestyle that residents want to preserve and you will want to experience. Wake from a good night's sleep at a historic bed-and-breakfast and spend the day lobstering, clamming, and picking blueberries, and walking in vast timberland. Stop and shop at small shops and yard sales where local artisans and craftspeople sell their wares.

Nature and scenery along the byway match its cultural heritage for richness and beauty. As you travel this route, look sea-and skyward for glimpses of soaring animal life. Ducks, eagles, and osprey are plentiful near the many lakes, rivers, and coastlines along the byway. View gorgeous landscapes of mountains, islands, and fields of blueberries and wildflowers, historic buildings and lighthouses. Discover one of the last frontiers of the eastern seaboard on the Schoodic Scenic Byway.

Archaeological Qualities of Schoodic Scenic Byway

The earliest inhabitants of this area were small groups of Native Americans who settled here several thousand years ago. Clams, which could be harvested from mud and sand tidal flats, were a staple of their diet. Because clamshells can take thousands of years to deteriorate, the buried mounds of shells that are revealed by coastal erosion still mark those sites. Most of these sites are on private property, but some exist in the Schoodic section of Acadia National Park.

The first documented visits of European explorers mapped the coast in the early 1500s. These explorers were mostly Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French. Although Native Americans lived in the area of the Schoodic Scenic Byway for thousands of years, there were no European settlements until after the French and Indian War, around 1760. Numerous archaeological sites on the Schoodic Peninsula have been excavated and studied by researchers from the Maine Historic Preservation Commission.

Qualities of Schoodic Scenic Byway

This region of Maine is unique because of its local Downeast culture. The term Downeast has been around for a long time. Years ago, when sailors hauled cargo to the northeast of New England the prevailing wind came from the southwest, pushing their schooners downwind in an easterly direction. While other areas of the state market this idiom, they fail to capture the essence of real Maine living. The true Downeast Maine is an untouched jewel. The people of Maine, true Mainers (pronounced "May-nuhs"),want to keep their treasure a secret. Consequently, only the adventurous have stumbled upon the delights tucked away in the jagged coastline around the Schoodic Peninsula. The people of this area really do make a living off the sea and work primarily as anglers, shipbuilders, seafarers, and tradespeople. They only farm as a supplement to these other businesses and occupations.

The Schoodic Scenic Byway provides visitors with a beautiful way to explore the Downeast countryside. Take time to enjoy the many festivals and activities. Winter Harbor is a busy fishing port where a lobster festival is held every August with lobster boat races and good food. Schoodic Arts for All, a group of local artists and community members, features a number of different activities such as the community steel band, traditional old-time string-band music, dancing, and more. Locally produced goods made by artisans and crafters are sold through small shops and yard sales year-round. Downeast clam bakes and lobster festivals are true traditions in this area, as well as summer "coasting" on a schooner.

Qualities of Schoodic Scenic Byway

The earliest Europeans here may have been the Vikings who briefly visited about a thousand years ago. The first documented visits were those of Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French explorers who mapped the coast in the early 1500s. Frenchman Bay, between Mount Desert Island and Gouldsboro Peninsula, got its name when English sailors saw (and avoided) a French man-of-war moored there.

Settlers from southern Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts began moving into this area to harvest trees that were turned into lumber and shipped to Boston. During the 1880s, John G. Moore, a wealthy New Yorker from Steuben, Maine, purchased most of the land on Schoodic. In 1897, he put in a road and welcomed the public to visit. After Moore's death, the land eventually passed to George B. Dorr, a conservationist, who donated it to the Interior Department as an addition to Acadia National Park.

Qualities of Schoodic Scenic Byway

The Schoodic Scenic Byway passes through a land of lobsters, clams, blueberry fields, and timber. The peninsula lures travelers with thundering waves crashing against the peaks, and then unfolds its history. Free from the pressures of every day, the Schoodic Peninsula whispers the stories of nature to its travelers, enticing them to learn more about how it was shaped by glaciers millions of years ago. While contemplating age-old mysteries, if visitors are still, the peninsula and its surrounding islands come alive with a flurry of wildlife and various kinds of rare and uncommon birds wing overhead or scuttle in the brush.

The glorious scenery and natural formations of the peninsula attract wildlife, seabirds, and waterfowl. The best place in Acadia to see seabirds is on the Schoodic Peninsula and its surrounding islands. Petit Manan, in particular, offers a national wildlife refuge that allows visitors to see a variety of birds. While taking a hike along the Shore Trail, travelers will be able to see blue-headed vireos and black-capped chickadees among the scrub and stunted trees. White cedar swamps are home to pine warblers and yellow-shafted flickers. Nesting seabirds are the major attraction, and Petit Manan houses Atlantic puffins; common, Artic, and endangered roseate terns; razorbills; laughing gulls; and Leach's storm petrels. In addition to seabirds, wading birds and bald eagles also nest on the refuge islands.

View Enlarged Image This map will guide you along Schoodic Scenic Byway.

Qualities of Schoodic Scenic Byway

The Schoodic Peninsula has plenty of recreational opportunities. Recreation varies from outdoor activities, such as hiking and walking, to browsing through galleries. There are also three picnic areas along the byway that provide access for sea kayaking and tidal pool combing. Bicycling is very popular around Schoodic Point Road. The drive along the byway is recreation itself, with wonderful views that provide places for sightseeing and contemplation.

The easygoing Schoodic Head Trail takes travelers through striking landscape. Stands of northern white cedar, red and white spruce, paper birch, and jack pine tower over the rocky terrain. Vibrant green patchworks of a myriad of moss species meander across the pink granite boulders. Lichen patterns of silver and purple adorn rocks along the banks of the stream that parallels the trail. Charming small pools and miniature waterfalls gurgle above the sound of the crashing surf on the point. Schoodic Head Trail brings visitors onto a dirt road that connects with the Alder Trail, a southeasterly trail favored by woodcocks, spruce grouse, chickadees, and many small song birds. The Alder Trail takes travelers back to the Park Loop Road.

The Schoodic Peninsula offers biking enthusiasts an enjoyable 13- to 29-mile ride, depending on how far the visitor wants to go. The loop meanders through picturesque fishing villages and along a dramatic section of rocky shoreline. A short side trip to the fishing village of Corea is only six miles out and well worth the trip. Other side trips include a shorter ride to Lighthouse Point just 1/2 mile off of the main ride.

Find more useful information related to Maine's Schoodic Scenic Byway:

  • Maine Scenic Drives: Schoodic Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Maine. Check out the others.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Maine? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.

Highlights of Schoodic Scenic Byway

Awe-inspiring views pepper Schoodic Scenic Byway.
Awe-inspiring views pepper Schoodic Scenic Byway.

Traveling around the Schoodic Peninsula is an unexpected experience. This uncrowded area allows travelers to pass through the stunning scenery with a feeling of solitude and discovery. This byway takes the traveler along the coast through quaint fishing villages, vernacular architecture, and striking, serene Atlantic views.

The views from the byway are captivating and will belong to the visitor alone, rather than a crowd of people. The wind and weather patterns are delightfully dynamic and unpredictable, ranging from clear, brisk, invigorating weather to damp, cool, fog-laden doldrums. On the Schoodic Peninsula, stormy days actually offer fantastic sights. Nature's spectacular play of foamy water pounding upon the rocky coastlines is truly awe-inspiring.

The byway begins at the west end of the Hancock-Sullivan Bridge about eight miles east of the village of Hancock on U.S. 1. It's best to start at this end of the byway because the most scenic stretch, which runs through a section of Acadia National Park, runs one way going west to east.

Sullivan: At West Sullivan, follow U.S. 1 east along the upper reaches of Frenchman Bay to Sullivan. Sullivan has Downeast-style architecture set around a central common with outstanding views south to Frenchman Bay and Mount Desert Island (site of the main section of Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor).

Winter Harbor: Just west of the town of West Gouldsboro, take Route 186 south, passing through South Gouldsboro and the resort town of Winter Harbor, where there are lodgings and restaurants.

Acadia National Park: East of Winter Harbor, go south onto Moore Road, which leads to the Schoodic Peninsula and the mostly undeveloped Schoodic section of Acadia National Park. The one-way Schoodic Drive then leads a bit more than seven miles along the park shoreline. Watch for deer, moose, seals, eagles, ospreys, herons -- and bicyclists -- along the way.

Frazer Point Picnic Area: After entering the park, the first turnout is for the Frazer Point Picnic Area, which features barbecue and picnic facilities with scenic views of Winter Harbor and its nearby islands, coves, and rocky beaches.

Winter Harbor Lighthouse: Continuing down the one-way road, watch to the west for Mark Island and the 1856 Winter Harbor Lighthouse. With Mount Desert Island's Cadillac Mountain rising in the background, it's considered the most photogenic lighthouse along the byway. The best pictures are available from turnouts in the first mile after entering the park.

Schoodic Point: At Schoodic Point, the southernmost tip of the peninsula, Atlantic Ocean waves crash to the shore against granite rocks. The pounding surf can sometimes reach heights of 50 feet. Watch for rocks on the roadway in this area.

Blueberry Hill: A mile northeast of Schoodic Point, stop at Blueberry Hill to picnic, hike, and take pictures of offshore islands. This is one of the best vantage points for viewing 123-foot Petit Manan Lighthouse, Maine's second tallest, which dates from 1817.Watch for puffins in summer; they have a colony on Petit Manan Island, which is a wildlife refuge. (The island is often shrouded in fog, however.)

Schoodic Head: A hiking trail (called the Anvil) leads from Blueberry Hill to a steep 180-foot promontory with great views of Little Moose Island. The trail then continues to 440-foot Schoodic Head, which offers incredible vistas back across Frenchman Bay. This is the best spot to view and photograph Egg Rock Lighthouse, built in 1875. On a clear day, Schoodic Head also provides more views of the Petit Manan and Winter Harbor lighthouses.

Prospect Harbor Lighthouse: The byway continues north out of the park. At Birch Harbor, rejoin Route 186 as it goes north to the village of Prospect Harbor, where the byway ends. The Prospect Harbor Lighthouse rises on a peninsula directly across from the village harbor. The light keeper's cottage is available for overnight stays by military families, both active and retired.

This little traveled stretch of Route 1 offers spectacular views across the water to Mount Desert's mountains. Enjoy the Schoodic Peninsula, Winter Harbor, Schoodic Point, and more as you traverse this scenic drive.

Find more useful information related to Maine's Schoodic Scenic Byway:

  • Maine Scenic Drives: Schoodic Scenic Byway is just one of the scenic byways in Maine. Check out the others.
  • Scenic Drives: Are you interested in scenic drives beyond Maine? Here are more than 100 scenic drives throughout the United States.
  • How to Drive Economically: Fuel economy is a major concern when you're on a driving trip. Learn how to get better gas mileage.