Probably the most anticipated activity for visitors to our area is a tour to see the adorable, elusive puffins. There are a few different companies that offer boat excursions to Seal Island. One is the Bold Coast Charter Company out of Cutler, Maine.
Below is information taken directly from their website. But note!!! They are already sold out for the summer 2018 season — in fact, they have been sold out since the end of February! Book early and check out their website for information on wait lists.
From their website:
If you’re a birder or a nature lover, take a half day excursion to Machias Seal Island, summer home to spectacular nesting colonies of Atlantic puffins, Razorbills, Common murres and Arctic terns, among others. For close range puffin observation and photography, no other birding destination can compare, as Machias Seal Island is the largest puffin colony on the coast of Maine! In addition to the nesting seabirds, other species commonly spotted are guillemots, eiders, gannets, shearwaters and storm-petrels.
You’ll be cruising aboard the BARBARA FROST, a custom forty foot US Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel (heated cabin and restroom equipped), the fastest and best equipped tour vessel serving the area.
Trips depart from Cutler Harbor – a picturesque small fishing village, well off the beaten tourist path. Check out an area map for our location, and also where to stay and what to dowhile in the area. Advance reservations for our tours are required. Machias Seal Island trips conclude in mid August.
Whether you’re someone who’s interested in a one of a kind birding destination, or a visitor who wants to find out what Maine is really all about, I welcome you to experience Downeast Maine’s unique natural attractions and unspoiled beauty. You won’t be disappointed with what you find.
Smelt Fry and World Fish Migration Day Celebration
April 21 @ 11:00 AM – 4:00 Pm
Mark your calendars and come join us for a day of fisheries fun! Over the years, these festivities have grown from a small community potluck centered on the commercial smelt harvest to a well-known regional event serving 500+ guests. This year the event will be held on Saturday, April 21st from 11am until 4pm. Throughout downtown Columbia Falls, there will be activities and displays that feature the inspiring fisheries and conservation work of DSF and their partners. All of the DSF venues are within a ¼ mile radius of downtown Columbia Falls and transportation between sites is available. This is truly a family-friendly event!
The Annual Smelt Fry is a wonderful way to welcome spring. Come learn what projects are happening within the fisheries and about DSF’s regional involvement. Local foods will be featured with smelts, alewives, and mackerel being smoked at the DSF smoker, venison stew served at the Heritage Fish Camp, and a seasonal fried smelt dinner and dessert made with local blueberries at the Wreaths Across America gym. Airline Brewing Co. will also be offering their Maine-brewed beer this year!
Before the Smelt Fry, consider going for a hike nearby with Downeast Coastal Conservancy at Ingersoll Point in Addison. Maine Master Naturalists, Walter and Carol Muth will help lead a group hike, highlighting the developing splashes of spring throughout the preserve on Saturday, 4/21 at 9am. Visit http://downeastcoastalconservancy.org/events-calendar/ for more information on the hike.
There are several sources of organic foods in the Machias area of Maine. And that’s not even counting the myriad of farmer’s markets and roadside stands that dot the landscape during the warmer months.
Whole Life Natural Market
Although their produce selection can be a bit limited at times, they are an excellent source for organic and natural grocery products, cleaning products, and pet products, as well as vitamins and herbs. They also have a good variety of organic or sulfate free wines.
Monday-Friday: 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Saturday: 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM, Closed Sunday
This is a small space that holds, basically fresh-from-the-farm produce and local baked goods (and chocolates!). It is open on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays year-round at 10am (winter hours close at 4pm). Starting in the spring, hours will increase and Saturday mornings will be added.
If it corresponds with your vacation schedule, you can order online the week before your stay from their extensive special order list and pick it up on Thursday. (email me for more details)
Bonus: The space is used for Yoga and Tai Chi other days of the week!
Planning a trip to coastal Washington County, Maine with kids this year? Or maybe you live in the area, but have never ‘played tourist’ with your kids? The Bold Coast region of Maine is known as the place where one goes to escape throngs of tourists. You won’t find go-carts and mini-golf every mile. Instead, you’ll be able to unplug and reconnect with nature. Especially now, when kids are hooked on technology (face it, we all are), it is a good opportunity for families to get outside and just…well… to be cliche… commune with nature. Always check an event calendar for the area — almost every month there is some festival or celebration weekend in some part of the county.
Here is a list of 16 things to do with kiddos — some/most are seasonal, with the season opening for most places sometime in May, so always check ahead if you’re visit is during a shoulder or off-season.
1) Head to Machiasport’s Jasper Beach for the ultimate in beach combing.Jasper Beach is one of the most unique beaches in the world — instead of sand dunes, you will need to climb dunes made of ocean-smoothed rocks.Listen to the singing of the waves as they gently crash, tumbling the rocks.It’s a great place for every age for beach combing. Learn more about Jasper Beach HERE
2)Learn how they get salt from the ocean to the jar at a fascinating free tour of the Maine Sea Salt Company.Have you ever thought about how salt gets from the sea to your salt shaker?Learn the answer here in a free tour of the factory where salt is made.It’s sourced locally, from Bucks Harbor in Machiasport and then evaporated in greenhouses.Free tours are offered May through December.
3)Hop aboard the Kandi Leigh and take a sightseeing trip to see the cutest little animals on the planet.One of the highlights of any trip to Down East Maine is a boat trip to see the puffins.The three hour boat tour is available May through Augustto Petit Manan Island to see Puffin and other shorebirds.These tours often fill up months in advance so plan early.Robertsons Sea Tours also offer whale watch and other scenic tours as well.
4)Take a picnic lunch to any of the charming little pocket parks in the area.This corner of Maine is beautiful and there are so many little parks tucked here and there, most will views and lawns — great places for picnics and romping.Here are just a few in the area:
5)Spend the day strolling and dipping your toes in the mighty Atlantic ocean at Roque Bluffs State Park.At the end of one of the fingers that reaches into the Atlantic ocean is one of Maine’s most beautiful state parks.There is a wide stretch of sandy beach — one of the very few sand beaches in this part of the world.Across the lane, there is a fresh water pond.The park also has restroom facilities and 182 miles of walking trails.
6)Tour a historic stone mill and see where mustard is made at Rayes Mustard Factory in Eastport. Visit a shop and mill that has been around for four generations.Sample different flavors of mustard and pick up some of the tasty condiments at their general store.
7)Pack up a lawn chair and enjoy one of Machias’ free outdoor movies for children at the Boxcar.Every other Friday in July and August, the Machias Bay Chamber of Commerce offers free movies at their visitor center/boxcar.Bring a blanket, chairs, bug spray and popcorn.
8)Take a day trip to Wild Acadia Fun Park in Bar Harbor.Enjoy the afternoon at this family fun park which includes an aerial park, zip lines, a water park, go carts, mini golf and more.The Wild Acadia Fun Park is located on the road to Bar Harbor, just south of Ellsworth.It’s open from June until Labor Day.
If you are visiting the area a little earlier or later in the season, Pirate’s Cove Mini Golf in Bar Harbor is open from mid-April through October.
9)Learn about sea life at the Mount Desert Oceanarium in Bar Harbor. Open from mid-May until late October, the Oceanarium is a lobster museum and hatchery.While you are there, take the Marsh Walk to learn basic and important ecological principles.
10) Visit a local farm and learn to farm. Pet a goat.Many farms in the area welcome visitors to learn about the farm.Some through Open Farm Day, usually held in July.Others with advance reservations.Two nearby farms are Tide Mill Organic Farm in Edmunds and Hatch Knoll Farm and Garden Side Dairy in Jonesboro. (As a side note, both sell products that are unbelievably delicious — head to their websites to see where you can purchase some yummy organic food).
11)See a show with Ray Murphy, the Chainsaw artist in Hancock, Maine.Chainsaw Ray performs his show in the world’s first Sawyer Art Theater building. The audiance can not hear the noise from the chainsaws. Instead, they only hear gentle music.Chainsaw Ray performs one of the most unique shows in the world and has been performing for over 50 years.Shows start at 7pm nightly from Late June until the end of September.
12)Splash around in the indoor pool at the University of Maine Machias.I remember when my kids were small — we lived surrounded by the ocean but all they wanted to do was go to the pool.Daily passes to the pool at UMM can be purchased for $5.Currently the pool is open for kid visitors on weekends from 10-2 on Saturdays and 10-3 on Sundays.During the week, the open pool is shared with lap swimmers.
13) Really enjoy learning about nature.I have two vacation rental homes in Machiasport and I have both scavenger hunts and bird and wildlife identification books in both homes.The scavenger hunts were easily printed from online hunts and I stapled the lists to brown paper lunch bags.I have two different hunts for two age groups – kids can hunt from everything from “dispose of a piece of trash” to “listen to the sound of wind through the trees”.Besides looking right in your own yard or neighborhood, there are so, so many good places to hike in the area.The Bold Coast Trail in Cutler is breathtaking for older kids.For younger kids, there are fantastic walking trails that surround the campus of the University (UMM).Other great places to walk are can be found at mainetrailfinder.com/trails– an invaluable resource for looking for outdoor adventures – where you can input location, degree of difficulty, etc.
14) Bike on the Downeast Sunrise Trail.The Downeast Sunrise Trail connects Pembroke, Maine (almost to the border of Canada) to Ellsworth (and the Appalachian Trail beyond). The trail is multi-use, so you might see walkers, horses, ATV’s, snowmobiles and dogsleds on the path, but no automobiles.The trail is usually closed during ‘mud’ season in the spring but reopens sometime in May.Check their website for maps and updated news.
15) Head to Milbridge every Friday evening.The Milbridge Theater has a ton of great, family friendly entertainment every Friday in summer.These performances range from puppet shows to live music to game show nights (interspersed with kid-friendly outdoor movies).The evenings kick off at 5:30 and rain dates are on Sundays.
16) Back to that scavenger hunt theme, what about geocaching? Geocaching is something that can be done no matter where you are (my kids were interested in it and I was amazed that there were several hidden within a block from my house in Massachusetts). Go to the website and sign up for a free account. From there you can enter whatever destination that you want and it will give you a list of all of the locations in the area. Find a geocache box, sign in and record your finding. By this summer, there may be a few additional locations in the downeast area…wink, wink.
Feel free to email me or make a comment with other fun things to do with kids!
As the owner/manager of several properties in coastal Down East Maine, I am asked often where the best place to swim in the ocean is in the area. By far, my answer is always Roque Bluffs State Park. Located about 10 miles from the town of Machias, the park is 274 acres of beach, water and walking trails.
We recommend that you download the brochure or stop by the Machias Bay Chamber of Commerce to pick one up with all of the information about the park.
The below information comes directly from the Maine.gov website — please head there for even more information.
Hours / Season Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset daily from May 15 to October 1. Fee Charged. Visitors may continue to enjoy the park during the off season by parking outside the gate and walking in during these same hours. Please be aware that facilities are closed during the off season.
Roque Bluffs State Park provides visitors with a great diversity of coastal landscapes to enjoy in 274 acres on Schoppee Point (south of Machias). A beautiful, half-mile crescent of sand and pebbles along Englishman Bay is backed by the shallow waters of 60-acre Simpson Pond – allowing for bracing saltwater swims and much warmer fresh water soaks; no lifeguards available. Between the beach and the pond are several picnic areas and a children’s play area adjoining the parking area. A 6-mile trail network just inland from the shore leads through old orchards, fields and woods, with paths that follow the rocky shores of Great Cove and Pond Cove. The town’s trailerable boat launch is adjacent to the park on Schoppee Point Road.
The diverse habitats at Roque Bluffs State Park support abundant wildlife, and bird watchers enjoy interesting sightings at all seasons. Bald eagles frequent the area year-round and many migrant species stopover during spring and fall. Birders occasionally spot less common waterfowl, such as Barrow’s Goldeneye, Redhead and Gadwall ducks, and Hooded Mergansers. During summer months, pipers, plovers and interesting species of gull (like ring-billed) frequent the beach.
Both Englishman Bay and Simpson Pond can be explored by canoe or kayak (with rental kayaks available for use on Simpson Pond). The pond is stocked so anglers can fish for brook trout in the spring and brown trout through much of the summer. Bait fishermen use the pond in fall and winter.
From the south, turn right off Route 1 onto Roque Bluffs Road in Jonesboro. At the T-intersection in 5 miles, turn right and continue south on Roque Bluffs Road to Schoppee Point. From the north, turn left on Roque Bluffs Road approximately one mile south of the Machias town center and continue 8 miles to the village of Roque Bluffs (where there is parking for hiking trails) or continue down Schoppee Point to reach the beach and boat launch.
Carry out all trash.
Dogs are not permitted on the ocean beach. Elsewhere, keep pets on leash (less than 4 feet) at all times. Do not leave pets unattended and clean up after them (carrying out bags with waste).
Park rules prohibit use of intoxicating beverages.
Camping is not permitted.
Do not feed, touch or disturb wildlife.
Do not leave valuables unattended in your vehicle.
Consider lending a hand. Contact us if you would like to help with stewardship or maintenance work.
The trailhead parking lot is a quarter-mile east of the beach parking lots (up the hill toward Roque Bluffs village). Five hiking trails (with the longest loop approximately 4 miles) allow visitors to meander through fields and woodlands bordering Pond Cove and Great Cove.
Pond Cove Trail (2 miles, approximately 1 hour) leads through meadows and woods (over largely flat terrain) and offers scenic vistas over Pond Cove.
Houghton’s Hill Trail (1.5 mile, approximately 45 minutes) provides a woods walk back to the trailhead from the western end of the Pond Cove Trail, passing over Houghton’s Hill (with moderate terrain suitable for fit walkers). A picnic table located halfway along the trail offers a place to rest or snack.
Blueberry Camp Trail (1 mile, approximately 30 minutes) cuts back from the coast to join Houghton’s Hill Trail, ascending that hill on the way back to the trailhead.
Mihill Trail (2 miles, approximately 1 hour) is the longest loop back from the end of the Pond Cove Trail, passing along the shore of Great Cove before turning inland. At the fork (Larry’s Loop), take the left trail for the most direct route back to the trailhead.
Please enjoy Roque Bluffs State Park during daylight hours: the main area is gated at night.
Bring potable water with you as there is none on site. Visitors are welcome to swim in Englishman’s Bay and Simpson Pond but no lifeguard protection is offered. Those who fish off the beach on Englishman Bay should be careful of nearby swimmers. For more on saltwater angling, consult the Maine Saltwater Angler’s Guide.
Kayakers can launch their boats from the beach on Englishman’s Bay, but the State does not own any nearby islands so public access is not guaranteed. Only experienced kayakers should paddle the open waters of Englishman’s Bay, given the potential for fog and wind.
The sand/pebble beach at Roque Bluffs State Park is an unusual geologic feature along the Downeast coast, much of which is marked by bold cliffs and cobble shores. It resulted from an accumulation of sediment that eroded from a prominent glacial moraine lying to the east. There is a bedrock outcrop at the eastern end of the beach where visitors can see glacial striations (deep groves in the bedrock left by the glacier’s movement toward the southeast). The evidence here of glacial history has made the Park stop #29 on Maine’s Ice Age Trail (to learn more, visit http://iceagetrail.umaine.edu/).
This unusual beach has long been popular with area residents and visitors. The Maine State Park Commission used proceeds from a public bond to acquire and protect the land in 1969.
Offshore, visitors can see Libby Lighthouse (formerly known as Machias Lighthouse because it marks the entrance to Machias Bay). This historic structure, built in 1817, is still an active beacon.
Just because Washington County, Maine is sparsely populated, doesn’t mean that you can’t find specialty items. One such store is the fabulous Whole Life Natural Market and the tiny Saltwater Cafe located inside the store.
Located at 4 Colonial Way in downtown Machias, they are open six days per week (closed Sundays). They carry most of the natural foods products that you may be familiar with at your local natural food store, but they also carry many, many local items (it’s my go-to place to purchase little local gifts for friends and family members). They also have a table with lots of local resources and a lending library. And… perhaps best of all… they have a good selection of local and organic wines.
The cafe is open for lunch and has sandwiches, soups and yummy desserts. Follow their Facebook page – they post their menu daily.
Susie had a killer vacation home in Machiasport, Maine.Because she wanted to offset some bills,Susie decided to make it available as a vacation rental.Since she loved her home and area, she was excited that she could play ‘virtual tour guide and innkeeper’ to the guests who stayed in her home. She paid upfront for an ad on a major online vacation rental listing site and happily answered questions about her home and many questions about the area from potential guests via phone and email. When the guest was ready to book, she made payment arrangements, usually through a check or credit card payment.
Once upon a time, Bobby wanted to go on vacation in down east Maine.He logged into a major online vacation rental site and clicked on the region – DownEast Maine.He was given a list of about 200 properties in the area.Bobby was able to narrow down with filters exactly what he was looking for —- and decided to choose Susie’s home in Machiasport.He had some questions about Puffin Tours and possibly ordering a custom cake for his wife’s birthday.He was able to contact Susie and she provided him with the information that he was asking for — phone numbers and websites of tour companies and local bakeries.She also gave Bobby information on how to pay the deposit and he mailed her a check.
Today in Vacationland…
Susie wants to offset some bills so she decides to make her wonderful vacation home available on an online vacation rental listing site (now known as an OTA for Online Travel Agency).Instead of buying an ad outright, she must now agree to pay a commission on every reservation (at a much higher rate than she used to pay for her ad). She must also agree that she will use only the OTA’s payment processing system for all reservations.
Bobby wants to take a vacation to down east Maine.He logs onto an OTA and starts his search.There are no regions in Maine and, in his first search attempt, he sees properties from Kennebunk to Houlton to Calais – thousands and thousands of them – vacation homes, rooms in people’s home, motel rooms and more.
So he decides to input just one town into his search – Machiasport.The results seem more manageable and he looks at a property and thinks it looks perfect.As he plans his trip and dates, he notices something odd.There is mention of a passport needed for Americans.At closer look, he sees that the property he is interested in is not in Machiasport at all, but in New Brunswick, Canada!
A closer look at his list of Machiasport rentals shows properties in Cutler, Addison and Blue Hill mixed in with Machiasport homes.So now Bobby has to start his search again and take a close look at just where exactly the property is located. Now he knows that a search for a property in Machiasport does not necessarily actually show properties just in Machiasport.But he perseveres. He comes across Susie’s listing which looks perfect.But he has some questions about puffin tours and bakeries.He looks for Susie’s contact info but there is no phone number and no email, but he can send a message through the OTA, which he does.
Susie is happy to answer Bobby’s questions.She knows a fantastic tour company to visit the puffins and knows of an excellent bakery to bake the birthday cake.But she doesn’t know Bobby’s phone number or email or even his last name.She can only respond to his questionsthrough the OTA system.So she takes the time to write about the fabulous things to do in the area and passes along the info that Bobby has asked for.
Bobby received the reply from Susie.Unfortunately it looks like this…
You can get more info about the company that provides puffin tours at their website: XXXXXXXX. The phone number to the bakery is XXXXXXX.
Unfortunately, the OTA system blocks out any and all identifying information.So Susie is forced to try again, with a cryptic message –
If you do a google search for Robertson Sea Tours their website should pop up. The phone number to the bakery is 2 zero 7 five 5/5 ninety one o 6.
Susie feels awful because she knows presenting information in this manner is just lousy customer service but it’s the only way that she can get the info to the traveler.Bobby decides to book her home.He must pay the rent via credit card through the OTA and is very surprised when there is an additional $250 fee added to the total amount.That, Susie, explains, is the service fee that the OTA tacks on to the traveler’s total.Unfortunately, that pushes Bobby’s vacation over budget, so he must keep looking for a less expensive house.(Overall, Bobby has spent about four hours on this rental search so far and still has no rental).
So what can Bobby do to make his travel less frustrating?
Book directly from an owner or small management or listing company!
Here are my four reasons to #bookdirect rather than through VRBO or AirBnB:
1) No Service Fees.Did you know that all of the major online travel agencies add on a service fee to the traveler?
*fees and terms subject to change – check the individual sites for the most up-to-date information.
That’s a heck of a lot of lobster and ice cream you’re giving up in order to stay at your rental house.And often, these fees are non-refundable if your plans change — even if the homeowner is willing to refund some of the rent, good luck getting that service fee back.Instead of searching on the big sites, look to smaller regional sites who usually don’t charge extra traveler fees or try to find the owner directly.
2) Communication between the guest and the owner.Traditionally, sites like HomeAway and VRBO and others were a way to connect owners with travelers who wanted to rent.It was an advertising platform — nothing more.Today, on virtually all of the OTA’s, all phone numbers, emails, websites and all identifying information is masked and direct communication between owners and guests is impossible.
3) Avoid Geographical nightmares. At one time, vacation areas were broken up into popular regions.Now, the geographic region has more to do with the secret algorithm of the OTA (reading between the lines — which homes and regions will bring them more money).The actual home location may be in very small print on the listing and a potential traveler may be looking at a home miles from where he may actually want to be.Again — look to regional sites to simplify your search.
4) Know that it’s really a home.The newest change to the listing sites are the addition of hotels, motels and B&Bs and inns to all of the listing sites (in addition to advertising spare rooms in occupied homes on AirBnB). Just to confuse your search more, there may be dozens of listings for motels and hotels on a site that claims to be “Vacation Homes By Owner”.You may see a photo of a beautiful pool and think you’re going to stay in a luxury home.Surprise!You just booked a room at a chain motel.
So many visitors to the area want to fish (or hunt) but don’t know where to go. Why not consider a guided fishing trip?
Hunt East Adventures is based in Machias, Maine and offers fishing trips, hare hunts and moose hunts. The fishing trips are offered April through September and are run by registered Maine guide, Mike Congelosi.
Here is the information as described on their website:
Eastern Maine offers World-Class fishing for Trout, Salmon and Smallmouth Bass. Anglers find some of the best Spring Salmon & Trout Fishing in the state and Summer months offer arguably the best Smallmouth Bass fishing found anywhere. The areas we fish offer countless clean glacially formed lakes with trophy coldwater and warm water gamefish species. These waterbodies feature rocky shorelines, steep drop-offs, clear water and miles of undeveloped shoreline. In addition to the spectacular fishing, the scenery alone is worth the trip. We target Brook & Lake Trout, Landlocked Salmon and Smallmouth Bass. Non-target species include Chain Pickerel, Largemouth bass, Perch.
Our guided Maine fishing trips are done from the comfort of our 16′ console boats or our cedar stripped 20′ Grand Laker Canoes, the perfect craft for getting into the rocky shoals where the fish hide. These vessels will keep you comfortable and safe while providing the true Maine Guide experience. We welcome all skill levels and encourage families with children to spend some time on the water. The safety of our guests is our top priority.
TROUT & SALMON FISHING
Spring Salmon and Trout fishing when waters are cool is unmatched in this area of the state. Directly after ice out trolling streamers, smelts and lures just below the surface is highly effective. Fish are actively feeding and the action can be fast, producing large fish. As waters warm and summer progresses, fish move to deeper cooler water. Downriggers are used to get the bait and lures down where the fish area. Action can be a little slower this time of year but with patience and the right technique, large fish can be found.
SMALLMOUTH BASS FISHING
Maine offers some of the best Smallmouth Bass Fishing available anywhere. Bass often get little recognition by trout fishermen, but this warm water species shouldn’t be ignored. A sizeable Smallmouth aggressively takes bait and offers a great fight, often leaping into the air much like a Salmon. Bass fishing heats up in June, lasting through September, with aggressive trophy Smallmouth making for action packed days during spring spawning. Effective fishing methods include casting topwater, crankbaits, and rubber worms.
GUIDED FISHING TRIP INFORMATION
We offer fishing trips from ice-out, usually late April, until the end of September. The Salmon & Trout fishing is usually best early in the season and later in the fall when waters are cool. Bass fishing is more productive during the summer, warmer water months. Rods and all gear is provided or you may choose to bring your own. A shore lunch and snacks are provided with Full Day trips and include delicious Guide Coffee. We never mix parties and you and your group will have our undivided attention throughout the day.
We spent a wonderful eleven days over Christmas and New Year at this beautiful property! The northeast was engulfed in a deep freeze, but the house itself was wonderfully warm. Our children (10, 8 and 6) loved having the property grounds to themselves for sledding, playing in the snow, checking out the ice in the cove, and finding animal tracks. We loved the house, in particular for it’s beautifully equipped kitchen and outstanding views. Lots of great books, music and games also supplied.
Machias has some great places to visit (Helen’s Restaurant, Whole Life Cafe and Food, and the French Cellar), and the area in general had plenty of good day trips despite the winter weather (the stunning Acadia National Park, the Roque Bluff State Park, the West Quoddy Lighthouse and State Park, and Cobscook Bay).
Owner Maria was very quick and easy to communicate with.
Would love to stay here again if we could – a truly memorable place to celebrate our first ever white Christmas.