August 9, 2011

It's Worth the Trip: Recipe for the perfect summer getaway


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East Quoddy Head lighthouse is accessible only around low tide.

Photos by Marty Christie

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The famed West Quoddy Head lighthouse is perched on America’s easternmost point of land.

Once on the island, head for Herring Cove Provincial Park to set up your camp in the quiet seclusion of one of the campgrounds 88 sites or, if the weather's bad, take one of the four "canopies," enclosed shelters with bunks. Over many years of camping there, we've never had a problem picking out just the right site.

Adding to the charm of the park is a crescent-shaped sand and pebble beach more than a mile long, where a dozen people constitute a crowd. And there are plenty of biking opportunities both in the park, all over the island and on the three carriage roads in the International Park. So be sure to bring along your bikes.

Bring your golf clubs too, if that's your game, as there's a manicured, Geoffrey Cornish-designed nine-hole track that gets about as crowded, in my experience, as the beach. In fact, I remember a round a couple of summers ago in the late evening -- set your clocks back, it's Atlantic time there, so the sun sets at about 10 p.m. in June -- when my wife and I were the only two people on the entire course. The view from the first tee is one you'll never forget.

And pack the kayaks as well. Although the tides and currents around the island can be a little intimidating, you'll find great paddling in Mill Cove near the north end of the island. And a special reward for a visit are sand dollars that seem to have a special affinity for the beach there.

You'll want to hike the variety of trails on the island, and my favorite is the 2.5-mile stretch between Raccoon Point and Liberty Point on the bold east shore in the International Park. Once at Liberty Point you may well spot whales offshore, and a pod of Minkes glided by us on a recent visit there.

At low tide, you'll want to head for the lighthouse at East Quoddy Head, as you can hike out to it only at low tide. But you have to include a visit there for both its beauty and the opportunity to spot more whales. Whale-watching tours are available out of Head Harbor, near the lighthouse, and on one of those you're virtually assured of sightings. And it's a great place to search for, and find, sea glass.

A special place to eat on the island is the year-round seafood institution called Family Fisheries. It's billed as a true maritime dining adventure, and I'll attest to that representation, proven on multiple visits there over the past 20 years. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are also served at the golf course club house, and there's another breakfast and lunch opportunity in a reopened bakery near the Herring Cove park, which makes a nice alternative to campsite breakfasts, especially after several days of camping.

Your getaway can best be concluded by picking the one alternate route off the island, the quirky M.V. Island Hopper ferry to Deer Island, NB. Eleven trips a day leave on the hour for a modest fare, car and all, and once on Deer Island, a drive to its north end takes you to the free government ferry to the mainland and the village of L'Etete, near St. George.

From there it's a short drive to scenic and historic St. Andrews, then a hop to St. Stephen and the border crossing back into Maine in Calais.

Believe me, you can cram more fun into three or four days there than almost anyplace I can think of, and it's not that far away.

John Christie is an author and a year-round explorer of the Maine outdoors. He and his son, Josh, will share this space this summer to highlight places to enjoy the beauty only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:


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