The view from the Pond Cove Trail at Rose Ledge in Roque Bluffs State Park. Schoppee Point is across Pond Cove on the left, Pond Cove Island is to the upper right. Carey Kish photo

Roque Bluffs State Park is home to 274 acres of sublime Downeast Maine landscape on Schoppee Point in the town of Roque Bluffs, 7 miles south of Machias as the crow, or perhaps more appropriately in this case, the seagull, flies. The park was established in 1969 using proceeds from a public bond to protect the property, and just last year, the state acquired Pond Cove Island right offshore, adding 50 acres to the park’s inventory.

The highlight of the mainland section of the Roque Bluffs parkland is the half-mile arc of sand-and-pebble beach along Englishman Bay. Just behind the beach is Simpson Pond, 60 acres of wildlife-rich freshwater wetland habitat. Beyond that are lovely meadows, an old apple orchard and a hilltop capped with mossy green spruce woods. Five trails provide hikers with 3 miles and several good hours of scenic sauntering possibilities.

Meander up to the picnic table atop the hill to take in the quiet beauty of the fragrant forest of mature trees, then wind downslope to the shoreline bluffs and on to Rose Ledge at the head of Pond Cove. Scamper out into the open on the reddish-colored rock for a good look across the bay to Pond Cove Island, and farther, to Jonesport on the opposite shore. Plans call for making the island available for remote camping, hiking and other recreational activities.

The beach at Roque Bluffs is unusual along this stretch of the Maine coast that is most often characterized by rocky headlands and cobble shores. Sediments transported by the erosion of the glacial moraine just to the east accumulated here to form the stunning crescent. Wander the beach at will, but be sure to explore its east end, where a bedrock outcrop displays glacial striations and grooves, clear evidence of the glacier’s powerful action eons ago.

Roque Bluffs State Park features five trails and three miles of pleasant hiking. Carey Kish photo

The unusual beach outcrop is stop number 29 on the Maine Ice Age Trail, which leads to 46 interesting geological features – moraines, deltas, eskers and more – produced by the movement of the vast Laurentide Ice Sheet of the last ice age, all over coastal Downeast from Cadillac Mountain in Acadia to Quoddy Head in Lubec. The roadside sites combine for a fascinating tour along the retreating margin of the great glacier.

There’s another trail of sorts at Roque Bluffs State Park on the grassy promenade between the beach and the pond, marked by a pink granite sculpture titled “Warm Wind.” The piece is the work of artist Kazumi Hoshino, who hails from Maine and Japan. Completed in 2011, the graceful creation is one of 34 outdoor exhibits along the Maine Sculpture Trail that extends for 273 miles along the Downeast coast.


The 274-acre Roque Bluffs State Park was established in 1969. The 50-acre Pond Cove Island was added last year. Carey Kish photo

When you’re done ambling the pleasant trails at Roque Bluffs, it might well be time for a refreshing swim. The choices are stark: the bracing 60-degree waters of Englishman Bay or the warm, shallow waters of Simpson Pond. If you’ve brought a kayak, you can continue the outdoor adventuring from the boat launch at the end of Schoppee Point Road.

Rosa rugosa, also known as beach roses, are common at Roque Bluffs State Park. Carey Kish photo

A little shy of 7 miles southeast of the Roque Bluffs beach is Libby Island, which is reputed to be one of the foggiest places in the U.S. The island’s 1823 lighthouse – still an active beacon – marks the entrance to Machias Bay. Incredibly, somewhere in the neighborhood of Libby Island is where the first naval battle of the American Revolution took place in June 1775.

In the tap room of Job Burnham’s tavern in Machias, local patriots hatched a plan to capture the commander of the Margaretta, a British sloop that was anchored in the harbor with its guns trained on the village. Urged on by Jeremiah O’Brien, the abduction of Lt. James Moore failed, but the situation quickly evolved into a skirmish on the Machias River, where the fleeing British ship was captured by two American merchant vessels. Burnham Tavern in Machias and Fort O’Brien in Machiasport are both worth a visit for more on the area’s colorful history.

Roque Bluffs State Park is just one of many awesome hiking destinations in the greater Machias area. For lots more info on conservation lands and trails, explore the websites of the Downeast Coastal Conservancy, the Maine Coast Heritage Trust, The Nature Conservancy (Great Wass Island) and the Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands.

Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is an award winning member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. His latest book, “Beer Hiking New England,” will be available early next spring. Follow more of Carey’s adventures on Facebook and Instagram @careykish

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.