The City of Eastport is a series of islands in Washington County, Maine. It has a tiny population so is the smallest in the state in those terms. Nevertheless, it has many attractions for visitors to see.
Its incorporation as a town took place in 1798, and as a city, almost a century later in 1893. Settled initially by the French, it was known for smuggling early in the 19th century.
The main island is called Moose and is connected by a causeway to the mainland of the USA. The islands are located between Cobscook Bay and Passamaquoddy Bay, the latter known for its tides and strong currents.
Eastport is the deepest natural harbor on the eastern seaboard of the USA. It never freezes over and, for many decades, the main activity was catching and curing fish.
There are many memories that you will take home with you if you visit. Here is an idea of the 15 Best Things to do in Eastport.
1. Shackford Head State Park
This State Park is located on a peninsula on Moose Island and looks out over Cobscook Bay. Named after John Shackford – a revolutionary soldier – it covers an area of 87 acres.
Its main attractions are the miles of hiking trails which overlook small beaches and secluded coves. Visitor facilities include picnic areas, and the birdlife, including terns, sandpipers, woodland species and bald eagles, adds further interest. In nesting season, some trails are closed to minimize disturbance for the birds.
2. Whale Watching
In the months of summer and fall, there is an excellent chance of not only seeing a range of whales but also seals, porpoises and dolphins – not to mention the birds. If you take a trip out into Passamaquoddy Bay, you will have an experience you will never forget.
You can take a tour into these waters specifically in search of these mammals. While sightings can never be guaranteed, experienced companies rarely disappoint their customers.
3. West Quoddy Head Lighthouse & State Park
The 540-acre area of this State Park and the historic lighthouse make a great day out for everyone. The lighthouse, in candy-colored stripes, dates to 1858, although another stood there 50 years earlier. It is the easternmost in the USA and looks out over Quoddy Channel, the border of the U.S. and Canada, towards the huge red cliffs in New Brunswick of Grand Manan Island.
Visitors in summer months can expect to see minke, humpback, and finback whales at sea, a variety of ducks, waders, and seabirds. Either side of summer as birds migrate, the numbers of shorebirds are huge.
4. Walking Eastport City
If you just want to walk around, you are never too far away from some lovely sights. The settlement is less than four square miles so it won’t take you long to see it all. However, there are likely to be many things that will have you stopping to take a photograph.
Maybe it’s the beautiful scenery, but it is just as likely to be the sight of a soaring bald eagle or a minke whale in the seas offshore. Make sure you have binoculars with you. If you are in Eastport for a few days, taking the same walk each morning may reveal different mammals and birds each time.
The main economic activity of Eastport has traditionally been fishing and curing. Not surprisingly, if you are keen on fishing, you will get the chance to go fishing yourself – but you will be looking for something bigger than sardines.
Elsewhere in Maine, you can fish the rivers and lakes with fly and float, but in Eastport, it is strictly deep-sea fishing. Companies like Fundy Breeze and Eastport Windjammers offer trips out to sea with all equipment provided.
Tuna and mackerel are seasonal and shark a possibility, but the most likely catches are pollock, cod, and halibut.
6. McCurdy Smokehouse Museum
Lubec is just four miles from Eastport and is worth a visit for several reasons. One of the attractions is the Smokehouse Museum, where you can learn more about the industry that has sustained the communities for many decades.
Made of timber and shale, the building was formerly a herring processing plant between 1906 and 1991 as trade diminished. It is certainly the best example of such a plant in the State of Maine and is now owned by a society intent on preserving an important part of local history. It is on the National Register of Historic Places.
7. Lost Fisherman’s Memorial Park
If you decide to go to the Smokehouse Museum in Lubec, make time to visit the Lost Fisherman’s Memorial Park on Water Street. It is easy to forget the perils of the sea and many have lost their lives in the North Atlantic over the years.
The memorial is small, with the Wave Sculpture in granite listing the names of fishermen lost in the sea over the years.
8. Old Sow
Charter companies offer a wide range of tours out to sea; one that is especially interesting takes in a real natural wonder.
Old Sow in Passamaquoddy Bay, northeast of Moose Island, is thought to be the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere. You can get close but not too close to see this phenomenon. It has claimed several lives over the years, but experienced captains know where not to go. If you are still worried, have a more distant view from on land.
9. Pleasant Point Indian Reservation
Long before white settlers came to this coastline, Native Americans lived in the region. To get a real understanding of history, it is worth traveling a short distance to visit this reservation and the Waponahki Museum – a name meaning ‘’people of the dawn land.’’
There were four tribes in Maine before any recorded history, which is an important reason why the Museum is so precious.
The Museum is near Perry, less than 15 minutes from Eastport and within the Reservation that has a population of 3,500.
10. Raye’s Mustard
The last remaining stone-ground mustard-producing mill in the USA is certainly a place to visit while you are in Eastport. It is effectively a working museum that first began producing mustard in 1900.
J. Wesley Raye, whose father was a sea captain, started the business within the smokehouse owned by the family. Times have changed drastically and canneries no longer exist; however, Raye’s has continued to produce mustard, which is highly regarded in the gourmet industry and has been the recipient of several awards.
11. Machias Seal Island
A small, barren rock ten miles offshore from Maine is disputed territory. Canadians run its lighthouse and welcome tourists, whether they are traveling from Washington County in Maine or New Brunswick in Canada.
The main reason to take the one-hour trip to the Island is to see the bird colonies – puffins, razorbills and auks. It is something that you can only book in the height of summer and even then, you need to keep an eye open for the weather.
12. The Mermaid
Richard Klyver is known for his bronze statue looking out into the Bay. It may not be as famous as the one in Copenhagen, but it is nevertheless a symbol of Eastport and the importance of the sea.
Klyver lives locally and a decade ago planned a series of sea creature statues. He was persuaded to change his plans to a single mermaid by the offer of sponsorship; he readily agreed.
The statue of the fisherman close by gets far fewer comments.
13. Eastern Maine Images Gallery
Anyone who visits Maine for the first time cannot fail to be impressed. While an album of personal photographs is one way to remember a holiday, the work of a local professional, Don Dunbar, will show you what is possible.
His subjects vary, from the local flora and fauna to fishing weirs. You will look at an expert at work and perhaps get some ideas of how to adapt your own work in the future.
The gallery, located in an old bank, has photographs, canvasses, and sketches – as well as small items such as postcards, puzzles, and books that you can buy.
14. Eastport Breakwater Gallery
There is a plethora of local art inspired by the environment. Any of this work makes a great memento or present for friends or family. At this gallery, you will find work from both locals and more distant artists.
Located on Water Street, it opens early in the summer, closing for the early months of the year. You can expect to see paintings as well as sculptures, some fine crafts, and folk art. There are weekend tours available and a program of events.
15. Tides Institute & Art Museum
One of the main objectives of this Museum (TIMA) is to look beyond the purely local area to the wider region. It is such an apt objective because of the proximity of the border to Canada.
Its range of exhibits is extensive, covering all aspects of life from the sea to history and culture, as well as the environment on land. A regular calendar of events and artists in residence are two further reasons to go to the Water Street Museum in Eastport.