Visit the easternmost city in the United States — Eastport, Maine.
Where: Eastport, about 240 miles from Portland, Maine, is America’s easternmost city. It’s scattered across several islands, most of which can only be reached by ferry. The downtown area, on Moose Island, is connected to the mainland by a tidal-dam causeway.
Why: Still undiscovered by the sunburnt crowds that jam Mount Desert Island and Bar Harbor every summer, Eastport’s surroundings are as scenic as the more popular downeast destinations. It’s not a tarted-up-for-tourists town and it has a wonderfully eccentric vibe — many of the two thousand or so locals are artists, writers, filmmakers, and other creative types. There are several museums, a half-dozen terrific galleries, and two arts centers.
Don’t Miss: The Old Sow is the western hemisphere’s biggest whirlpool. She shows up in the waters off of Eastport wherever and whenever the tides move her, sometimes manifesting as a whirling 40-foot-deep hole several hundred feet wide in the ocean, or as a funnel-shaped hole roughly 12 feet wide and 12 feet deep. Whale-watching excursions and Eastport ferries sometimes pass by Old Sow, depending on where she happens to be that day. Trips directly to and through Old Sow can be arranged with local captains, although they don’t generally advertise that particular service. The inimitable Robert Godfrey at the Old Sow Whirlpool Survivor’s Association can steer you to skilled captains.
Also Worth Doing: Whale-spotting excursions on the Sylvina W. Beal schooner (adults $35, 12 and under $18) are three-hour, round-trip tours from Eastport’s harbor to the iconic East Quoddy Lighthouse. Expect to see whales, seals, and porpoises as well as bald eagles, osprey, and puffins.
Don’t Leave Without: A piece of local art and a jar of mustard. Wander down Water Street and check out the galleries. Among the best is Crow Tracks, where artist Roland LaVallee sells his beautiful carved critters for ridiculously low prices. Also check out the Eastport Commons, an artist’s co-op on the waterfront that shows and sells the work of 60 artists and artisans. Then head to Raye’s Mustard Mill, where the Raye family has been grinding mustard since 1903. They offer tours and have a shop where you can stock up on mustard with flavors like maple horseradish, cranberry, lemon pepper, and beer.
Helpful Reading: Sarah Graves “Home Repair is Homicide” mystery series is set in Eastport and the books contain references to local landmarks.
Best Restaurants: The WaCo Diner on 47 Water Street serves home-baked bread and “He-Man breakfasts.” Sardina Loca (28 Water Street) is the easternmost Mexican restaurant in the U.S. and offers local seafood with a south-of-the-border twist.
Where to Stay: Motel East isn’t fancy, but it’s clean and comfortable. Almost every room has a balcony with a water view. Wake up early to watch the sun rise over the ocean and enjoy the little thrill of knowing you’re one of the first people in the U.S. to greet the new day.
When to Go: July 4 is the only time you’re apt to run into crowds in Eastport. Around 18,000 people — many from Canada — show up for Eastport’s Independence Day celebration. The event kicks off around 4:45 a.m. on the morning of the 4th with the nation’s first flag-raising ceremony. Then there’s a parade with bagpipe bands and multiple Shriner groups stuffed into miniature motor vehicles. The day ends with fireworks over the water at dusk.
September’s Salmon festival is a more low-key event, but still fun, and where else can you eat salmon on a stick? Nearby Machias hosts a Blueberry Festival at the end of August with berry-themed events and a parade. Last year, the Maine Blackfly Breeders’ Association had a float featuring human “blackflies” that buzzed around and stuck red Avery Label dots (signifying fly bites) on bystanders.
How to Get There: Take route 1 North, downtown Eastport is about seven miles from the intersection of Routes 1 and 190. The drive along 190 into town is spectacular, taking you right through the Passamaquoddy Tribe’s Pleasant Point Indian Reservation. On your way to Eastport plan a stop in the town of Perry to snap a picture by the 45 Parallel Degree Marker — you’re half way between the Equator and the North Pole.