Favorite Places in Maine: Petit Manan

Jesse Groening (left) and his sister Cassedy Groening inspect a sign at the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Milbridge in the summer of 2000. The refuge includes two trails that offer hikers coastal views.
Jesse Groening (left) and his sister Cassedy Groening inspect a sign at the Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge in Milbridge in the summer of 2000. The refuge includes two trails that offer hikers coastal views.
Posted March 09, 2011, at 6:47 p.m.

About 32 miles east of Ellsworth lies a 2,166-acre coastal refuge that few Mainers know about, and fewer still visit. It’s worth the trip and the time it takes to explore.

Petit Manan, a wildlife refuge managed by the federal government, offers miles of cobble, sand and ledge-rock shore to explore. Look for the sign on U.S. Route 1 directing you south onto Pigeon Hill Road. Follow it about four miles to the refuge and two small gravel parking areas. They mark the trailheads that pass through boreal forest (those stunted-looking jack pines, red spruce and lichen-covered rocks) to the east and west sides of the peninsula.

I prefer the eastern Shore Trail, where you can wander from cove to cove, each a little different than the last. For some reason, this part of the coast isn’t exactly pristine, with all kinds of lobster gear and other flotsam littering the shore. But I like inspecting and collecting what the sea has spat out, especially after a big storm.

The shore faces open ocean, which makes its presence known on windy days.

There are nice views of the Petit Manan Lighthouse, which sits on a rocky island; at 119 feet (focal plane 123 feet), it is the state’s second highest tower. Be sure to bring binoculars.

The point was named by French explorer Samuel de Champlain. Champlain also named Grand Manan, the island off New Brunswick.

— Tom Groening, BDN

Getting there: About 32 miles east of Ellsworth, look for a sign on U.S. 1 directing you south onto Pigeon Hill Road.  Follow it about four miles to the refuge and two small gravel parking areas.

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