Sometimes not that far from the beaten path lie neat places that many people have never visited. While traveling in Maine this summer, check out these not-so-famous, yet interesting places.
Desert of Maine
There isn’t actually a desert in the Freeport woods, but 40 acres acres of glacial silt exposed after more than 120 years of overgrazing, erosion, and non-rotated crops by the Tuttle family before they abandoned it in 1919. Henry Goldrup bought it and made it a tourist attraction. A gift shop, farm museum, and sand museum are on site.
Wire Bridge, New Portland
In New Portland, Somerset County, you’ll find this cable suspension bridge. Completed in 1866, there may be none like it left anywhere in the country. When you drive across it, you can feel the wooden deck swaying. For added weirdness, try it on a motorcycle or walk across it. It’s safe. This is an impressive feat of engineering and well worth the drive.
In Machiasport is Howard Cove’s Jasper Beach. You might assume this 800-meter-long rock beach is manmade, especially given how high the rock pile climbs, but the beach is natural. When the tidewaters move in and out, the smooth-worn rocks moving against each other make haunting sounds.
There’s no jasper here; it’s fine-grained volcanic rhyolite. But it still looks cool.
Flagstaff and Perkins Townships
Maine has two ghost towns. The first you can’t really visit. Near Eustis, Flagstaff was disincorporated in 1950 when a dam was built on the Dead River, enlarging Flagstaff Lake and submerging the town.
But you can visit Perkins Township on Swan Island in Sagadahoc County. Perkins was incorporated in the mid-1800s, disincorporated in 1918, and abandoned in the 1940s. Thirteen structures remain, some dating to the 1750s. The township, now on the National Register of Historic Places, spans Swan Island, Little Swan Island, and some tidal flats in the Kennebec River between Richmond and Dresden.
Now a wildlife management area overseen by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Swan Island is accessible only by boat.
Whaleback Shell Midden
The Whaleback Shell Midden in Damariscotta is where Native Americans dumped oyster shells from 2,200 to 1,000 years ago. The eastern shore of the Damariscotta River once had an even bigger shell pile, but it was cleared in the 1880s to supply a factory processing the shells into chicken feed. Luckily, some of it remains. Across the river is the Glidden Midden, another prehistoric shell heap. Whaleback Shell Midden is a Maine State Historic Site.
The Colonial Pemaquid State Historic Site is one of the earliest points of European occupation in North America. George Weymouth arrived and captured Indians living there in 1605; it became a permanent village in the late 1620s. Three forts were built, the first being Fort Charles in 1677. Extensive archeological digs have excavated 14 foundations from the 17th and 18th centuries and parts of the later forts. The site features an early 20th-century reconstruction of Fort William Henry, a museum, a boat launch and dock, and a picnic area.