I’ve been waiting a long time for a travel book focused on my favorite place, Downeast Maine. So I have to thank Rich Bard for his exceptional book, “Beyond Acadia – Exploring The Bold Coast Of Down East Maine,” published by Down East Books.

I’ve suggested to many people that when they get to Ellsworth, instead of driving straight toward Bar Harbor, that they hang a left and head Down East, where they’ll find everything they hope to see in Acadia National Park — but without the horrible crowds.

And now Bard has given you lots of information for your Downeast adventure. Rich spent a lot of time Downeast as a wildlife biologist for the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. That job took him all over Downeast Maine, and now he’s sharing all that knowledge with you. He also served for a time as executive director of the Down East Coastal Conservancy.

This is not a normal travel book focused just on inns and restaurants. Bard covers it all from birds and wildlife to festivals and seasonal events. He tells you about all the amazing hikes that are available and the scenic drives. There’s information about lighthouses, boat tours, ferries, stunning coastline and beaches.

Do you want to ride your ATV or a horse, go swimming or running, listen to some great music or participate in some workshops — well, all that information is here. I am grateful to Bard for not telling you our favorite places to pick wild blueberries!

I was particularly pleased when Bard wrote that his favorite place was West Quoddy Head lighthouse in Lubec where the oceanside hike is spectacular. My great-grandfather was a keeper at West Quoddy for 32 years. It is absolutely my favorite place in Maine and we’ve enjoyed that hike many times.

He also tells you about the interesting board walk through a bog at Quoddy. And he includes great places to bird watch. I can tell you that the beach in South Lubec is the best place to see migrating shore birds in Maine. Our favorite birding guides do a lot of birding here.

Rich also tells you about our other favorite hiking trails in Lubec and Cutler (Hamilton Cove is a favorite of ours). And if you like camping, his information about Cobbscook State Park will put you in the best camping area in Maine, where many of the campsites are on the ocean. My wife Linda’s parents started camping there the year it opened, and we camped there with them for many years.

You’ll definitely want to visit Roque Bluffs State Park, just a few miles off Route 1, with a beautiful ocean beach and a small pond for swimming. And you’ll want to get off Route 1 and enjoy one of the scenic drives that Rick recommends.

I was also pleased that Rich told you about our favorite Mexican restaurant, Vasquez, in Milbridge. Linda and I love this place and wrote a travel column about it. We now plan our trips to Lubec and Campobello so we get to Vasquez at lunch time. He also alerts you to Monica’s Chocolates in Lubec, a place we simply cannot drive by without stopping.

Even before you read this book, the stunning color photos will convince you to visit Downeast Maine.

In the introduction Bard tells you about his experiences Downeast as a wildlife biologist. And he tells us, since he first arrived there, “there has been an explosion of local food, breweries, wineries, hiking trails, art galleries, restaurants, lodging, and tours.”

And that is true. But the thing you will love is the wonderful small rural towns, set beside the beautiful ocean, the remote beaches that you can enjoy without seeing another person, and the chance to truly relax.

Bard’s first paragraph in the introduction says it well: “Are you looking for a place to explore that has incredible natural beauty but hasn’t been turned into a tourist trap? Are you wishing you could hike some trails where animal prints outnumber the boot prints? Do you want to experience ‘the real Maine’ without the traffic, chain stores, and expensive boutiques of most of coastal Maine? If so, you’ve picked up the right book. Come explore Beyond Acadia!”

Once you do, I guarantee you’ll return every year.


George Smith can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmithmaine.com.

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