Often referred to “the quiet side of Acadia National Park,” Winter Harbor is quiet fishing village located across Frenchman Bay from Bar Harbor. Due to tourism and an active summer community, the year-round population of 516 residents nearly triples from Memorial Day to Columbus Day each year.
Winter Harbor was settled in 1762 as a plantation originally known as “Mosquito Harbor.” It was renamed Winter Harbor in 1854 because the harbor never froze and was a safe haven for mariners seeking shelter from winter storms. In 1856, Winter Harbor Light was constructed on Mark Island to guide vessels to the harbor and to warn of nearby ledges. Schooners transported lumber and laths back and forth to Boston and the Canadian provinces in the 1830’s. For much of the 1800’s, most of the men here were employed in the cod ground fishery. Winter Harbor, initially a village of Gouldsboro, was incorporated as its own town in 1895, an outcome of an improved economy created by a summer colony developed on Grindstone Neck.
Winter Harbor covers approximately 66 square miles, much of it ocean. Lobster fishing is the predominant industry with roughly 35 lobster fishing boats moored in the harbor. In addition to lobster fishing, the village is host to a wonderful variety of gift shops, antique shops, art galleries, bike and kayak rentals and several eateries. Grindstone Neck Association includes a yacht club, home to the oldest one-design sailboat fleet in the United States; a nine-hole golf course boasting “water views from every hole”; tennis courts and footpaths. Winter Harbor also is home to a vibrant arts organization, Schoodic Arts for All, that brings year-round performances, exhibits and workshops to the area.
For over 50 years, Winter Harbor has hosted an annual Lobster Festival, with lobster boat races, craft fair, lobster dinners, food vendors, musical entertainment and a parade
Winter Harbor is the gateway to the Schoodic Point section of Acadia National Park, where BikeMaine 2016 will begin and end at Schoodic Institute. Schoodic Institute is located on property that was once home to Naval Security Group Activity Winter Harbor, a former naval station tasked with intelligence gathering. NSGA Winter Harbor operated from 1935 until 2002, when it was excessed by the Department of Defense. NSGA Winter Harbor was actually a replacement for an existing radio site across Frenchman Bay on Otter Cliffs (south of Bar Harbor). The Naval Radio Station at Otter Cliffs was built in 1917 and was the Navy’s best transatlantic radio site because it had an unobstructed shot across the ocean and because Mount Desert Island was so isolated that there was no other radio noise. By the 1930’s the site’s buildings were run down and needed replacement badly.
John D. Rockefeller suggested that the site be removed as a part of his land donation to Acadia National Park. The Navy agreed, provided that Rockefeller built a replacement site. Rockefeller agreed and had a site constructed across the bay on the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula. This site was commissioned in 1935 and grew into the NSGA Winter Harbor Site. The purpose of the site was to use the Navy’s Wullenweber Antenna Array in conjunction with satellites to triangulate the location of foreign warships. Not only did this enable the U.S. Navy to track foreign warships, but it provided ships equipped with cruise missiles with a means of over the horizon targeting. The
life span of the satellites was approximately 7 – 8 years and, with the last batch being launched in 1995, the Navy decided to close the site in 2001 and turn it over to the public in 2002. The land was returned to the National Park Service. Schoodic Institute was originally conceived in 2004 as Acadia Partners for Science and Learning before changing its name to Schoodic Institute in 2013. The Schoodic Institute is committed to guiding people to greater understanding and appreciation for nature by providing research and learning opportunities through its outstanding Acadia National Park setting, unique coastal Maine facilities, and innovative partnership programs.
Day 1: Winter Harbor to Jonesport: Lobsterbound
Miles: 62 (54 without optional side trip to Corea)
Elevation Gain: 3067 ft. elevation gain
BikeMaine 2016 begins on the beautiful Schoodic Byway, a 27-mile driving route providing access to fishing villages and stunning coastal scenery around much of the Schoodic Peninsula, including the mainland portion of Acadia National Park. It is one of three Scenic Byways the 2016 BikeMaine route will explore.
The Byway leads to Prospect Harbor, site of the last sardine cannery operating in the United States before it closed in 2010 (it now processes lobsters). Prospect Harbor Lighthouse, perched on the east side of the harbor’s entrance, was built in 1849 for $4,968.17. The light station, now located on the grounds of a United States Navy satellite operations station, is closed to the general public, but the keeper’s dwelling has been dubbed Gull Cottage and may be reserved for overnight visits by military families, active and retired. A number of guests have reported spooky nocturnal occurrences. Some say that a sea captain statue moves around inexplicably, others says they’ve seen or heard a spirit at night, while still others report smelling tobacco smoke when no one is smoking and attribute it to the spirit of a former lighthouse keeper.
These legends drew Producer George Steitz to include Prospect Harbor in his Haunted Lighthouses of America series shown on the Travel Channel in 2004. Steitz admitted to not having had any interest in ghosts before the series and had another motive for doing the show. “I hope to stir a few imaginations, especially in younger people,” he said. “I hope someone will want to find out more about what they see in the show, not necessarily ghosts, but about American history, customs, travel, lighthouses — especially early lighthouse life….Like most legends, nearly every one we feature has some basis in real history.”
The real history of the ghosts in this case may have grown from the actions of Robert Kord, whose visit to Gull Cottage in 1997 was recorded in the Machias Valley News. “I kept moving these wooden figurines around the place in an effort to scare anybody,” wrote Kord. “Our Prospect Harbor grandchildren visited, and my techniques worked pretty good on the granddaughter.”
Prospect Harbor also is home to a small antennae facility that the Navy retained after it closed NSGA Winter Harbor.
At Mile 7, you face your first and only route decision of the day: whether or not to take the optional side trip to picturesque Corea, a quintessential Downeast* Maine fishing village. Corea originally was called Indian Harbor until the name was changed in 1896 when a U.S. Post Office was established there. At that time, there was only a footpath connecting it to Prospect Harbor, located a few miles to the west. Corea is small and quiet village of Gouldsboro, with excellent harbor views of lobster boats and other vessels and a handful of galleries and shops. Corea also is home to Corea Heath Preserve, a 600-acre rare coastal plateau bog, distinguished because it rises above the surrounding landscape. The heath is comprised of divergent ecosystems including bogs, ledges, and mixed-wood forest. Natural features include pitcher plants, sphagnum mosses, rare vascular plants, and jack pines. It’s a fabulous place for bird watching, too.
As we leave Corea and head towards Gouldsboro, we’ll begin to get glimpses of the Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge Complex, which is comprised of five individual refuges that span the coast of Maine. The five separate refuges are Cross Island, Petit Manan, Seal Island, Franklin Island, and Pond Island national wildlife refuges. Each has separate establishment histories and refuge purposes. Seal, Franklin, and Pond islands are single-island refuges. Cross Island Refuge is a six-island complex, and the Petit Manan Refuge includes 51 islands and 4 mainland divisions. All totaled, the refuge includes approximately 8,238 acres of diverse coastal Maine habitats including forested and non-forested offshore islands, coastal salt marsh, open field, and upland mature spruce-fir forest.
We pass quickly through the quaint town of Milbridge, but don’t worry; we’ll be back here on our final evening, when there will be plenty of time to explore. From Milbridge, we have mostly inland riding to lunch in Harrington at the Harrington Health Center, where there will be a community celebration dedicating their Schoodic Sculpture and bicycle events for the local children.
The Schoodic Sculpture Symposium is an outdoor exhibit of 34 sculptures spanning over 273 miles along the coastal region of Downeast Maine. Five Symposia have taken place, resulting in a world-class collection of large granite works of art that make up the Sculpture Trail of Maine [link to map].
As we head back out on the road after lunch, passing through Addison. Addison was incorporated in 1797. There were several key industries that brought the population of Addison to its peak in 1860 to 1,272. Shipbuilding and quarrying were the major contributors. There were 83 vessels built between 1800 and 1900 and four major granite quarries in operation. Other important industries were coasting (bringing people and goods to the area by ship), fishing, timber and silver mining. By 1958, most of these industries had disappeared. With the closing of the last quarry, the population reached it’s low in 1960 at 744. Today the top three sectors of employment for Addison are agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and mining,
Addison has recreation opportunities that derive from the natural resources of the town, the region, and some municipal recreational facilities, including Tibbett Island, a 23-acre island preserve across a sheltered narrows from Addison’s municipal park and boat launch, hosting a diverse collection of vegetation and landscape types, including gravel beaches perfect for landing small watercraft in almost any weather condition. The town of Addison contains 4 boat launches and is close to numerous membership-access islands along the Maine Island Trail system.
The ride to Jonesport is a panorama of blueberry fields, occasional ocean views, coastal villages and lovely rural riding on a newly paved road.
The route travels through the heart of Jonesport, where the afternoon rest stop will be held. The town encourages riders to spend time exploring the Jonesport Historical Society; the Peabody Memorial Library with its free wifi; music and a crafts fair at Sawyer Congregational Church; and the harbor, showcasing one of the largest lobster boat fleets in the state.
Riders wanting to purchase supplies before reaching the BikeMaine Village on the east side of Jonesport should stop by Manaford’s Grocery Store on the west side of town. There are no amenities located within walking distance of the BikeMaine Village, located on beautiful Kelley Point.