Host Community Series – Belfast “A Coastal Town”

July 18, 2013 News No Comments

Editors Note: This is the third in a series of articles highlighting the route and host communities of BikeMaine.  Local Maine lawyer and cycling enthusiast Fred Frawley has crafted a comprehensive route digest detailing descriptions of sights and attractions along the route that connects the host communities. This combination of community information and route digest will be shared in a series of weekly articles.  Remaining host communities will be showcased individually on the website through July and August.


The city of Belfast sits high on a hill at the crossroads of coastal Maine, overlooking a busy working waterfront at the feet of its historic downtown.  As we love to share our special community with all who visit, we are looking forward especially to welcoming the hundreds of cyclists who will be spending some time with us on Tuesday, September 10th as part of BikeMaine’s inaugural ride.

To this day, Belfast remains a true working city where builders of ships, creators of fine art and craft, and engaged citizens from all walks of life come together to make Belfast the bustling city it has come to be.  Our history is rooted in shipbuilding and industry, and at one point, Belfast was the poultry capital of the country.  In sharing our history with BikeMaine, we’ll be putting on a large chicken barbecue for our guests and Marshall Wharf Brewing Company (a local downtown brewer of fine craft beer) will host a beer garden on site.  Belfast is famous for its Friday Art Walks so we’ll be inviting cyclists to explore our downtown and enjoy a special Monday night version – with over 20 participating galleries and studios (perfectly placed among enticing options for drinks and after-dinner snacks and desserts).

Enjoy camping out at Steamboat Landing, situated along the brand-new Harbor Walk, which stretches from the Belfast Boathouse to the Armistice Bridge (a pedestrian and bikes only footbridge), and take a scenic stroll beside “The Passy,” our beloved river and gateway to Penobscot Bay – a perfect end to a perfect day in Belfast, Maine.

We’ll then see you at breakfast on Wednesday morning and be sad to send you on your way, with hopes that you will come back to Belfast soon!

Breanna Pinkham Bebb

Executive Director, Our Town Belfast


Route Digest – Day Three Ride (9/10/13) – Belfast to Castine  by Fred Frawley

If you were hungering for a costal ride the first couple of days of BikeMaine, this is your day. This morning, after setting off from Belfast, we follow coastal Route 1 up to Searsport and then into Stockton Springs. These towns are working waterfront communities that host their share of summer visitors (what some refer to as “folks from away”). The road is well-travelled, lined with businesses catering to the touring public, and there are plenty of interesting views along the way.

Searsport features a deep-water port on Penobscot Bay. Searsport is home to the Penobscot Maritime Museum and hosts one of the annual Maine Lobster Boat races in the summer. Those lobster boats look bulky, but seeing them race is a sight to behold.

Stockton Springs is a bit north on Route 1 and was once a bustling port.  Between 1905 and 1907, three huge wooden piers were built. The local railroad transported goods to and from the docks.  An immense warehouse held potatoes from Aroostook County until schooners coming up into the Bay could deliver them elsewhere. The harbor’s industrial era came to a premature end when wharves were destroyed in a fire in November 1924.

Our route continues to hug the coast as we make our way up the west side of Penobscot Bay to the first rest stop of the day. You’ll be tempted to spend the remainder of the day here, as our stop is at the Friends of Fort Knox Park, home of Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.  Please feel free to explore one or both sites as a guest of BikeMaine.

Fort Knox is a coastal granite fort built in the mid-1800s. The fort was strategically located on the narrows of the Penobscot River to protect the river valley from a British naval attack that never came. Fort Knox is one of the best-preserved fortifications on the New England seacoast. The Fort has many architectural features present only to itself, as well as a rich history behind its cannon batteries.

1. flag bridgeThe Penobscot Narrows Bridge, an amazing engineering achievement, is one of three bridges in the US (the others being Zakim Bridge in Boston, Massachusetts, and Veterans’ Glass City Skyway in Toledo, Ohio) using a cradle system that carries the cable strands within the stays from bridge deck to bridge deck, as a continuous element, eliminating anchorages in the pylons. Atop the bridge is the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, the first bridge observation tower in the United States, and said to be the tallest public bridge observatory in the world. The tower reaches skyward 420 feet (128 m)  and provides visitors a breathtaking view of the region, to include –on a really clear day —  another glimpse of Mount Katahdin. The bridge itself replaced an older bridge (to your right as you travel north), which is being dismantled … an engineering feat in its own right.

The route crosses to the east side of the Penobscot River across Verona Island, once a shipbuilding village. The last vessel was built in 1905. This was the Roosevelt, which carried Robert Peary from New York to the Arctic in 1908 for his final expedition to the North Pole.

Shortly after leaving the island, you will pedal into Bucksport. Unlike many towns on our route, Bucksport continues to have an active manufacturing base. The Verso paper mill has operated since 1930. It has 4 machines with a capacity to manufacture 482,800 tons of paper annually. The factory produces lightweight coated paper used in such publications as Time Magazine and the L.L.Bean catalog.

Bucksport also features prominently in one of the oddest “ghost stories” you are likely to hear. Maine school children of many generations learned the tale and as adults went to Bucksport to see for themselves. The story goes something like this: Bucksport’s founder, Colonel Jonathan Buck, had a run-in with a local woman, whom he claimed was a witch. The unfortunate lady was publicly burned by Col. Buck, but her leg rolled out of the fire. The victim’s son, upset at the turn of events, cursed Col. Buck, promising that he would be haunted by the mother for eternity. Years later, Buck died and was buried in the middle of town and a monument/gravestone was erected in his memory. Not long after, the image of a woman’s leg appeared in outline form on the monument. Despite efforts to remove it, the image returned and is there to this day.  The monument is located in Buck Cemetery, which you will pass just after US 1 joins Hwy 15.  The cemetery is on the north side of US 1, across the street from Hannaford Supermarket.
2. photoThe route turns inland after Bucksport, as we head “down east”, which is how Mainers refer to this part of the state (extending north to Canada).  You will soon be seeing the first of the blueberry barrens that you will come to know well.  We pass through Orland, the birthplace of William Tilburg Clark, who wrote the classic Western “The Oxbow Incident.” Clark moved from Maine to Reno, Nevada, so it’s unlikely he got much inspiration from his hometown. Nevertheless, Orland and the smaller towns in Hancock County on the way to Blue Hill feature forests, farms and small ponds.

Blue Hill is our lunch stop and the setting is idyllic. The route has taken us back to the water, but it’s not Penobscot Bay any more — this is the Atlantic Ocean. Blue Hill Bay rolls in front of you, making it easy to understand why many people call Blue Hill their “escape from New York”. Blue Hill has a thriving arts scene and there are more than a few recording studios and artist workspaces cleverly disguised as farm buildings. Although lobstering survives in Blue Hill, it has been known for a century as a retreat for musicians and artists.  At the Town Landing,  also known as Emerson Park, you will find one of the Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium pieces, “The Window of the Sea Wind” by Hitoshi Tanaka of Japan.

Onward from Blue Hill, the route hugs the Atlantic Coast. Maine is distinguished by the many mainland peninsulas that jut out into the ocean giving it more coastline (about 5,500 miles) than any other state in the lower forty-eight, to include California which has less than 900 miles of ocean coast.  The route takes us out and back along the Blue Hill Peninsula, offering ocean vistas, quaint towns and friendly folks. Watch for side roads leading from the ocean side of the route, of which many; lead to one or more homes  hidden from view.

Sedgewick and Sargentville extend the route down the peninsula and (almost) into the Atlantic. Sedgewick itself is partly  mainland, and partly an island. At Sargentville, look to your left, and you’ll see Little Deer Isle and Deer Isle, thriving coastal communities connected to the mainland by bridge.  We head inland here, passing Caterpillar Hill on the right. This is also an area of blueberry fields, working fishermen, and artists living and working along the Coast.

3. IMG_1089Finally, we reach the afternoon rest stop at Bagaduce Falls. The falls, driven by coastal tides, provide a reversing waterfall effect, which is a favorite of kayakers.

Following a plentiful refueling, you will continue north, up and around the Bagaduce River, before heading south into Castine. As the crow flies, you are only a few miles from Belfast, where the day started, but now you are on the other side of Penobscot Bay.

Castine is a lovely fishing village, nestled on the coastline, with a view into the Atlantic. Castine is one of the oldest communities in North America.  It has been occupied continuously since the early 1600s as the site of numerous trading posts, forts, missions, and permanent settlements of France, Holland, England, and colonial America.  Before 1613, and during the course of its long history, Castine has also been home to several nations of Native Americans.  Castine has existed as a town since 1796 and is named after Baron Jean Vincent d’Abbadie de St. Castin, a French nobleman and adventurer who established a trading post in the 1670s.  Few places in New England have had a more tumultuous history than Castine—which proclaims itself the “battle line of four nations.”

Castine looks much like it did a century ago—except for the Maine Maritime Academy. The Academy is a public post-secondary college and nautical training institution with approximately 800 students. The academy is one of a handful of maritime training institutes in the U.S. and its graduates travel the world in commercial maritime pursuits.  Enjoy your time in Castine exploring all that the academy and the village have to offer.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

five × one =


Route Archive

Recreate all of our previous rides with route and community details. Read More

Stories from the road