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Unusual Attractions and Destinations in Maine

Updated on October 10, 2012

Don't Miss These: Desert, Volcano, Oceanarium, Fort Knox and the Golden Road

After spring comes summer and summer vacation. Time to start planning your trip to Vacationland. Acadia National Park, Old Orchard Beach, lighthouses and L.L. Bean are frequent destinations of visitors to Maine. Whale watching, eating lobster, biking, hiking, and kayaking are must dos. And what vacation would be complete without a round of miniature golf, a spin on a go kart, or some thrills at an amusement park?

Did you know there is a desert and an extinct volcano in Maine? Thought Fort Knox was in Kentucky? Guess again. Make your next visit to Maine different.

Check out this list of unusual attractions and destinations in Maine that you probably didn't even know existed.

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What Started as a Farm, Ended up as a Desert

Only a few miles west of L.L. Bean in Freeport is theDesert of Maine. So out of place in Maine, this "desert" is not a tourist prop of trucked in sand. Technically, since it is glacial silt and not sand, it is not a "desert". But, it sure looks like one.

Poor crop management and soil erosion have allowed the glacial silt deposited in the last Ice Age to gradually become exposed and swallow up a farm. What used to be the Tuttle Farm is now a 40 acre glacial desert.

The Desert of Maine (1-207-865-6962) is located at 95 Desert Road, Freeport, ME, approximately 2 miles west of Interstate 295, Exit 20. Open from May to October (call for exact dates), take the family for a day of fun. In addition to tram tours of the desert, there is a museum, a farm museum, picnic area, and activities for children.

Source: The Desert of Maine

Source

Extinct Volcano on Vinalhaven

When my wife took a geology class at the University of Maine, Hutchinson Center, one summer, the class took a field trip to Vinalhaven Island to visit an extinct volcano. I don't know why I didn't know about this volcano. The New York Times reported it in 1895! (click and scroll to the bottom for the article to read about it).

While the central and southern parts of the island are the typical pink granite, the northern part of the island contains a variety of volcanic rocks.The volcanic rock, or Vinalhaven Rhyolite, can be seen along North Haven Road, north and south of Middle Mountain Road (click for a map). Rhyolite forms when thick, taffy-like lava solidifies.

The volcanic rocks are on the north end of Vinalhaven Island. Do not confuse this with North Vinalhaven Island.

Vinalhaven, a large island in Penobscot Bay, is an hour and fifteen minute ferry ride from Rockland. A working community more than a tourist area, visit Vinalhaven and try to imagine what life on an island in Maine would be like. This extinct volcano can give you one more reason to enjoy a ferry ride and visit a Maine island.


Source: Maine Geological Survey, Maine Department of Conservation Website

Fort Knox, Prospect, ME

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View of Fort Knox across the Penosbscot River from Verona IslandFront View of Fort KnoxFort Knox Parade Ground
View of Fort Knox across the Penosbscot River from Verona Island
View of Fort Knox across the Penosbscot River from Verona Island | Source
Front View of Fort Knox
Front View of Fort Knox | Source
Fort Knox Parade Ground
Fort Knox Parade Ground | Source

There Ain't No Gold Here

America's first Fort Knox is located on the west bank of the Penobscot River across from Bucksport in Prospect, ME. Built from 1844-1869 with granite quarried from nearby Mount Waldo the fort was never involved in a conflict. Like Fort Knox, KY, it was named after Henry Knox, the first Secretary of War.

With unique architectural features it has always been one of my favorite places to visit. Kids and adults alike, can spend hours exploring and imagining what it would have been like to stationed here in the 1800s. While not absolutely necessary, a flashlight can be useful in some of the darker parts of the fort.

Located at 740 Fort Knox Road, Prospect, ME 04981, the fort is open daily from 9AM to sunset, May 1st through October 31st. Special events including re-enactments, cannon firing, ghost tours, demonstrations, concerts, and plays are scheduled throughout the months the fort is open. Admission fees are $3 age 12 and up, $1 age 5-11. If you combine it with admission to the Penobscot Narrows Observatory next to the fort, admission is $5 ages 12 and up, $3 age 5-11, and $2.50 for age 65 and over. Bring a picnic and spend the day.

YouTube video, A Tour of Fort Knox Part #2

Click here for a copy of the Fort Knox Brochure (pdf format).

Source: fortknox.maineguide.com and The Friends of Fort Knox

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge

Source
View of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge from the Observatory
View of the Penobscot Narrows Bridge from the Observatory | Source

Tallest Public Bridge Observatory in the World

The U.S. Route 1 Pensobscot Narrows Bridge crosses over the Penobscot River between Prospect, ME and Verona Island. Atop one of the towers of the bridge is the Penobscot Narrows Observatory, the highest public bridge observatory in the world. Rising over 400 feet above sea level, the multi-level observatory provides views as far away as Mount Katahdin and as close as the Penobscot River Valley below. The only observatory like it in the western hemisphere, you would have to travel to China, Slovakia, or Thailand to see another.

Located at 740 Fort Knox Road, Prospect, ME 04981, the observatory is only accessible through Fort Knox next door. The fort and observatory are open daily from 9AM to sunset, May 1st through October 31st. Combined admission is $5 ages 12 and up, $3 age 5-11, and $2.50 for age 65 and over.

Source: fortknox.maineguide.com and The Friends of Fort Knox

The Golden Road

Like off-roading? This is off the grid off-roading. While cars can probably handle the road, I wouldn't take a high performance car.

The Golden Road is a private logging road in Maine's Northwoods. Commercial vehicles (i.e. big logging trucks) have the right of way.

While I haven't traveled on it recently, you can enter the road just north of Millinocket, not far from the entrance to Baxter State Park. There is a gate house there and there may be a fee. You can go from Millinocket to the Quebec border or Moosehead lake.

You can stop to see the wildlife (moose) and the views (Mt. Katahdin), but you can't stop for food or fuel. Prepare before you start your journey. Fill your gas tank, bring extra food and water, make sure your tires are in good order and bring a spare. A map, compass and GPS could also be invaluable. Cell phone coverage is limited or absent if you need help. A CB radio would be more helpful than a cell phone. Remember them good buddy?

If you would like to get a flavor of the Golden Road, click on this MapQuest link for a 70 mile journey from Moosehead Lake in Greenville, ME to Mount Katahdin and Baxter State Park in Millinocket, ME. (Part of this route is paved) Before you go, confirm that all parts of this trip are open to public traffic.

YouTube video by Zwei4Eins

Oceanarium and Blue Lobster

Oceanarium, Rt. 3
Oceanarium, Rt. 3 | Source
Source

Pet a Starfish, Visit the Mount Desert Oceanarium

Ever wonder what a scallop looks like in the ocean or want to pet a starfish? The Mount Desert Oceanarium is the place for you. The Oceanarium is actually spread out in 2 locations on Mount Desert Island (MDI). The Bar Harbor and Southwest Harbor sites are unique and each have a different focus on ocean life.

On U.S. Route 3, shortly after you cross onto MDI, is the larger of the two Oceanariums. The Bar Harbor site features the Thomas Bay Salt Marsh Tour, the lobster museum, the Maine Lobster Hatchery, and a touch tank. During the Marsh Walk you learn about important ecological principles. The lobster hatchery studies the life cycle of the maine lobster. The Maine Lobster Fishing Program is also located at this site.

My favorite of the two, and the most difficult to find, is the Oceanarium at the Southwest Harbor site. This relatively small building near the U.S. Coast Guard Station houses the Discovery Pool Touch Tank marine aquarium and the Fisherman's Museum. Staff eagerly talk about everything that lives in the touch tank and answer all of your questions. You are even allowed and encouraged to touch. This is your chance to pet a starfish, hold a horseshoe crab or cuddle a sea cucumber.

The hatchery that was formerly on the town pier in Bar Harbor has been relocated to the Route 3 location.

Source:Mount Desert Oceanarium

Source

What is your favorite thing to do in Maine?

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© 2012 bankscottage

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    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      anmurphy7, there are a lot of great places in Maine that most people miss. My wife found the "volcano" on a geology field trip. We tried to find it on our own and couldn't. It doesn't stick up, you just have to find old lava among the rocks.

      The Golden Road can be exciting but requires some preparation (water, food, spare tire, maybe even extra gas). It is about as remote as you can get.

      Thanks for commenting.

    • anmurphy7 profile image

      Alanna Murphy 4 years ago from Weston, Florida

      Great hub! Next time I am in Maine, I will surely check out the less touristy spots! The extinct volcano sounds awesome! The Golden Road also sounds cool. Thanks for sharing!

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Tom & Pam

      Thanks for stopping by. Where to go for a romantic overnight? Depends on what you find romantic. My wife and I have enjoyed a B and B in Camden (there are tons of options all along Rt. 1). Attean Lake Lodge near Jackman would be romantic if you like the outdoors (they pick you up by motorboat to get to the island). We also enjoy going out to an island. There are some nice places (B and Bs) on Vinalhaven (see if you can find the lava), North Haven or Monhegan Island. If I went to MDI I'd go to the quietside, possibly the Claremont, but we have stayed at the Asticou. Castine is a nice little town and we have eaten at the Brooklin Inn, but haven't stayed there (but that would be an option on the Blue Hill Peninsula).

      Someday, we would like to take a 2 or 3 day Windjammer cruise out of Camden (a little more than an overnight).

      We have a son that lives in Portland, so we enjoy going out in the Old Port (we usually stay at a chain hotel, nothing really special but there are a few nice hotels and B and Bs in Portland).

      So much to do in Maine. So little time. Won't be long and we'll be coming back up to our camp on Toddy Pond. Your question makes me want to get there as soon as possible.

    • profile image

      Tom&Pam 4 years ago

      We're locals, Mainahs....born and raised here in the Portland/Windham area...

      Where do we go for a romantic over nite???

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Leahlefler, I hope you get to Maine with your family this summer. The Desert of Maine is not far from Freeport, ME and L.L. Bean. Take a scenic, but slow drive up U.S. Rt. 1 through a lot of great Maine seaside towns as you make your way north towards Acadia National Park. Be sure and stop at the Pensobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory and Fort Knox (the kids will love them). Plenty of places to stop for lobster along the way.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      My husband and I were discussing a trip to Maine over the summer. The Oceanarium looks like a lot of fun for the kids, and I had no idea there was a "desert" in Maine! These are great, "off-the-beaten-track" ideas. I have to admit, my favorite part of visiting Maine would be the fresh lobster!

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Prasetio30, thanks for the kind comments and vote. Glad you enjoyed the Hub.

    • prasetio30 profile image

      prasetio30 4 years ago from malang-indonesia

      Very informative and well written about Maine. I really enjoy reading this hub as my appreciation to travel topic. You have done a great job by share this hub with us. Voted up and have a nice weekend!

      Cheers, Prasetio

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Peggy W, this is one corner of the US you have to get to. Maine has a lot of great things to see and do. And then there is the lobster!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 4 years ago from Houston, Texas

      I have never been up to Maine and would enjoy traveling there someday. Thanks for the tips on some of the more unusual things to see while there. Voted up, useful and interesting and will share.

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      ryanjhoe, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Hope you get to visit Maine soon and cross the Penobscot Narrows Bridge.

    • ryanjhoe profile image

      ryanjhoe 4 years ago from Somewhere over the rainbow

      Maine looks awesome! Your hub can be my future reference for traveling. I am amazed with the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. Thank you for sharing.

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      hecate-horus, thanks for checking out the hub.

    • hecate-horus profile image

      hecate-horus 5 years ago from Rowland Woods

      Great hub! Makes me a little homesick.

    • bankscottage profile image
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      bankscottage 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      A sign on I-95 when you enter Maine says 'If you lived here, you'd be home now.'. We can't live there now, but we will when we retire.

    • Marsei profile image

      Sue Pratt 5 years ago from New Orleans

      I loved this. And next time, I'll know lots more places to go. I had forgotten LL Bean. When we went on our last trip, my husband, who is a hunter, thought he was in heaven.

      This is an interesting informative article about one of my very favorite places. Voted up and will read the other one later today.

      marsei