Over the past decade, many partnerships in Washington and Hancock Counties have focused on cultural and nature-based tourism and regional economic prosperity. Their efforts range across Economic Development, Ecological Conservation, Cultural Preservation, Local Coordination, and Education.
This work provides tourism stakeholders with information about travel patterns and the consistency between visitor expectations and their satisfaction. They identify tourism promotion needs in the region, including infrastructure and business development, and regional marketing strategies. They also broaden the public’s awareness of Downeast Maine’s nature-based tourism assets.
These partnerships also facilitate tourism-related technical assistance to the nature-based, heritage and cultural tourism community in the Washington/Hancock County region. The resulting relationships encourage cooperation and coordination in product development and marketing efforts between traditional travel industry sectors and the arts, heritage and culture tourism community.
The local, regional, and statewide promotional efforts that include the Bold Coast region and its immediate neighbors are highlighted below in four general categories: Tourism and Economic Development Studies; Regional Promotional Initiatives; Thematic Self Guided Trails; and Recreational Trails.
The Bold Coast Scenic Byway has the potential to provide the literal and figurative link among all of these studies, promotional initiatives, and physical assets. The byway is at once the vehicle and the passport that conveys, directs, and invites the visitor to enjoy the culture, natural bounty, and scenic beauty of the Bold Coast region.
Tourism and Economic Development Studies
(Down East Sustainable Tourism Initiative Year 2010) — A sustainable tourism plan for Maine's Hancock and Washington Counties, written by the Vacationland Resources Committee
(VRC), as an update to DESTINY 2000 - Down East Sustainable Tourism Initiative Year 2000, released in 1999. These efforts sought to outline appropriate, responsible and sustainable development strategies for cultural and nature-based tourism opportunities to bring economic prosperity to the region while protecting natural and cultural heritage.
A Resource Guide for Sustainable Tourism in Maine and New Brunswick
— Completed in 2007 by the Vacationland Resources Committee (VRC), along with Maine Sea Grant, Sunrise County Economic Council, Downeast & Acadia Regional Tourism and the Washington County Council of Governments. This document is a guide for tourism businesses and destinations for greening their operations and incorporating best practices in various aspects of sustainable tourism.
Downeast Nature Based Tourism Initiative
— A 2007-2009 initiative funded by the Maine Office of Tourism and coordinated by the Sunrise County Economic Council, in partnership with many. The project was intended to, among other things:
- Broaden the public’s awareness of the region’s nature-based tourism assets;
- Encourage cooperation and coordination in product development and marketing efforts between traditional travel industry sectors and the arts, heritage, and cultural tourism community; and
- Facilitate tourism-related technical assistance to nature-based, heritage, and cultural tourism communities in the Downeast Region.
An infrastructure/facilities/assets inventory was conducted for sites throughout Washington and Hancock County, and recommendations were made for improvements. Of the 31 sites selected for project consideration, 19 are in Washington County and 14 are within the immediate Bold Coast Scenic Byway corridor. Of the 14, 8 were selected as being “Gems of the Gems” visitor ready sites, and were poised for immediate promotion. Since this report was written, the remaining 4 sites have been improved and are being actively promoted by the Maine Office of Tourism and others. All of these sites are highlighted throughout the Intrinsic Qualities discussion and route description, and are included in the final Bold Coast Scenic Byway route map. Most of these sites are associated with larger local and regional trail systems (described below under Recreational Trails).
Regional Promotional Initiatives
— The New Brunswick Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture and the Maine Office of Tourism are currently working together to create awareness of a unique cross border vacation experience – the “Two Nation Vacation”. Maritime Canada and Downeast Maine share a maritime and resource-based history and culture set amongst the breathtaking scenery of the eastern coast. Both New Brunswick and Maine have deep cultural roots, and the cities and harbor towns highlighted in the Two-Nation Vacation driving tour itinerary share a rich and storied past. The initiative aims to highlight the similarities binding these countries together while encouraging respect for each region's unique strengths. The distinctive qualities of both New Brunswick and Maine complement each other – providing a truly exceptional vacation experience.
Experience Maritime Maine
(EMM) — A multi-layered marketing campaign to share Maine’s maritime heritage through an online presence highlighting Maine’s maritime and coastal lifestyle
activities and promoting Maine as a destination for maritime-related travel. EMM is a partnership of museums, historic sites, chambers and other maritime- related organizations throughout the state. The website highlights the best maritime culture and heritage offerings in Maine in a conveniently packaged and interactive web experience for cultural
travellers. The website highlights people, places and their stories and encourages travelers to explore the best maritime assets along the entire Maine coast. The site includes links to historic sites and museums, family-fun festivals, celebrations of coastal food, outdoor recreation, art installations, genealogical research and scenic travel. Any non-profit organization or institution that celebrates, interprets or preserves Maine’s extensive Maritime Heritage and promotes maritime and coastal lifestyle activities can participate in the project.
The project includes:
Maine Scenic Byways Program
- Extensive radio advertising;
- A website with themed stories and travel ideas;
- A brochure; and
- A social media campaign.
- Schoodic Scenic Byway – A 27-mile driving route providing access to fishing villages and stunning coastal scenery around much of the Schoodic Peninsula, including the Schoodic portion of Acadia National Park.
- Blackwoods Scenic Byway – This scenic byway extends 12.5 miles along Route 182 through undeveloped mountains, lakes, and forests between the towns of Franklin in Hancock County and Cherryfield in Washington County.
- Acadia All American Road – Winding through iconic Acadia National Park, this 40-mile scenic byway provides access to miles of interconnected carriage roads, 26 mountains, 22 lakes and ponds, all against the backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean.
Self-Guided Touring Trails
The following self-guided, themed touring routes are shown on the Bold Coast Scenic Byway Map.
Schoodic International Sculpture Symposium
(SISS) — The (SISS) is an artist in residency program that gives sculptors from Maine and around the world the opportunity to create a single piece of public art created in Maine granite within the environmental and cultural context of individual communities. Four Symposia have taken place, resulting in 27 sculptures that make up the new Sculpture Trail of Maine. The fifth symposium will occur in 2014. The finished works are pa rt of a collection that spreads throughout the Downeast region. (The SISS is connected to Sculpture St. John, a similar symposium in New Brunswick.) Tour maps are available on-line and formal tours are independently organized. The project is supported through donations from the local communities, general fundraising, grants, and in kind support.
Nine sculptures are located along the Bold Coast Scenic Byway, and several of these are also Downeast Fisheries Trail sites. The sculptures integrate art, culture, history, and location. Opportunities exist for collaboration on interpretive signage and mapping. Bold Coast Scenic Byway communities with current or intended sculpture sites include:
Down East Fisheries Trail
- Roque Bluffs
— Launched in 2000, the Down East Fisheries Trail highlights the culture and heritage of fishing in Downeast Maine. From Penobscot Bay to Cobscook Bay, the Downeast Fisheries Trail connects historic and active fisheries sites that illustrate the region’s maritime heritage. Marine resources sustain the culture and economy of Downeast Maine. The Downeast Fisheries Trail builds on these local resources to strengthen community life and the experience of visitors. Many sites on the Downeast Fisheries Trail are within the byway corridor. This is a project of the Maine Sea Grant and Sunrise County Economic Council working in collaboration with the Down East Resource Conservation & Development’s Vacationland Resources Committee. This effort presents a number of opportunities for collaboration on development of interpretive and educational materials.
Ice Age Trail
– The Ice Age Trail was created under the direction of the Quaternary Studies program at the University of Maine, in collaboration with other partners. The trail highlights significant geological sites related to the most recent Ice Age and d irects visitors to the finest and most accessible of these features. It follows the margins of the last great North American continental ice sheet and coincides with many Downeast tourist attractions. The Maine Ice Age Trail map is sold through the University of Maine bookstore is also available for free download on the website.
Maine Birding Trail
– The Maine Birding Trail makes it easy to plan a birding vacation in wild, scenic places along the rocky coast or in the deep forest, that feature excellent birding, but also have excellent parking, paths, facilities, etc. The Trail was created in partnership with Maine Audubon, the Maine Office of Tourism, the Maine Department of Conservation, and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife. This trail includes 82 official sites throughout Maine, with 14 sites located in the Down East region. Five of the Down East sites on the Maine Birding Trail are located in Hancock County and nine are in Washington County, 8 of which are along the Bold Coast Scenic Byway. Campobello and Grand Manan Islands are featured in the companion Maine Birding Trail Official Guide, which details over 260 sites, many of them off the beaten track. It features over 100 maps, secrets for finding sought-after species, and advice on trip-planning. A brochure containing short descriptions and regional maps is available for download on the website.
Lighthouses and Lobsters
– A brochure created by DownEast & Acadia Regional Tourism provides information about the 27 lighthouses located in the Downeast Region, and provides the base destinations for a “lighthouses and lobsters” themed vacation. Brochures are available at area Chambers of Commerce. More information about area lighthouses can be found at www.downeastacadia.com
Downeast Sunrise Trail
(DST) – A four-season multi-use trail extending 87 miles between Ayers Junction in Washington County and Washington Junction in Hancock County. The compacted gravel trail makes up a portion of the East Coast Greenway, a trail extending along the eastern part of the United States from Key West, Florida to the Canadian border at Calais, Maine. The trail is owned by the Department of Transportation and managed by the Department of Conservation; the Sunrise Trail Coalition, a citizen advocacy group, is also actively involved in trail planning and promotion. More information can be found at www.sunrisetrail.org
– A guide to walking opportunities around the Cobscook Bay and Bold Coast Region. The guide describes seaside and woodland trails, seeking to make them more accessible to residents and visitors. Twenty locations are highlighted the 2007 booklet, and a 2014 updated version contains new trails. This Guide is a cooperative project of conservation organizations, landowners, and community partners seeking to expand nature-based recreation and tourism opportunities. In addition to the trail guide, the project includes trail maintenance and stewardship activities.
Maine Coast Heritage Trust
and Downeast Coastal Conservancy
– Two land trusts with thousands of acres of conserved land, much of which is open to the public and developed with trails. Both land trusts are committed to conserving and stewarding our unique natural and cultural resources and recognize them as vital to the local economy and our way of life. Both Trusts focus on conserving our working landscape and areas of high ecological importance, promoting the region for tourism, and improving public access and recreational opportunities. Trail maps are posted on their websites, and trails are also included in the Cobscook Trails guide.
Down East Lakes Water Trail
– The Trail brochure highlights 9 primitive camp sites accessible only by water and located on West Grand Lake, Pocumcus Lake, Fourth Machias Lake, and Wabassus Lake, all within Washington County. The Downeast Lakes Land Trust oversees these sites, which are each provided with a picnic table and fire ring. Campsite use is free, but donations to the land trust are welcome. A map can be downloaded from www.downeastlakes.org
Maine Island Trail
– A 375-mile recreational waterway that spans the entire coast of Maine. The trail connects over 200 island and mainland sites open for day visits or overnight camping while traversing a variety of natural settings from sandy beaches and quiet bays to saltwater rivers and bold shores. The Bold Coast region boasts 33 Maine Island Trail sites. Trail properties are owned by an assortment of private landowners, conservation organizations, and federal, state and municipal agencies, all of whom generously make their land available to visitors in exchange for the promise of respectful use and careful stewardship. All Trail sites are accessible by personal watercraft – such as sea kayaks, sailboats or powerboats – although reasonable access to some sites may depend on the sea conditions or the tide. A guidebook can be purchased through the Maine Island Trail Association by becoming a member.
East Coast Greenway
– A 2,900 mile long connection of existing and planned shared-use trails that will eventually provide a continuous, traffic-free bike/ped route from Calais, Maine, at the Canadian border, to Key West, Florida. The East Coast Greenway is almost entirely on public right-of-way, incorporating waterfront esplanades, park paths, abandoned railroad corridors, canal towpaths, and pathways along highway corridors. Designed to accommodate tourists, locals, and users of all abilities, the East Coast Greenway has universal appeal. The Downeast Sunrise Trail comprises 85 miles of the East Coast Greenway.
St. Croix International Waterway
—One of Maine’s 20 recognized Outstanding Rivers, the full length of the St. Croix waterway is shared by the Province of New Brunswick, Canada and the State of Maine. Shared too are the natural, historical and recreational resources that support its communities and economy. Recognized as one of the most unspoiled recreational river corridors in the Northeast, this river is highly valued by canoeists, fishermen and naturalists. The St. Croix River basin covers 1640 sq. mi/4235 sq. km of southwestern New Brunswick and northeastern Maine. The waterway system includes tributary streams, estuaries, lakes and ponds, and is developed with campsites that are available on both a first-come and a reservation system.
 (The VRC was a group of business, environmental and planning professionals, extension agents, volunteers and tourism providers working together on sustainable tourism projects in eastern Maine. During its tenure, the VRC sponsored workshops and conferences to encourage businesses to incorporate and highlight sustainable tourism industry practices.)