Bold Coast History & Heritage

For centuries the people of the Bold Coast have depended upon the region’s natural bounty to survive and to prosper. Traditional enterprises thrive in some form today – forestry, farming, and fishing continue to drive the economy, and offer numerous opportunities to experience local life.

The Bold Coast has been inhabited for thousands of year.  As a result, the culture of the region is rich and varied, and easily accessible to the visitor.

The Bold Coast is home to the Passamaquoddy Tribe (People who Spear Pollock) of the Waponahki Nation (People of the Dawn). Traditional Passamaquoddy basket making, canoe building, jewelry making, woodcarving, storytelling, hunting and fishing, and tribal celebrations and gatherings are very much alive in the Bold Coast region today.  Call ahead to visit the Waponahki Museum in Pleasant Point, venture north into Indian Township for the Indian Museum, or check out the Abbe Museum in Bar Harbor for regular exhibits, classes, or presentations.

Try “glamping” at a goat farm, or learning to milk and make cheese. Rent a cabin on a wild blueberry farm, and try your hand at picking your own berries. Tour a sea-salt farm, or learn about efforts to preserve clam beds and wild salmon fisheries. Explore trails and watch for wildlife in a community-owned working forest. Wild Blueberry Land is a landmark, blueberry-shaped building offering wild blueberry treats made with berries from the family farm. Make sure to visit their Wild Blueberry Virtual Museum to learn about the history and culture of this important little berry.

Early American history is rich along the Bold Coast. Samuel Champlain led the first European settlers to the Bold Coast in 1604, and people of English, Acadian and French origin settled throughout the region. The first naval battle of the Revolutionary War was fought and won at Machias on July 12, 1775.   The Burnham Tavern Museum is one of only 21 homes in the United States designated as most significant to the American Revolution, and the annual Margaretta Days Festival pays tribute. The Barracks Museum (Fort Sullivan) in Eastport was the officer’s quarters of historic Fort Sullivan, which was captured by the British in 1812.

A large number of historically significant structures are open to the public as museums, businesses, or historic walking tours. Explore nineteenth-century luxury homes of Cherryfield’s Historic District, a walking tour along the beautiful the Narraguagus River. Machias offers downloadable audio histories to accompany their walking tour. Visit Historic Ruggles House, once home to a wealthy lumber dealer with a taste for Federal design. Stay overnight in an old captain’s house, or maybe even at a lighthouse keeper’s home! Eastport’s annual  Christmas Tree Tour provides a sneak-peek inside some of the most meticulously preserved private historic homes. Roosevelt Campobello International Park, just across the international bridge from Lubec, offers tours and tea at the summer home of President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

The Downeast Fisheries Trail is a self-guided tour spanning the region that showcases historic and active fisheries sites that exemplify the region’s maritime heritage.  Part of the Fisheries Trail, McCurdy’s Smokehouse in Lubec was the last smoked herring cannery in the region, closed in 1991. The West Quoddy Head Lighthouse Visitor’s Center provides information about the long history of lighthouses along the Bold Coast. Raye’s Mustard Mill is a working museum showcasing North America’s last remaining traditional stone-ground mustard mill that still utilizes the traditional cold grind process.

Many communities across the region have their own Historical Societies with museums of local history and a regular schedule of programs. Many local libraries also have regular programs showcasing local experts speaking on local history or culture, and often offer music, art, and other events.