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Calais, MAINE

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Gorgeous Coastal Backpacking along the Gulf of Maine

The coast of Maine offers very few places for overnight backpacking or even just seaside hiking. The Cutler Coast Public Reserved Land is one great option. The length of the hiking trails makes this the ideal, weekend getaway location for a two-night campout– just get there early. The sites are few in number, small and difficult to get to, but oh-so-worth-it! 

As backcountry sites, there are no picnic tables or fire rings, but each has a clean and convenient composting toilet with a stunning view of the Gulf of Maine.  Each campsite is located close to a freshwater source and a few are within site of a small pebble beach– perfect for swimming if you don’t mind the chilly water.  But, come prepared for bugs -- mosquitoes and black flies are impressive in the late spring and summer!   And, the trails can be quite muddy and soggy.  There is a price for this much beauty in one place!

Located 16 miles east of East Machias, the closest town with gas and a convenience store. Five miles further west along route 1 the town of Machias offers a wider selection of restaurants, farmers markets and grocery stores.

Lots of privacy but that's the only positive

If you want the most private and quiet campground experience you can get without boondocking, this place is for you if you can deal with the negatives.  But in my opinion, it was too rustic and outdated for even me (and I've seen some bad campgrounds in my travels).

To start, when booking our site I was under the impression that it was on the water.. well it is, if you climb down a cliff with a sheer 30 foot drop.  So off the bat, I was already very disappointed because I was expecting we'd be able to launch kayaks directly from our site (there is a public boat launch in the state park, however).  Additionally, our site (and many others) are actually walk in sites with your own parking space - we had to carry our stuff about 30 yards into the site over tons of exposed roots, which for some people could be very dangerous; nowhere on the website does it say they are walk-in sites either.  Our site pad had almost no level areas at all, so our tent was at a slight angle, the bug house we put over the picnic table (totally necessary - see below) was all over the place, and even the included fire pit was on a steep incline, with barely any room for chairs unless you want to try and sit on a slope without falling.  We almost switched with a neighboring site that was more level but were glad we didn't - when it rained two days later, that entire site was flooded for half a day with about 2" of standing water! They really need to engineer the sites better by cutting down a few more trees to increase the size of the site and level them out better.  Also, because the place is so heavily wooded and damp, the bugs are INSANE.  If we didn't have a screen house to put over the table, I would have stayed in the tent the whole time because I was getting eaten alive.

The facilities were one of the worst parts of the stay, however.  I will preface this by saying I am used to using vault toilets, and generally do not have a problem using them for short periods of time.  But their toilets.. I don't even know how to describe them, as I think even calling them pit toilets is over selling them.  The toilets are located in what are essentially little wooden lean-tos, with no engineering whatever to cut down on the smell.  You could literally smell the out houses from about 30 yards away, and every time I would go to use one it was FILLED with flies.  I have never in my life had that experience using vault or primitive toilets.  They are clearly not cleaned very often either (although hard to tell because, surprise!, the toilets were black in color).  Additionally, They are open on the top and bottom, so you can hear EVERYTHING that goes on in them from pretty far away, and they don't even have hand sanitizer dispensers, which even porta potties have.  Their showers were marginally better - the stalls themselves were fairly clean, and they did have nice hot water.  They ask for 25 cents per shower which is totally fair considering there's no time limit.  But even something as simple as the shower curtains could use improvement - they had the cheapest of the cheap dollar store curtains that cling to everything and don't manage to do much to contain the shower spray.  Overall, their facilities need a huge improvement.

Also, this campground had a huge amount of downed dead wood throughout, which to me is very concerning.  If they had one lightening strike in the area, there could be a very dangerous wild fire that could put a lot of people in harm's way.  In my opinion, they should have a controlled burn in the off season, or let people take the downed wood for fires.

I will say that the amount of privacy between sites is probably the best I've ever experienced at a campground - we could barely see our neighbors.  This was probably the only positive to this campground, in my opinion.  Besides the rangers - they were very friendly and helpful.  Nearby Lubec was a fun town to explore, but the kayaking in the area was a little boring (the same views every place you look, at least when kayaking the coastal area near the state park).  There are tons of hiking trails, however.

I would not stay here again, and neither would my boyfriend.

Excellent scenic view and spectacular sunsets! Oh...and Bald Eagles 😍

Excellent scenic view and spectacular sunsets! Campground clean and well maintained. Outside sink available next to bathrooms. Water, electric (30/50) no sewer but dump onsite with blue portable waist containers for campers to use. Front row sites have cable.

Only suggestion…bathrooms could use update but otherwise very clean.

Peaceful weekend!!

We love state parks. We stayed here 3 nights. We had site 23. It was a huge, pull thru site. Mostly grassy. Very private. Only kind of complaint was it was very buggy. It had a huge grassy area with a playground, picnic area, and horseshoes.

Beautifully maintained

This is her second time at this park. We came back because we thought it was such a beautiful place. Sites are grassy with flowers And sprinklers. Sites are all level with gravel. There are picnic tables. Reasonable and discounts accepted. Not far off of the highway.

Wasn’t able to find

No signs on the road and no obvious campground found

Charming campground

Lovely place on a small lake. Staff was wonderful, the site was lovely with a great view of the lake. The lake was clean and we swam, kayaked and crossed the lake on paddle boards. The campground is small with limited sites, but I would gladly return.

Wild and beautiful

Very private sites, many offer water frontage. There is a bathhouse with 3 showers and many pit toilets throughout the campground. No hookups. Limited RV sites and very limited for over 20 feet. Miles of hiking and close to many beautiful places like Reversing Falls, Quoddy Lighthouse, and the Bay of Fundy.

Sea air & ocean views.

My favorite campground, the sites are grassy and huge! There are no hookups, it’s a State Park. There is a dump station. There are flush toilets and showers that are outdated, but I would guess that by this year they would have been replaced with the new ones in all the other campgrounds. Almost all the sites in the RV loop are pull through. So much privacy in these sites unless you choose the two that are right on the road. Some RV’s can get into the water sites. This campground doesn’t seem as crowded as the other parks. It’s a drive to get here, but I think it’s worth it.

Loved it.

It’s been several years since our family stayed at this campground. We had a secluded site which sloped down to the bay. Very quiet and an incredible place to star gaze. I hope to return someday.

Paddlers Paradise!

Surrounded by water on 3 sides, this state park has a lot to offer. Well off the beaten track on the tidal backwater of Cobscook Bay, this park has a wide variety of sites to suit everyone’s style of camping. From full water and electrical RV hook-up sites, to tent-only camping loops, you can find your own camping bliss in this amazing park. 

Each site comes with the standard picnic table and fire pit, but many have a shelter over the table as well. There are many pit-toilets scattered throughout, and the centralized bath house only offers inexpensive showers and sinks, no flush toilets however. 

Additionally, there is a huge playground for the kids, as well as designated picnic sites complete with fire pit and picnic shelters. The campground loops wind around small headlands into the bay, so there are literally dozens of waterfront sites, but they are of course the most popular. 

The bay is tidal, and has a HUGE tidal range, so opportunities for tide pooling, paddling, and other water sports just need a little planning ahead.   Be sure to check out the reversing falls, just a 20 minute drive from the park. There is a nice boat ramp and picnic area just north of the park on the main road. 

Calais is the nearest town, about 30 minutes away, and has all the you need while camping in the area.

Heaven

This is as close to heaven as you can get. Huge state park. Tent sites and RV sites are on separate peninsulas. No electricity so it’s quiet. Absolutely stunning sites on the ocean. Great place to launch your exploration of Maine’s Bold Coast.

Quiet, private, scenic

Loved the privacy and remoteness of this park. We had a tent site (53) that had a short root-laden walk into the site, but not bad and well worth the bay view. Woke early enough for the sunrise on the bay, which was spectacular (and first in the country!). Great home base for exploring this rustic coastal part of Maine; totally enjoyed: Lubec, West Quoddy Lighthouse, Campobello Island, Eastport, Reversing Falls, Western Head Trail (amazing) Sipps Head Trail, Shackford Trail (careful; not well marked interior and we nearly got lost at dusk) and Machias. Love this area! And the campground, while rustic, has quarter-operated showers; excellent bonus! Highly recommend this place.

Really great hammock sites

A lot of these campsites are near the bluffs. The tide goes in and out, so be prepared for that. We enjoyed hearing the water from our hammocks at night. There was a big grassy field I that had millions of fireflies at night. I remember just standing there with my mouth open staring. It was on the the way to the restrooms from the Bluffs area. Being near the water offered a nice breeze also. I wouldn't mind coming back to this site, we didn't get to stay as long as we wanted.

While you are here - good day trips are into the town of Lubec, Quoddy Head, Hamilton Cove, and a tad of a drive Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge.

Serious Middle of Nowhere

To reach Third Machias Lake, take the Little River Road (which runs north off the Stud Mill Road along the east side of the Machias River). Turn left after 4 miles onto a side road that leads to the boat launch. This is a logging road, beware of log trucks. Pull OVER when you see one and let them pass. They are going really fast with really big loads of logs.

We park at the boat launch. There has usually been 2-3 campers there when we park there. There are porta potties there. But…. we don't stay there. Kayaks in, camping gear into the boats. Off we go. It can be a rough paddle if it's windy. This lake is HUGE and can and has gotten 2-3 foot waves when the weather is not so great. It usually takes us about an our to get to the island we camp on. It has no name I know if but, many people call the next island past ours, Fairy Island.

I actually prefer Fairy Island. it's more open, smaller island, and better trees for hammocks. Plus the breeze there is awesome but bring a big tarp and road to give yourself a wind block.

The kayaking in this area is the BEST I have had in Maine. It's an absolute wonderland of variety. We took many river routes going out of the lake, into other lakes, through marsh/swamp, portaging beaver dams and such. One time had to go over a dirt road. Hardly ever ran across a person except this one time, a guy who has a cabin on the main shore not too far from our island (maybe 20 min paddle) was out fishing and invited us to his cabin where he and his wife gave us drinks and made awesome food at their campfire. They were so cool. I hope I have a house like that at some point.

Anyway; if you crave adventure this area is for you. Just jump in your boat, with your gear, and hunt down an island of your choosing. There are a bunch out there. Beware of rocks even in deep water! The glacier rocks are absolute huge. See my photos for yourself. Respect nature. Don't leave your garbage out here, no one wants to see that!

Stunning landscape. Hardcore hike. Worth it

This was on of my most favorite hikes/camping. You don't have to hike too long from the trailhead until you come to an awesome cliffside view overlooking the water. The breeze feels devine. This hike is not for the inexperienced, unless you are some hardcore hiker or something. I thought it would be cake, but it was h-a-r-d we rested a lot. But; I think we did pretty damn good even though my feet were killing me by the time we found a campsite.

The first couple sites we went up to had people so we were getting worried as there are not that many. But; stumbled onto one just before dark, whew! Such an awesome view of the night sky oh my gosh. I could stare at it forever. We could see the milky way. I loved our little campsite. Small but cozy and all we needed. I am a light sleeper, so the only thing that bugged me is there was some kind of horn from the lighthouse in the distance that was kind of driving me up the wall before I fell asleep. Other that that… everything was absolutely awesome, stunning landscape everywhere.

GOrgeous, quiet, private, clean, memory making.

The sites on the water are amazing but even wooded sites are private and fun. Some require a little "hike" in but make it worth it for the privacy. Bring bug spray.

Worth the Trek

This is probably the most beautiful coastal location in the state of Maine. The campsites are very limited and this is a popular spot. Show up early to get one!

We did it as a weekend backpacking trip with the dog. Campsites are all located in gorgeous spots, but there is very little running water. We did find some to filter but would recommend bringing at least 5L per person and another 2L or more depending on the size of your dog. We have a cocker spaniel so she’s not huge but she’s black and over heats easily so she did drink a fair amount of our water. there is a commode of sorts at each campsite but you can’t be shy! It’s definitely not enclosed. Just a toilet seat in the woods. I think our neighbors kids saw my butt. There were no signs about alcohol but keep in mind you have to pack everything out. We packed in a beer each for a wonderful backpacking treat. Worth the weight.

There are a ton of resources and write ups, check out the website and do your homework.

Beautiful, Quiet, Tranquil Ocean Side Camping

Cobscook Bay is quiet and beautiful. Almost every campsite features a water view. It is the most quiet campground I've ever visited. There are some important things to know:

1. There are NO flush toilets, but there are many outhouses throughout the park.

2. There are 3 male, 3 female, and one ADA shower with plentiful wood boiler fueled hot water. One shower was broken when we visited. The men's lacked shower curtains. There are hot and cold water sinks with mirrors in the shower house.

3. There are no dumpsters, there are a few garbage cans throughout the park.

4. You can rent clamming gear. There is no sign for this, you have to ask.

5. The office staff do not all wear uniforms, they are friendly but not as over the top welcoming as at other State Parks. They do not preach about bears, raccoons, quiet time, or safety. Be smart on your own.

6. It is not easy to access the water. The campsites are high on "cliffs" you have to Scrabble down to the water from most sites. Still, you have a two or three sided water view with fantastic tidal changes.

7. Prepare for the smell of tidal mud flaps at low tide. The outhouses emit a similar fragrance.

8. Prepare to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the region: Moosehorn Wildlife Refuge, West Quoddy Head Light House, Blueberries, hiking, exploring, eating local cuisine.

9. Don't miss out on Lubec Brewing Company or Campobello Island

10. Bring your passport and be prepared for a relaxing adventure.

The Edge of the USA

9/10 over all campground 10/10 sites(view, privacy) 9/10 outhouses 3/10 showerhouse 125 best site. no reservations for this site

beautiful

all of the sites are very nice and secluded. a lot of very nice walk in tent sites right along the bay! big sizes with woods in between. space to hang your hammock!

Campsites with an ocean view, you can't beat that!

The easiest directions from the southern part of the state would be to drive north on I95 to Bangor, then take a right and go east until you run out of US soil. That is correct, this is some of the most eastern parts of the United States. A nearby state park holds the official title but we will chat about that later. On our way up, we counted over 30 licence plates from different states, plus another 4 provinces from Canada during this road trip. You would have thought the parents in the car were a couple kids every time we saw a new plate. There are even Apps you can download that help keep track while also providing trivia on each state. We truly live in the Vacation State and lots of people were trying to soak up what’s left of summer, including us.

This trip was our 3rd camping trip as a family and we spent 2 nights, 3 days away. We also brought our dog Baxter on this one but not because we 100% wanted to. Bax is what some would call high maintenance and he’s a hard one to find a sitter for on long weekends. Our dog Braddock on the other hand has a fan club but that doesn’t mean he’s less work. He’s just not 75lbs of pure muscle and is twice Baxter’s age. You might say we failed in some areas at training our pups over the years but we love em both, warts and all. So, we took a leap of faith now that we had a couple trips under our belt with the baby and added Baxter to the mix. Not only did it work out, but the monster was given an overall B for the weekend. He crushed it! You have to realize a B for Baxter is pretty much an A for other dogs. Bax is not much of cuddler but he snuggled up both nights in the tent. He looked peaceful all weekend and really seemed to love the experience. We underestimated this city dog for sure.

Either people have never heard of Cobscook Bay or they say it’s one of the best parks in Maine. With that in mind we had some high expectations before spending the weekend there. We chose August for this trip a while back because the weather can be tricky in this part of Maine and we figured mid-August would be ideal temperature wise; we ended up hitting the nail on the head. When it comes to picking parks to camp at, we are shooting for at least 4 a year, but also being mindful of average weather, black flies, etc. For example, in June we chose Camden Hills because after a very buggy spring we figured the closer to the coast the better, and it worked out perfectly.

Machias is the last town with large stores before you get to the park and it’s about 35 minutes away. There are some gas stations closer to the park, but we decided to hit up Hannaford while driving through. We didn’t expect the couple minutes of bumper to bumper traffic for the annual Machias “Wild Blueberry Festival.” It was cute and it looks like the whole town comes out for it. While checking out at Hannaford, the bagger stated that the “Black Fly Dance” was the real party of the weekend. Temping, but we took a raincheck on the festivities. This might be a good time to say that we started to get a little smarter budgeting for these trips. On our first camping trip, we spent just over $200 at the grocery store. This camping trip we spent just over $200 for the entire weekend! That’s gas, food, firewood and our camping reservation. This summer has brought some big changes for our family and working off a tighter budget has become a priority. What’s funny is that zero sacrifices were made by following a budget, it just came down to a little extra planning and not being wasteful. Something as simple as bringing condiments and snacks from home and building a shopping list according to our meals which we planned out. Also, why buy a 12 pack of beer when you have a stocked beer fridge at home leftover from summer gatherings? To look back on the weekend, what we ended up having for $200 is mind-blowing. We didn’t skimp on the good stuff either. We bought all-natural meats and produce from Pineland Farms and splurged for the wild Maine blueberries.

It would be hard to find a bad site at Cobscook Bay State Park. This park is around and on a peninsula so there are a lot of sites on the water, and several with water on both sides. There are over 100 sites so odds are you would have your pick, especially if you planned ahead before summer started. Most sites are quite private with lots of shade, covered picnic tables, plus they are groomed and well cleaned. They were very flat and free of rocks and roots; which is a tenters dream. The one time we thought for a second, “maybe those two sites might not be the best to have”, we quickly realized how truly amazing this park was. There were two sites not far from us that were in the open and not as private. They are still near the water (with a view), had a bathroom next to them, were extremely flat and free of debris, had their own water stations, a fire place with higher walls and easy access to the road. After a closer look, we realized they were reserved handicap sites and they were designed perfectly for families that might need additional amenities, but still getting the full experience of the park without missing a beat. I’m sure many of you reading this can think of family and friends who are often limited to experiencing certain things based off lack of handicap accessibility. With all the beauty and wonder of this park, these site were a highlight for us. Kuddos to the park and their staff; hopefully it’s something we see more of as we travel around the state.

This park is on the ocean, I repeat, you are camping under tall trees on the ocean. It was a dream! Just an absolute treasure of a park. There are clam shells in the woods, I mean where are we? The trees are towering and thin, everything is super green from the moisture in the air. The tides will be like something you’ve never seen before, dropping in some areas up to 24 feet! You feel like you’re on the edge of the world and this isn’t the first time we experienced this. While our daughter, Eloise was still baking in the oven in April of 2016, we did a 10 mile, 1 night, 2 day hiking trip along the Cuter Preserve. It’s quickly becoming a popular hike after several publications have featured this area of Maine as must see for destination hikers. We won’t get into that trip, but all we will say is that it’s a bucket list type of hike. Cutler isn’t too far from this park so the terrain here brought back some wonderful memories. There is a perfect little hike on the Cobscook Bay State Park property called the “Nature Trail” that takes you along the water and into the woods. It’s ideal for kids but still challenging in a couple areas as you make your way up to the gorgeous scenic overlook.

Eloise passed out on our way back and it was enough to tire Baxter out so that he was more manageable on his leash about half way through. We spent just over an hour exploring on the trails before it emptied us out less than 100 yards from our site. Somehow, for the first time we were able to transfer a napping baby from one area to another. Eloise usually doesn’t allow this, but she went from passed out in the hiking pack to getting some extra Zs in the camper.

Not much more to say besides it’s a place you want more time at. We could have used another day there to be honest, but because of the drive up and back and everything in between, we could have used another day at home as well. We certainly felt pretty run down when we got home and even more so getting ready for work the next morning. It took a couple days for us to get back to our well-oiled routine, but that’s what trips like this are all about. They are made to derail your routine and slow life down to the point where the little things stand out and you don’t overlook or take them for granted. We had lots of firsts on this trip. Eloise tried and shared a vanilla soft serve with her mom. Mom, who doesn’t drink coffee, fell in love with black coffee and Dad was forced to master starting a fire with wet wood. Eloise also officially slept through the night for the first time. She made it to 6am! Never thought this day would come and especially in a camper.

We didn’t visit the two state parks (Shackford Head and Quoddy Head) that were within 30-45 minutes of Cobscook Bay State Park because this park shouldn’t have to share a weekend. Actually, we never plan to visit any two parks in one day but I’m sure we will have a few long weekends in which we will visit a couple. It just gives us a reason to come back another year as a family. We plan to lump in an overnight stay on Campobello Island in Canada during that visit as well. If it was good enough for FDR and his family, then I guess it’s good enough for the Rubys.

 With all the license plates we saw, Maine plates dominated in the park. It’s not a place you stumble upon and it’s certainly not one of the usual must-see attractions regurgitated in a Maine magazine. With that being said, the folks that we met at this park seemed to be on the same page as us. Everyone waves as they drive by, people take time to introduce themselves, and the park staff even offered to deliver our fire wood down to our site after check in. Our neighbors at a nearby site who also happened to live within a couple miles from us in Portland, checked in before going to the store to see if we needed anything after we were setting up on night #1. We had our space but when we were around people, they were the type of people we wanted to be around. Of course, going to a park way out in the middle of nowhere wasn’t easy and when you experience more wilderness you sacrifice some amenities, but all the good outweighed any little blemishes for us. This is the type of escape we prefer and what we want to expose Eloise to. We highly recommend you spend some time exploring this unique and less crowed part of Maine.

An absolute gem

We were pleasantly surprised with the beauty of our campsite #49. Our site had a short walk in but was totally worth it to be right on the Whiting Bay. Our site was one of the few with a beach at high tide. There is lots of hiking in the area. We can’t wait to come back.

on the water

site: quiet. well maintained. private. near water. Large sites. amenities: rustic. quite clean. attractions: wildlife. hiking. I would stay here again.

Where else can you stay on the shore for only $20??

Cobscook Bay State Park is a particular favorite of mine. Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, a first timer, or just itching to get away, Cobscook is the place to go. Sites are spread out and surrounded by views of the bay. Staff are incredibly helpful and friendly. This park is a great place to canoe, kayak, clam, and take short hikes with youngsters. There are a number of parks, trails, and great sites to see within driving distance. I have had fresh calms and periwinkles off the coast cooked on an open fire, and have seen tides go out 20 ft within a days time. If you face the tent the right way, you can fall asleep to the stars and wake up to the first glimpses of the sunrise in America.

I promise that Cobscook will not disappoint!