Traffic on Route 1 makes for more Maine

Rebecca Cooper pauses to take in the view Rebecca Cooper pauses to take in the view of Camden Harbor, Maine, during her climb on Mount Battie. The scene provided the inspiration for Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem "Renascence." Hiking trails and an auto road lead to the summit. Photo Credit: AP, 2005

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Visitors to Maine generally race up I-95 to Bangor, bypassing scenic and historic coastal U.S. Route 1 and its nearly continuous string of natural and man-made attractions. Not without some justification -- anyone who has driven Route 1 in July and August knows that traffic can slow to a frustrating crawl. That said, there's so much to see and do along the 210-mile "Maine Road" from Kittery to Bar Harbor that spending an extra day or two en route can easily be justified. So for those willing to slow the extra mile, we offer the following list of 1- to 3-hour memory-making "pit stops," all right on (or just off) Route 1. 

1 YORK BEACH

If you've been driving all day, both you and the kids are probably champing at the bit for some leg-stretching, mind-diverting action. Your first stop should be York Beach, a still-tasteful turn-of-the-20th-century resort community complete with amusement arcades (Skee-Ball, candlepin bowling), soda fountains, old-time fudge and candy shops and its own small-scale vintage amusement park (all-day passes, $11; summer hours, noon to 9:30 p.m. daily). There's a small beach as well, but the better bet here is taking in the iconic Cape Neddick (aka "The Nubble") Light Station from Sohier Park. Route 1A, yorkbeach.com 

2 OGUNQUIT BEACH

Of Maine's nearly 3,500 miles of coastline, only 35 are beach. And the best 3 1/2 miles are undoubtedly the undeveloped spit of grass-covered dunes between the Ogunquit River and the Atlantic in the town of Ogunquit (an Indian name that means "beautiful place by the sea"). Ogunquit Beach packs them in throughout the summer, even though the water temperature peaks in the mid-60s. For a break, stroll the Marginal Way, a coastal footpath that leads around a rocky headland to exceedingly touristy Perkins Cove. Ogunquit Beach is free, but parking -- if you can find it -- will cost between $5 and $25 a day. ogunquit.com 

3 L.L. BEAN, FREEPORT

The former mackerel-packing town of Freeport has grown a bit since inveterate outdoorsman Leon Leonwood Bean, inventor of the Maine Hunting Shoe, opened his no-frills factory store on Main Street (U.S. 1) in 1917. Today, L.L. Bean is an outdoor and sportswear empire with roughly $2 billion in annual sales, and the greatly expanded flagship store -- open 24/7, 365 days a year -- is one of four Bean emporiums. Fifty other assorted retailers -- including Cuddledown, Yankee Candle and Cole Haan -- give consumers of all stripes equal opportunity to become shopping Maine-iacs. 95 Main St., Freeport. 207-865-4761, llbean.com 

4 BOWDOIN COLLEGE MUSEUMS, BRUNSWICK

The tree-lined campus of Bowdoin, an archetypal New England liberal arts college in Brunswick, offers some peace and quiet after the commercial craziness of Freeport. Two free museums are worth a leisurely look-see. At the Bowdoin Museum of Art (Walker Art Building, 207-725-3275), the featured exhibit is "Edward Hopper's Maine," containing 90 of his Impressionistic, summer-inspired works (through Oct. 16.) Diagonally across the quad in Hubbard Hall is the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum (207-725-3416, academic.bowdoin.edu/arcticmuseum), named after Robert E. Peary, Class of 1877, who claimed to be the first man to reach the North Pole.

5 MOODY'S DINER, WALDOBORO

One glance at the menu (and prices) will convince you that Moody's Diner, with its wood booths, green leather seats and orange neon sign, is not some painstakingly retro-chic re-creation, but the real, unpretentious McCoy. Founded by Percy Moody in the late 1920s, Moody's is now an indisputable Maine institution, justly celebrated for its generous portions of Down East comfort food, blue-plate specials and berry and cream pies. It's also in every tour book ever written, so expect a wait, especially at traditional mealtimes. Open 4 a.m. to 10 p.m., dinner entrees $8-$15. Route 1, Waldoboro, 207-832- 7785, moodysdiner.com 

6 OWLS HEAD LIGHT STATE PARK, NEAR ROCKLAND

While several lighthouses can be seen from Route 1, only Owls Head Light can be readily accessed. Fortuitously, Owls Head just happens to be one of Maine's most photogenic -- a squat, conical, white brick tower perched atop a wooded natural promontory overlooking Penobscot Bay. The lighthouse, which dates from 1852, is rarely open (Saturdays and Sundays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., and Wednesdays 1-5 p.m.), but you can walk up to it from the keeper's house via a boardwalk and staircase. Free. Lighthouse Road (off Route 73), 1.5 miles off Route 1, 207-941-4014, lighthouse.cc/owls 

7 WINDJAMMING, CAMDEN

Windjammer schooners, so-called because of their ability to "jam" into the wind, are generally used for three- to seven-day excursions. But at least three, the Olad (207-236-2323, maineschooners.com), Surprise (207-236-4687, camdenmainesailing.com) and Lazy Jack II (207-230-0602, schoonerlazyjack.com), all berthed in Camden, offer two-hour harbor cruises. Adults are $35 on all three; kids younger than 12 are $22 on the Olad, $20 on the Lazy Jack II and not allowed on the Surprise. The Olad also offers occasional half-day and 61/2-hour lobster bake tours at $85 and $115 a person, respectively. Camden Public Landing. 

8 MOUNT BATTIE, CAMDEN

One of the most reproduced images of Maine is the view over Camden Harbor from the top of Mount Battie, a rocky outcropping 780 feet high, and only a mile from the ocean. If a little exercise is in order, this is the place; if not, you can drive to the top. Mount Battie lies in Camden Hills State Park, the entrance to which is on Route 1 just north of town. Entry is $4.50 a person ($1 ages 5-11) regardless of whether you hike or drive. But you can climb for free from the small parking lot at the end of Megunticook Road. 207- 236-3109, maine.gov/doc/parks. 

9 ANTIQUING, WISCASSET

While there's some legitimate dispute to Wiscasset's claim of being "the prettiest village in Maine," there's little to its other moniker, "the way antiquing should be." A total of 19 upscale shops and galleries, most of them housed in 18th or 19th century commercial or residential properties, line picturesque Main Street (Route 1) as it slopes down to the Sheepscot River, offering hours of browsing. For sustenance, grab a lobster roll -- reputedly Maine's best -- at Red's Eats at the corner of Main and Water streets. shopwiscassetantiques 

10 YOUNG'S LOBSTER POUND, BELFAST

There's no shortage of lobster restaurants, shacks and pounds along Route 1. But for a taste of the "real Maine," you can't beat the ultracasual Young's Lobster Pound, a third-generation BYOB picnic-table operation overlooking the port of Belfast to the west and Penobscot Bay to the east. Select your own Maine course from among the literally thousands of teeming, tanked crustaceans. 4 Mitchell St. (1/4 mile off Route 1), East Belfast, 207-338-1160. 

11 PENOBSCOT MARINE MUSEUM, SEARSPORT

Long before tourists came to frolic by the sea, generations of hardy Mainers lived near it -- as shipbuilders, merchants, sailors and fishermen. This surprisingly wide-ranging, but not overwhelming, interactive museum -- housed in a small community of 19th century homes in this former shipbuilding town -- effectively captures the maritime culture of Maine's midcoast area for both adults and children. Open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday noon- 5p.m. $8 adults, $3 ages 7-17, $18 families. Route 1, Searsport, 207-548-2529, penobscotmarinemuseum.org 

12 PENOBSCOT NARROWS OBSERVATORY, PROSPECT

Route 1 now crosses the Penobscot River via the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, an impressive, modernistic cable-stay structure built of local granite. Equally impressive is the view from the 420-foot-high, glassed-in observatory atop the west tower, the tallest bridge observatory in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. Access to the observatory is gained through America's other Fort Knox, a massive Civil War era defense (also built of local granite) that guards the river and the mill town of Bucksport. Combination ticket, $7 adults, $3 ages 5-11. Route 1, Prospect, 207-624-3030, maine.gov/observatory 

READER PICKS

We asked you where to eat along Maine's Route 1. Some favorites:

Bob's Clam Hut

315 Rte. 1, Kittery, 207-439-4233 -- Lenore Lieber, Great Neck

Flo's Hot Dogs

Route 1, York (Cape Neddick), no phone -- Michelle Cisak, Staten Island

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Big Daddy's Ice Cream

2165 Post Rd., Wells, 207-646-5454 -- Jesse Gill, Rego Park

Becky's Diner

390 Commercial St., Portland, 207-773-7070 -- Deb and Steve Rothaug, Huntington Station

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