A Guide to Every Town in Waldo County
The Maine coast is a huge part of Waldo County’s magic. But so, too, are our close-knit inland communities, beautiful lakes and rivers, scenic roads, and a very special uninhabited island. You can’t really know Waldo County until you’ve sampled it all. We’ve created a guide to every town in Waldo County to treat you to some of the highlights.
Named one of the coolest small towns in America by USA Today, Belfast sits on a hill overlooking the breathtaking tidal waters of Penobscot Bay. Settled in 1765, Belfast’s past and present speak of its creativity, innovation, tradition, community, and independence. It is the economic hub and county seat of Waldo County with a dynamic working waterfront, picturesque sea captains’ mansions, the country’s oldest shoe store, and more art galleries than any city its size in the state. Within minutes of leaving Rte. 1, you enter a landscape that melds the natural world of woods and waters with a vibrant rhythm of art and commerce.
See & Do Sampler: Museum in the Streets, a self-guided walking tour through downtown Belfast, is a great way to introduce yourself to this city of many stories. Want to know more? The Belfast Historical Society and Museum are footsteps away. Year-round, you can explore more than 19 galleries within walking distance of the docks; see the finest sea captains’ mansions in America; find unique gifts at the many shops and boutiques; and dine on the best vegetarian food, seafood, gourmet food, or just a great burger and fries, all on foot. Catch a show at the Art Deco-style Colonial Theatre, the only building in town with a giant elephant on the roof. Have a picnic in one of the many parks or take your four-legged friend for a romp in the leash-free Dog Park. You’ll adore the many festivals like the Maritime Heritage Festival, Arts in the Park, and the Celtic Celebration, and New Year’s by the Bay festivities are a must for the whole family.
Soon to celebrate its centennial, Belmont is a quiet community with a low tax rate and easy commuting to Belfast. One of the town’s largest employers, Creative Apparel Associates, manufactures chemical-protection garments and other specialty clothing for military and commercial customers. The Belmont Historical Society holds meetings in its recently-restored 1908 one-room schoolhouse, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.
See & Do Sampler: The Ducktrap River, which rises in Tilden Pond, can be flyfished, and the Ducktrap River Preserve, accessible from Dickey Mill Road, has extensive trails, with opportunities for hiking, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. Remnants of an old mill can be seen on the old Dickey Road, sections of which are open for ATV and snowmobile use. An active ladies’ auxiliary to the volunteer fire department hosts benefit suppers and an annual Christmas party, while the fire department itself hosts an annual chicken barbecue in June.
Brooks is a friendly rural community and an outdoor lover’s paradise. The town offers many opportunities for fishing and canoeing: Passagassawaukeag, Halfmoon, Corson, and Clements Ponds, as well as Marsh, Ellis, and Sawyer Streams. More than 27 miles of groomed snowmobile trails satisfy the winter enthusiast. Brooks has a handful of businesses, including a general store, hardware and building supplies, a café, and an antiques market. In the summer months, the Marsh River Theater has an active community theater program. There are many ways to get involved in local activities—the Brooks Booster Club, the Harvest Home Grange, the Grant Staples American Legion Post, the Marsh River Lodge, Morse Memorial Elementary School PTO—pretty impressive for a population just over 1,000.
See & Do Sampler: See a live performance at the Marsh River Theater, play a round of golf at County View Golf Course, or set out on a hike from Brooks Esker to Halfmoon Pond. When the snow flies be sure to visit Harvest Valley Snowmobile Club.
Burnham calls itself the “Home of Lake Winnecook” – also known as Unity Pond, and large portions of the town are covered by forest and wetland. Part of SAD 53, Burnham sends students to the private Maine Central Institute in Pittsfield for high school. Pride Manufacturing, the town’s only major manufacturer, is a well-known producer of golf tees. Other businesses of note include Burnham Shaker Products (Shaker-style bentwood boxes and furniture), two greenhouses, two country stores, and the Houston-Brook Auction Hall. Veterans Memorial Park honors Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Clair Goodblood.
See & Do Sampler: Unity Pond is a large body of water with good boating, fishing and swimming. Nine-hole Lakeview Golf Course has been family-owned for three generations. The Sebasticook River, the largest tributary of the Kennebec, offers canoeing and fishing right in the center of town.
Settled in 1760, Frankfort is the oldest town on the Penobscot River. Sacked by the British during the War of 1812, it later became a major shipbuilding center and had important granite quarries. Located at the confluence of the Penobscot and Marsh Rivers, the town has its own marina and boat launch, a public library, a ball field, and an active recreation department that offers youth soccer, softball and other activities. There are two general stores: Wilson’s Market (known as “Millies”), and the Frankfort Country Market on Main Road, which publishes its own newspaper and serves as a local meeting place.
See & Do Sampler: With its direct water access and public boat ramp, Frankfort has great boating and fishing opportunities. Mount Waldo offers hiking, blueberry picking, and an old granite quarry to explore. Access is on Mount Waldo Road. There are many acres of town-owned forest, and the Frankfort ATV Club maintains good riding trails.
Freedom is a rural small town with correspondingly small businesses. The Freedom General Store is on the Belfast Road/Rte.137. Freedom Timber Products is a forestry concern; Chase Farm is a truck farm; Lionwitch Puppet Theater performs puppetry shows and workshops for schools and libraries; and Hidden Valley Camp is a progressive children’s summer camp. There are also auto repair services, construction contractors, daycare providers and other micro-businesses. Civic groups include the Dirigo Grange, which meets in a former cheese factory, and the Freedom Historical Society, which meets monthly and is working to restore the town’s Old Town House.
See & Do Sampler: Farm Team and Little League baseball play at Freedom Field. Warm-water fish like perch, pickerel, and largemouth bass can be taken on Sandy Pond; there’s a boat launch at the northern end. The town also has great roads and trails for runners.
Fourteen miles long and less then three miles wide, Islesboro offers breathtaking views from every hill and corner. This island has long been a retreat for the famous, the not-so-famous, and everyone in between. Accessible year-round by the Maine State Ferry and private water taxis, the trip is about 20 minutes long year-round.
See & Do Sampler: Home to Warren Island State Park and Grindle Point Light House. Explore the island by bike; visit Dark Harbor and enjoy a scallop basket or ice cream at the lunch wagon while you wait for the ferry back to the mainland.
A bedroom community of rolling hills and wide farmlands, Jackson is part of SAD 3 and has no schools of its own. Aside from logging, construction, and a number of small home-based businesses, there are few employers. A community center on the Village Road houses the local food pantry, and the town is in the process of establishing a community lending library, probably to be open within the year.
See & Do Sampler: Shoot targets at Great Farm Rifle Club on Rte. 7, hunt in the town’s extensive woodlands, or fish any of numerous streams. The Jackson Wheel & Ski Club maintains snowmobile and ATV trails.
Knox Corner, where Rtes. 137 and 220 intersect, is the center of town where you can get a meal at the Ridge Top Restaurant, stock up at the Hillside Store, and shop for New Holland and Case agricultural equipment at Ingraham Equipment Co. The Knox Station Grange hosts public suppers May through October, and the town offices include a meeting room where children’s sports and fitness groups gather. Town kids Children also enjoy playing at Larrabee Ball Field, with facilities for baseball, soccer, and basketball.
See & Do Sampler: The Frye Mountain State Game Management Area, which Knox shares with Morrill, offers good hiking, hunting and picnicking. Sanborn Pond, which lies partly in Knox, can be accessed by a boat launch on Rte. 137 in the town of Waldo. Snowmobile and ATV trails are maintained by the Frye Mountain Snowmobile club.
Liberty is comprised of 26 square miles, of which 10% is clear freshwater lakes and ponds. Pristine Lake St. George, part of the 360-acre Lake St. George State Park, is a favorite spot for swimming and fishing. Other landmarks include the St. George River Roberts Memorial Recreation Area, Marshall Shores, and the Davistown Museum, with its extensive collection of 18th- and 19th-century hand tools, contemporary and antiquarian art, and Native American tools and artifacts.
See & Do Sampler: In the center of this tiny village, you can roam from one side of the main street to the other barely having to check for traffic (but do). Explore the eclectic tool shop, the engaging t-shirt outlet storefront, an antique shop, and the historic octagonal post office—the only one like it in the country. You can stop by the museum café for coffee or a treat, peruse the collections, or sit out on the porch. Love to go camping? Park your RV or set up your pup tent at the state park for a night or two under the stars.
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Named as “one of the top-20 dream towns in America” by Outside Magazine, Lincolnville has the “upside of the good life Down East.” Most of Camden Hills State Park is located within Lincolnville town limits, offering over 30 miles of hiking and cross-country skiing trails. Ponds like Norton, Coleman, and Pitcher beckon swimmers and peaceful summer canoe trips.
See & Do Sampler: Swim or gather sea glass by the ocean at Lincolnville’s Sandy Cove, also known as French’s Beach. Enjoy locally brewed seasonal ales at the Whale’s Tooth Pub and hand-made furniture at Windsor Chairmakers. Put on your hiking boots and climb to the top of 780-foot Mount Battie for a view of Camden Harbor, unlike any other. Lincolnville Center offers the annual Lincolnville Strawberry Festival, a farmers market, summer bandstand entertainment, and artisans like Bella Weavers.
Monroe is all about nature, agriculture, and the outdoors. There are streams, ponds, and marshes galore. , and Marsh Stream is quite a sight as it tumbles over the Monroe Center Falls. Three large dairy farms have significant presence on the landscape, and a Christmas tree farm the Olde Homestead Christmas Tree Farm is the place to go for the cut-your-own crowd after Thanksgiving. From late May through September, the Monroe Farmers Market offers some of the freshest produce of the region. At the corner of Rtes. 139 and 141 is a World War I memorial, and close by is Smith Log Smoke House, which produces delicious wood-smoked meats and cheeses. The Monroe Community Library has an active book group, and a new organization, the Wise Women’s Circle, was recently established for singing, sharing, chatting and potluck suppers.
See & Do Sampler: Northern Pond Natural Area, “the jewel of Monroe,” is the town’s premier nature and recreation site. The 160-acre facility, off Dahlia Farm Road, offers summer and winter fishing, a canoe launch, hiking trails, a bog walk, and settings for nature observation and picnics. Trail maps are available at the town office.
Although it appears to be a conventional agricultural community, Montville has a strong nonconformist streak. It is one of very few Maine communities to have banned growing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) through an ordinance that will phase in over two years. Waterfall Arts provides a cultural center to the town, with rich offerings of art classes, exhibits and programs. Locals enjoy picnics and parades during Field Day, in August. The Grange Hall, a former cheese factory, serves as the town’s Community Hall, and the “Nash Lot,” adjacent to the town office, has hiking trails and is available for events. After several years with no convenience store, the town has a new business offering beer, wine, groceries, grain, movie rentals and bottle redemption.
See & Do Sampler: With more than over 5,000 acres of upland forests and abandoned farm fields, the state-managed Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area offers hiking and ATV trails, as well as hunting, trapping, and bird watching. The Sheepscot Wellspring Land Alliance maintains trails and offers education and programming while helping protect the Sheepscot River, a fine canoeing and kayaking venue.
Settled in 1790, the town was named for Anson P. Morrill, Maine’s governor at the time of incorporation (1855). Morrill has its own elementary school and is creating a new library at its town office. A community hall is located right across the street from the Morrill Store, a good place for a homemade breakfast. Ironwood is a residential treatment facility for troubled teens, offering intensive therapeutic intervention. Shady Hollow Gamebirds sells eggs, chicks, and adult guinea fowl, turkeys, quail, peafowl, pheasants and other birds.
See & Do Sampler: Morrill offers direct access via Rowe Hill Road to the Frye Mountain Wildlife Management Area, with its ATV and hiking trails. Smiths Millpond, in the center of town, offers good fishing in its many coves and inlets. A boat launch on Rte. 131, across from the Baptist Church, is on private land, but the owner makes it available to the public.
Northport is a rural town with two freshwater lakes and a saltwater bay coastline. Back in the late 1800s, thousands of people flocked to this area for spiritual healing, revival, and retreat. Some still do. It’s easy to retreat in this beautiful and quiet community that supports both long-established Victorian gingerbread-style family cottages and new adventurers. Feel free to kayak or canoe, or just sit on the porch and relax. It’s all good.Swans Island located on Rte. 1 creates fine, hand woven wool blankets that have been selected by Michelle Obama as a gift to the Irish Prime Minister.
See & Do Sampler: Northport is host to great Mexican food—you can’t miss the bright orange building on Rte. 1. Play a round of golf at the Northport Golf Club or explore the long coastline that faces Islesboro. St. Clair Preserve is host to a variety of wildlife. Ducktrap Mountain, over 700 feet tall, is accessible by canoe and trails from the town landing on Knights Pond Road.
Sheepscot Lake (also known as Sheepscot Pond) is the heart of this town – a 1,500-acre lake with depths to 200 feet. Palermo has no industry and no storefront businesses (locals joke that there are no cash registers in town), relying instead on nearly equal proximity to Augusta, Waterville, and Belfast to fulfill most needs. The Palermo Library offers art and reading programs; there is a community center off China Ridge; and the American Legion hall sponsors public suppers. Palermo Consolidated School houses grades K-8 and was the only facility in town big enough to hold a new event in 2008, Christmas in Palermo.
See & Do Sampler: Fishing for bass and trout, sailing, and waterskiing are popular on Sheepscot Lake, as are ice fishing and snowmobiling. There is a state-maintained boat launch on Rte. 3, adjacent to which is the Sheepscot Fish and Game Club, which holds a popular ice fishing derby in February. The Palermo Snowmobile Club maintains trails delete the comma -Janet Dutson 1/2/10 3:54 PMand maps are available at the town office. Youth associations and other groups use baseball and soccer fields on Turner Ridge, and the annual Palermo Days, in August, features competitions on the fields and a parade through downtown.
Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory are the big attractions of Prospect. Named for Revolutionary War General Henry Knox, construction on the huge fort started in 1844. With its brick arches, underground passages and enormous guns, it was intended to protect Bangor and its important lumber industry from the British in the so-called Aroostook War. Never completed or needed, construction was finally halted after the Civil War and is now the most popular historic site in Maine. Adjacent to the fort and crossing the river to Bucksport is the beautiful new Penobscot Narrows Bridge, one of few cable-stayed bridges in the U.S. For spectacular views, ride the fastest elevator in the state 420 feet up one of the towers to the highest bridge observatory in the world.
See & Do Sampler: The South Branch of the Marsh River begins in Prospect, offering canoeists easy access to the Penobscot River. Fort Knox and the Observatory are worth a long day’s visit any time, and the fort hosts special events throughout the year, including psychic and Medieval fairs, a Halloween party, and battle reenactments.
Settled around 1780, Searsmont was called Fraternity Village in Ben Ames Williams’s 1949 novel of that name. The town recently built a new community building, housing town offices, the historical society, community meeting rooms, and a fine public library, which offers rotating art shows and children’s programming year-round. Heavily wooded, it offers many opportunities for outdoor recreation.
See & Do Sampler: Quantabacook Lake has good fishing and a boat launch off Rte. 3. A whitewater canoe race occurs annually on the St. George River. There are hiking and cross-country ski trails in the Gibson Preserve off Rte. 173/Ripley Road and the Georges River Canal Path and Trail. After a workout on the trails, head to the Olde Mill Diner on Rte. 3 for good homemade food or a pizza at the Fraternity Village Store. On the New England Road near the center of the village, antique motor vehicle renovator Antique Express offers an open house every spring – a great opportunity to see fine classic cars.
Settled in the late 18th century, Searsport’s early history is filled with shipbuilding and shipping. Once home to 11 shipyards, it’s famous for its mid-19th century sea captains in the mid-19th century and the treasures they brought back from the China Trade—much of which can be found at the Penobscot Marine Museum’s twelve historical buildings. There may be some treasures awaiting you at one of the flea markets or antique dealers that line Rte. 1 from Searsport to Belfast.
See & Do Sampler: If you choose to visit by boat, the town wharf provides plenty of access. Moose Point State Park, the Penobscot Marine Museum, and Sears Island are not to be missed. Sears Island is one of the largest uninhabited islands on the East Coast and is accessible by causeway just north of town. Campers can stay at Searsport Shores Campground and kayak on the bay. Check out the town’s Fling into Fall Festival or celebrate a Victorian Christmas at one of the historic bed-and-breakfasts.
Stockton Springs is located on the scenic Penobscot River, halfway between Belfast and Bucksport. In the 1800s, the town was a shipbuilding center with one of the longest wooden piers in the world. By the early 1900s the connection of the harbor with railroad facilities had created a flourishing import-export business. Today you’ll find a quiet little town with a secluded beach and nature trails for exploring. Bring a picnic lunch, and spend all day exploring this coastal hideaway.
See & Do Sampler: Visit Cape Jellison, a 1,600-acre peninsula that juts into Penobscot Bay. Fort Point State Park, established in 1836, includes the colonial-era Fort Pownall as well as the Fort Point Lighthouse Station. You can spend your time sailing and swimming at Sandy Point Beach and Nature Area.
The dominant feature in laid-back Swanville is beautiful Swan Lake, good for boating, fishing, and ice fishing. The town holds an annual ice-out contest, the winning date for which can range from March through May. Swanville children attend Nickerson Elementary School within the town, and locals shop at the nearby Swan Lake Grocery. Swan Lake Work Camp is a community-wide project co-sponsored by Swanville Community Church that offers home-repair assistance to about 80 elderly, disabled and disadvantaged individuals each year. Other notable businesses include a new gun shop and some accomplished potters and other craftspeople.
See & Do Sampler: Swan Lake offers good fishing for trout and landlocked salmon, and Swan Lake State Park, at the lake’s northern end, has barbecues, a playground, and a sandy beach with a lifeguard. It’s also the site of the annual July 4 boat parade, for which people whimsically decorate their small craft. Swan Lake empties into the Goose River, which also offers good fishing. One can launch a canoe on the Goose and paddle all the way to Belfast.
Thorndike is mostly quiet and traditional, but the brand-new Mount View High School is a multimillion dollar, state-of-the-art facility that serves the eleven towns of SAD #3. Bryant Stove & Music, on Stovepipe Alley, restores antique coal and wood stoves, and the store is a veritable museum of old heating and cooking technology. The town maintains a recreation department and volunteer fire department and boasts an especially low tax rate.
See & Do Sampler: Halfmoon Stream and other small waterways provide good fishing. One can picnic, canoe, or launch a small boat in the well-maintained town park.
Scenic views and open land are key to the town’s character. From Ward Hill Road, Troy Center Road, and Bangor Road/Rtes. 9 & 202, there are 180-degree panoramas that encompass the Dixmont Mountains to the east, and north all the way to Mt. Katahdin. Large dairy farms and several horse fields add to the sense of open space. The state-managed 1,000-acre Carlton Pond Waterfowl Production Area, off Rte. 220, provides nesting habitat for endangered black terns. Last Chance Ranch Maine puts alienated and at-risk youth together with abandoned and abused horses to help improve the lives of both. The Garcelon House acts as an incubator for agriculture and cottage industries and promotes outdoor recreation, social gatherings, and historic documentation of the community. The B.B. Cook House serves as a community clubhouse and can be rented for private functions. And you can grab a sandwich at the Troy General Store, on Rte. 9.
See & Do Sampler: Carlton Pond and Bog offers excellent flatwater canoeing and bird watching, as well as opportunities for moose sightings. More water recreation opportunities exist on Unity Pond. Deer and turkey make for good hunting on town lands, maps for which are available at the town office on Rogers Road.
Unity is home to Unity College, one of America’s premier environmental colleges, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), which hosts the nationally recognized Common Ground Country Fair every September. It is not to be missed. The local CommUnity Trail System offers scenic hikes/bikes throughout Unity and the Unity College campus. The Unity Barn Raisers, a community organization, rallies to provide support for boating and sailing classes, community meals, weatherization programs, and a community bike shop.
See & Do Sampler: Visit the Unity farmers market to sample some of the local fare. Check out the Field of Dreams, where you can play baseball, basketball, or tennis. Explore Sunkhaze Meadows National Wildlife Refuge at Carlton Bog or experience “Maine’s Toughest Oval” at the Unity Raceway.
Waldo is primarily an agricultural community, with one large dairy farm. Waldo County Technical Center provides vocational-technical education to high school students and adults from throughout the county, and Belfast Area Child Care Service operates a daycare facility. Lunch on sandwiches or pizza at Thompson’s Variety on Rte. 137/Waterville Road.
See & Do Sampler: Snowmobile trails are maintained by the Tri-Town Sno Riders. Behind the town office is a baseball field, used by the Little League, and a basketball court.
Winterport is a small historic town with a host of not-so-small-town features. History buffs enjoy Winterport’s historic Union Meeting House and sea captains’ homes, and shoppers are charmed by the delightful downtown storefronts, which are within walking distance of the working waterfront.
See & Do Sampler: Tickle your taste buds at the Winterport Winery. Check out the Winterport Free Library, or improve your golf swing at Sonny’s Driving Range and Training Center. Racing fans can take in the action at Winterport Dragway from April through October. In the fall take the family to pick apples at Hillcrest Apple Orchard.