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Located along the Narrows of the Penobscot River in Downeast coastal Maine, Bucksport is a lovely and enchanting place to visit. A working waterfront community, Bucksport draws thousands of visitors annually but definitely feels less crowded than some of the more popular towns in the area.
Rich in history and tradition, Bucksport is notable for its charming riverfront walkway, the historic stone fort overlooking the river, and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge, which features the only bridge observatory in the United States. Fantastic hiking trails, kayaking on Silver Lake, and other outdoor opportunities abound in Bucksport and the surrounding area. And let’s not forget about food – Bucksport has everything from seafood snack shacks and cafes to more refined dining options, sure to please any palate.
Below you’ll find a detailed list of the best things to in Bucksport, Maine, complete with a brief history of the town.
A brief history of Bucksport, Maine
What to do in Bucksport
1. Take a walk on the riverfront walkway
One of the most enjoyable ways to experience Bucksport is to stroll along the waterfront walkway that stretches for about mile along the Penobscot River. You’ll enjoy fantastic views of the impressive Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory, historic Fort Knox, and the boats and wildlife that frequent the river. The riverfront walkway is also a great way to access downtown Bucksport and its charming New England architecture.
2. Visit Fort Knox Historic Site
Built in 1844 as a defense against British attacks on towns along the Penobscot River, Fort Knox Historic Site is one of the best preserved granite forts along the coast. Fort Knox is located across the Penobscot River from Bucksport; public access to nearly all areas of the fort is permitted. Access to the grounds area is free and leashed dogs are welcome everywhere except the observatory.
Fort Knox still has many of its original cannons, which can be seen around the grounds and in the parking lot. The 15-inch Rodman smoothbore guns are examples of the largest weapon produced during the Civil War era.
3. Ascend the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory
Second on the list of the best things to do in Bucksport is the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Observatory. Constructed in 2006, the impressive structure features the only bridge observatory in the United States, one of only four in the world.
The breathtaking views of Bucksport, Fort Knox, and the surrounding area, including the river estuary and Penobscot Bay, are well worth the price of admission. The Penobscot Narrows Observatory is open May 1 to October 31.
4. Experience Bucksport’s history and culture
Bucksport has a variety of cultural opportunities. Visiting art and history buffs will certainly enjoy what the town has to offer. Here are a few highlights.
The Bucksport Historical Society Museum is housed in an old railroad station and displays items and exhibits that reflect the local history. The museum is open in July and August, Wednesday through Saturday from 1pm to 4pm. The Society also organizes a tour of local homes with historical interest every September.
Serving the communities of Bucksport, Orland, and Verona Island, the Buck Memorial Library on Main Street was built in 1887. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The library offers art exhibits, classes, and other events, as well as a chance to learn about the area’s history and culture from a local librarian.
The Alamo Theater is the headquarters of Northeast Historic Film, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of historic film and video about New England or shot elsewhere by its residents. The theater also shows first-run movies with tickets available for purchase at the box office.
The Bucksport Area Cultural Arts Society (BACAS) supports local arts / culture festivals and events. In addition, the organization offers musicals and other theatrical productions at its Bucksport Performing Arts Center.
5. Visit the quaint village of Orland
Located about 15 minutes east of Bucksport, the town of Orland will charm you with its rural beauty and sense of community. A sizeable chunk of the town’s businesses are housed in the community center, which is the former K-8 school.
The community center is a bit out of the way, but really not that difficult to find, and worth it when you get there. We went for a bite at Moments Cafe, a small, unassuming place that serves up some great food. Other businesses in the building include a barbershop, beauty salon, massage therapy, a gift shop, and more.
6. See the Great Pond Mountains Wildlands
Owned and managed by a conservation trust, the Great Pond Mountain Wildlands encompasses 5,000 acres of forest, mountains, lakes, and streams. Public access to these lands is free.
A network of gravel roads can be used for walking, running, biking, horseback riding and snowmobiling. In addition, there is a variety of hiking trails, from easy to strenuous. Leashed dogs are welcome in all areas except the Wildlife Protection Zone.
7. Visit Verona Island
Another can’t-miss thing to do in Bucksport, Maine is visit Verona Island. Across the Penobscot River from Bucksport, Verona Island is accessible via the Penobscot Narrows Bridge. The small community features the Unique Rock Shop, Island Traders Antiques, and the Verona Island Lobster Company.
8. Visit Silver Lake Nature and Wildlife Area
The town of Bucksport maintains a park and boat launch on 682-acre Silver Lake north of town. Activities include boating, kayaking, fishing, or hiking the 2.6 mile trail network. You can also take a self-guided tour of a species forest and learn about native trees in their natural environment.
9. Attend a festival
Visitors to Bucksport in July flock to the Bucksport Bay Festival, which offers food, music, a parade, and fireworks along the waterfront. Events include a 5k race, raffles, rides, craft booths, and much more.
In September, the International Maritime Film Festival, held both in-person and on-demand, returns to Bucksport. It’s a juried contest of films “celebrating the heritage, spirit of adventure and ingenuity of boats and waterborne pursuits… the premier event for maritime-themed filmmaking”, according to its organizers.
10. See some historic buildings
Every list of the best things to do in Bucksport should include a driving / walking tour of its historic homes and buildings. Nine of these are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the most famous is Wilson Hall and its belltower, which sits on a hill overlooking Bucksport.
The other notable historic buildings in Bucksport are the Brown-Pilsbury Double House on Franklin Street; the Elm Street Congregational Church and Parish House at Elm and Franklin; the Duck Cove School on Maine State Route 46 south of Duck Cove Road; and the Bucksport Railroad Station, the Phineas Heywood House, the James Emery House, the Buck Memorial Library, and the Jed Prouty Tavern and Inn, all located on Main Street.
Note that while you’re free to view and take pictures of the exterior of these historic buildings, most are private property, and require permission from the owner to enter the grounds or view the interior. A tour of historic homes is offered in September through the Bucksport Historical Society.
Where to stay in Bucksport
If you’re going to stay in Bucksport, there are two fantastic hotels that we highly recommend. The Fort Knox Park Inn is located on Bucksport’s waterfront walkway and features amazing views of Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Bridge and Obervatory.
Since we had a dog with us, we stayed at the fantastic Bucksport Inn, a marvelously clean and well-appointed property. We especially enjoyed the large wooded backyard, complete with picnic tables and Adirondack chairs.
Where to eat in Bucksport
Bucksport is home to Carrier’s Mainely Lobster, one of the best seafood snack shacks in Maine. We got the special, a large PLUS a small shrimp basket, far more shrimp than two people can eat in one sitting – and it was delicious!
For gastropub aficionados, there’s The Friars’ Brewhouse, a brewery owned and operated by Franciscans of Maine. The lobster roll here is a step above most that you’ll find in Maine – dare we say heavenly?
Warren’s Waterfront Restaurant is the local favorite breakfast and lunch diner, serving reasonably priced comfort food in an appropriately comfortable setting. There’s a bar too, so you can get a mimosa with your eggs benedict if you like.
If seafood dinners and American fare are your thing, you’ll love MacLeod’s Restaurant. Another local favorite, MacLeod’s serves everything from burgers and nachos to fresh salmon to roast raspberry duck.
For fine dining in an open-air setting, head to Verona Wine and Design. Shareable appetizers are the thing to order here, like the smoked salmon bruschetta and the baked brie. The crab melt sandwich is to die for.
Moments Cafe, located in the Orland Town Community Center, is a quirky and unique place that definitely reflects the personality of its owner. The food is great, and the most reasonably priced you’ll find in the area. We enjoyed some delicious croissant breakfast sandwiches. We also took two of the best roast turkey sandwiches ever with us to go.
Things you can’t do in Bucksport anymore
Despite what you may read on the internet, there are a few things that you used to be able to do in Bucksport that you can’t do any more.
- Stubborn Cow Glass. This former gallery is no longer located in Bucksport and doesn’t have a physical location you can visit. You can, however, see some of the glass art on the studio’s website, and you can find pieces for sale in local shops.
- The Lighthouse Arts Center used to showcase local art and artists but is no longer a gallery open to the public. You can, however, inquire about art classes through the facility’s website.
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