Calais

Straddle three nations with a visit to Calais on the banks of the St. Croix River.  The St. Croix River is an important cultural site and environmental resource for the Passamaquoddy Tribe of the Wabanaki people,  and today serves as the international border with St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada.  St. Stephen is just a stone’s throw across the river, and is home to the Ganong Chocolate Museum.

View of St. Stephen, Canada from downtown Calais

Calais was named after the French city of Calais to honor the French assistance the Colonies received during the American Revolution. The city features many historic homes and buildings, including Dr. John Holme’s Cottage and Museum, which houses The Calais Historical Society, The Calais Free Library, and the Stone House‚Äö Calais’ oldest standing residence.

Three bicycling routes merge at the Calais Waterfront Walkway.

Bicycling - the Bold coast Scenic bikeway, east coast greenway, and U.S. Route 1

The Calais Waterfront Walkway marks the easternmost trailhead of two national bicycling routes, the East Coast Greenway and US Bike Route 1, both of which run between Key West, Florida and Calais, Maine.  The Waterfront Walkway is also the easternmost gateway for the Bold Coast Scenic Bikeway, a 211-mile bicycling route that invites bicyclists to explore less-trafficked roads.

The Calais Waterfront Walkway, once part of the Maine Central Railroad, is a grassy riverside promenade in downtown Calais with benches, picnic facilities, bike repair and EV charging stations, a boat launch, and 1.5-miles of outstanding vistas over the St. Croix River and downtown St. Stephen.  The main entrance is behind the Wahponaki Cultural Center and Maine State Visitor Center. The Wabanaki Culture Center and Museum is home to artifacts, historical displays and works of art of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Native American Tribes. 

The St. Croix International Waterway begins in an extensive chain of wilderness lakes and flows through exceptionally beautiful woodlands and vast natural meadows along the Maine/Canada border.  The river’s 25 distinct rapids, ranging from light rips to Class II+.  An International Waterway Commission maintains 60 campsites and many access points on both sides of the river and oversees stewardship of the waterway.  Paddlers can enjoy days of camping amidst pristine wilderness and spectacular scenery, with abundant wildlife to watch and fish to catch, and night skies brilliant with stars.  The river passes innumerable stands of towering pine, cedar, and hemlock. 

Paddling along the St. Croix River
Guided paddle trip on the St. Croix River (image courtesy of Canoe the Wild)

Just inside the mouth of the St. Croix River is St. Croix Island, site of the first French attempt in 1604 to colonize the territory they called l’Acadie, which was a summer home for the Passamaquoddy people. ¬†This was one of the earliest attempts at European settlements in northern North America, predating even the British colony of Jamestown, but failed miserably due to the harsh winter of¬†1604-1605, one of the coldest on record. ¬†Nearly half of the would-be settlers died from scurvy, malnutrition, and exposure, and were buried in a small cemetery on Saint Croix Island.

Saint Croix Island International Historic Site, the only International Historic Site in the world, commemorates this settlement. The National Park Service and Parks Canada each administer a site on their respective side of the Saint Croix River.  The US Park features an interpretive trail on a small, wooded point overlooking St. Croix Island.  A number of life-size bronze figures of the French and Passamaquoddy and informative displays located along the trail tell their story.  The Park has a visitor center, restrooms, wi-fi, and a ranger on-site to provide interpretive tours.

Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge is the easternmost National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic flyway, making the Refuge an important breeding ground and critical migratory stopover point for many species.  The Refuge provides habitat to many birds and other wildlife. Ospreys nest in refuge marshes.  Bald eagles frequent the refuge to feed on fish.  Waterfowl, moose, deer, bear, beavers, and many others make the Refuge their year-round home.  Two viewing platforms just outside of Calais are one of the best bald eagles viewing locations in Maine.

The Moosehorn offers interpretive programs and activities and hosts annual events such as the Downeast Spring Birding Festival (Memorial Day Weekend), children’s fishing derby (June), and warbler and amphibian-walks each spring. The wheelchair-accessible Woodcock and Charlotte trails provide visitors with information on native habitat and wildlife.  The Moosehorn contains over 50 miles of dirt roads and trails for biking and hiking.  The Edmunds Division includes miles of rocky shoreline with tidal fluctuations of up to 24 feet.  Gravel service roads that allow vehicles also permit biking.  Wilderness Areas offer opportunities for solitude and traditional forms of recreation (hiking, canoeing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing).

Many streams and several lakes and ponds are open to fishing.  Cobscook Bay State Park, in the Edmunds Division, has camping facilities on the ocean.  Facilities for individuals with mobility challenges include a viewing deck, nature trail, fishing pier, and restrooms.  The Park offers a view of dramatically changing tides that on average can rise to 24 feet high, with some reaching as high as 28 feet.

Wabanaki cultural center

The Wabanaki Culture Center and Museum is home to artifacts, historical displays and works of art of the Passamaquoddy and Penobscot Native American Tribes.

Planning Tools

To help you plan your trip we provide  information on drive time and distances to and around the region. Plus info on other commercial transportation options.

Once you arrive in DownEast Acadia, you will want to access local sources of visitor information, state laws, recreation rules, and road conditions.

To help you pack or plan your day, check out the current weather in the region or learn about year-round averages of temperature and precipitation.

Scroll to Top