History Lives Here
Downtown Machias is situated along the Machias River and around Bad Little Falls Park. Dubbed the Shire town of Washington County, Machias is a cultural and service center. A variety of small accommodations, restaurants, camping facilities, shops and attractions dot the area, a wonderful getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life at home.
Machias, an Indian name, meaning "bad little falls," is a former lumber center wedged between the sea and the flat open country of wild blueberry barrens to the north. The Machias River was the region's first highway for the running of saw logs and pulp from its jewel-like headwater lakes to the mills and waiting schooners along the coast.
Machias is the site of the Battle of the Margaretta, the first naval battle of the Revolution, and hosts an annual Margaretta Days Festival each June. The event commemorates the local patriots who, armed with side arms and little more than knives and pitchforks, attacked and seized the British Naval Vessel, the Margaretta, so that their lumber wouldn't be sent to Boston to build British barracks.
The Burnham Tavern, where the revolt was planned, is now a museum in downtown Machias, with distinction as one of 21 homes in the United States most significant to the American Revolution.
The third weekend is August is the Wild Blueberry Festival, celebrating the harvest of the area's primary agricultural crop and the culture around it. Aside from great vendors, tours, food and pie eating contests, don't miss the home grown musical–-it is new each year and epitomizes family fun in the best DownEast tradition. During the annual Wild Blueberry Festival, Welch Farm in Roque Bluffs offers educational and historic tours of their family-owned wild blueberry farm.
Machias is home to the University of Maine at Machias, which offers arts and entertainment, and recreation to the community. The Beehive Design Collective (located in a historic Grange Hall and open to the public), both participating in arts, community, educational, and entertainment events throughout the year.
With a pebble ocean beach on one side a small pond, picnic area, and playground on the other, Roque Bluffs State Park is a great place to swim, picnic, and play with whole family. Even in foggy weather, it is a beautiful spot to go for beach-combing.
You might also wish to explore the Down East Sunrise Trail, an 87 mile multi-use trail that runs right through the heart of town. Free public bikes are available at several locations in town, including the Machias Bay Area Chamber office.
Blueberry Hill Farm Agricultural Research Station in Jonesboro, where the University of Maine conducts research into blueberry farming techniques (limited tours are available, but visitors must arrange these well in advance.)
Whitneyville is the home of a family-owned and -operated commercial Christmas wreath and wild blueberry company. Downtown Whitneyville is located at the confluence of the Machias River, the Down East Sunrise Trail, and the Machias River Preserve, making it a fine spot to stop and wander.
From downtown Machias, Route 92 offers a detour to Machiasport, home of Jasper Beach, the Gates House Museum and the Fort O’Brien State Historic Site, which preserves the remains of a fort that was originally built in 1775 to protect Machias Bay, and was destroyed and re-built three times over a 90 year period.
For a little something different, try “glamping” at a goat farm in Jonesboro, and maybe stay awhile and learn how to milk goats or make cheese. Camp in a tee-pee in Columbia Falls, rent a cabin on the beach, stay in a lovingly restored historic Captain's home, or try at a B&B that’s also a llama farm!
Tour a sea-salt farm in Marshfield to watch salt made from clear Atlantic seawater. The East Machias Aquatic Research Center, located on the East Machias River, offers tours of the wild salmon fish hatchery, Technical Resources Center, and Historic Museum/Education Center.
The Orange River Water Trail offers miles of flat water to explore and spot turtles, herons, and loons. The section of the Machias River, from where the Middle and Machias rivers converge just north of downtown Machias to East Machias, offers a four-mile stretch of river that is flat and pretty, making it a good choice for families. Downeast Coastal Conservancy offers moonlight paddles and other guided tours.
Machias Top Ten Facts:
- Machias is Passamaquoddy for Bad Little Falls, honoring waterfalls in the Machias River..
- Machias is the site of the first naval battle of the Revolutionary War.
- Machias was visited by Blackbeard the Pirate (and possibly he left treasure behind!)
- Machias has nine buildings on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Machias was briefly in British hands during the War of 1812.
- The bell in the Centre Street Church was cast by Paul Revere.
- The charter to the local chapter of the Masons is signed by George Washington.
- Ancient petroglyphs can be found along rocks bordering the islands in Machias Bay.
- Machias hosts the state’s largest Wild Blueberry Festival each August to celebrate this locally grown berry.
- Machias is home to the 243-acre campus of the University of Maine at Machias.