Making a point to visit all of the National Parks sites takes quite a bit of doing and has taken us to some out of the way places, like Downeast Maine to visit St. Croix Island International Historic Site and Roosevelt Campobello International Park. Visiting these two international parks required driving to the far northeast corner of the United States and across the border to Canada.
I really want to tag this blog post as an international trip… Does it count if you drove over to another country and then visited an international park? What about if it’s the second international park you have visited in the past two days? How about if you have better Canadian cell phone service at your American campsite than you have AT&T? Does that count as an international trip? I think it does.
Our visit to this part of the world has been a study in contrasts. For example: how is it we have better cell phone coverage on a Canadian island than we do on mainland US? Why is it the “park rangers” at the Roosevelt Campobello International Park wear suits and ties? Is that specific to that particular site or that all of Canada’s parks? Are all American tourists grilled so thoroughly by steely-eyed Canadian customs or just us?
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Where to Stay Near Campobello
We thought briefly about staying on Campobello Island in Canada but chose to avoid any hassles with taking our kitty across the border and back again. While it is supposedly not that hard, we didn’t want to take any chances.
We instead chose the centrally-located and very pleasant and aptly-named Hilltop Campground in Robbinston, ME. There’s not much here but at least there are a couple of decent towns nearby. From the hill, we could see the water.
The campground itself is nice, even if it could use a little love in the bathroom department. The sites are a good size and almost have a view of the water. What it lacks in refinement, the owners, Marshall and Donna, more than makeup for in hospitality and we certainly enjoyed spending a happy hour with them.
Nights get pretty cool this far north and this close to the sea. We purchased some firewood and finally had a campfire, with the mandatory s’mores as well. For a lot of camping newbies, you would think we would just bring plenty of firewood with us, but most places ban outside wood because it spreads tree diseases.
Were we to return here, we would certainly stay in this campground again.
St. Croix Island International Historic Site
St. Croix Island IHS is just up the road from the campground.
The site tells the story of the first French settlement in the New World, predating Jamestown by three years. The settlers abandoned the island after one year following a winter of privation and disease and they relocated to a larger island in what is now Canada.
There was a small visitor center and an interpretive walk, but not much else. The island itself is not quite off-limits but the Park Service does not operate tours there, so you are stuck on the shore looking at the island in the distance.
Honestly, you could easily visit this site in less than an hour and see everything you wanted to see.
The Easternmost Point of the United States
We decided on our way to Campobello to stop at Quoddy Head State Park. Located just south of Lubec, this park is home to the West Quoddy Head Lighthouse, the easternmost point in the continental US.
We didn’t spend a ton of time here but the novelty of the location was cool. It was actually the second of the four corners of the US we had been to… the first being Key West.
Getting to Campobello
One thing to note about going to Campobello: it requires crossing into Canada. That means you need a passport (or a passport card, as we recommend). You can cross with an enhanced driver’s license but we always recommend having a passport or card when crossing a border.
Also, do yourself a huge favor and leave any weapons at your hotel or camper. We were grilled by Canadian customs about if we had a weapon with us. I did have a pocket knife in my daypack but nothing else to worry about.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park
Campobello Island was once the site of several resort hotels where the wealthy of New York and New England would go to escape the heat of the summer. It was here James Roosevelt and his wife, Sara, brought their young son Franklin and continued coming here every summer while he was growing up.
Franklin later returned to Campobello with Eleanor to a cottage which was a wedding gift from his mother. He continued coming to Campobello with his family until he contracted and became symptomatic with polio. He returned a few times as president, leading up to the war, and each time he did, he had to sail upon a US Navy destroyer so he would have communications.
The house is a large seaside cottage, which almost looks barn-like, with a great view of the water. It was certainly less ostentatious than Roosevelt’s Hyde Park, N.Y. home but still fairly large, with many rooms for servants and guests.
One major difference between the Canadian park service and the National Park Service was the tour of the home. There were no guided tours of the home, instead, various interpreters were posted about the house and allowed visitors to explore the house on their own.
The best part of the park, for me at least, was the five-mile hike we took along the coast. It took us just above the very rugged coast and then through a very pretty forest. It was worth the trip into Canada just for the hike!
Where to Eat
On Campobello Island, we stopped at Jocie’s Porch, for lunch. It’s a great coffee shop with an outstanding view of the bay, along with some very tasty sandwiches. The menu is very limited, but we knew we wanted something light since we were planning on taking a hike following lunch.
On the way back, we stopped into the Lubec Brewing Company for a couple of beers and a bite and were pleasantly surprised to find both tasty beer and pretty good food. It made for a nice snack on the way back to the campground.
Final Thoughts on Downeast Maine
We really enjoyed our visit here. It was quite pretty, cool and not crowded at all. There is not a ton to do but there but it is a good place to slow down and relax a bit. We think a couple of days to enjoy the area is more than sufficient unless you just want to spend more time.
If relaxing is your game, you could do far worse than this area.