September 18, 2020

Tourists old, new explore Down East Visitors enjoy taste of Maine

ELLSWORTH – On any given weekend during the summer, there is a steady stream of traffic through the city, and Sunday, coming on the heels of the Fourth of July holiday, was no exception.

Though the threat of rain throughout the morning seemed to keep many local travelers away, visitors were on their way to and from vacation destinations in the city and beyond.

Some zoomed through High Street intent on getting where they were going, while others lingered, stopping to shop or to pop into one of the local eateries for breakfast.

Their license plates proclaimed the distances they traveled: some near neighbors, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island; some from farther and much farther away: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, California. Their destinations and their interests are as varied as their origins.

“We come here all the time,” said Phil Gramling of Virgenes, Vt., who was beginning a two-week vacation with his wife and young children, camping on Mount Desert Island.

Gramling said he and his wife have visited Maine at least 15 or 16 times, almost half of those trips with the children.

“We’ve been all over Maine. Mostly we like to come here, from Pemaquid Point north, and Acadia National Park,” he said. “We love the national park, and we like to explore.”

The Gramling family was headed down the Blue Hill Peninsula on Sunday to visit the Deer Isle-Stonington area.

“That’s one peninsula we haven’t explored yet,” he said.

This year’s plans also call for a visit to Monhegan and the Portland area.

For some, this trip to Maine is their first visit, as it was for Bob Ferris of The Village, a retirement community in Florida. Traveling with his wife and another couple, Ferris said the visit to Maine was part of a larger East Coast trip.

“We all lived in the Midwest and never got to the East Coast,” he said Sunday. “I’m 70 years old. I figured if we were ever going to do it, we’d better get to it.”

Their itinerary included a visit to the park and, if the weather improved, a whale watch. Eating lobster and a visit to L.L. Bean also were on their agenda before they leave the state to continue their trip, which will include visits to New York, Boston and Cape Cod.

Gina Yang of Vienna, Va., and her family also were first-time visitors to the area, and they also were traveling the East Coast.

“We’re relocating to the West Coast and this was a good time to do a road trip,” Yang said. “We wanted to see Maine. We may not make it out here again anytime soon.”

The Yang family was camping on MDI and spent part of their time here visiting Acadia National Park.

As in most areas in Maine, some visitors Down East are regulars who come every year.

Allen and Linda Buurma of Flemington, N.J., have been coming to the region for 20 years.

“We have a place on Flanders Pond,” Linda Buurma said. “We come up in July and August each year.”

They spend their time hiking, kayaking, sometimes shopping, and eating in the local restaurants, she said. They also partake of some of the local culture, attending lectures and occasional book signings.

This is the second trip to Maine for Beth and Fred Sponholtz, who live near Peoria, Ill., and are traveling by motor home with the goal of visiting all the national parks in the country.

“We were [in] the Northwest last summer, so we decided to do the Northeast this year,” Fred Sponholtz said.

Their last visit was 21 years ago. That was for just one night, Beth Sponholtz added, so they wanted to come back and stay for a while and to spend time in Acadia National Park.

They’ve been staying in a campground on Mount Desert Island and have visited the park and plan to do some kayaking in the area. A trip to Campobello Island is also on their itinerary.

The attraction of Maine hasn’t worn off, despite some rainy and cloudy weather, and the Sponholtzes said they hope to come back again.

“This still wasn’t long enough,” Beth Sponholtz said.

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