The Great Northern Route

Ellsworth, chartered in 1763, began as a lumber town but is now a thriving commercial center, located southeast of Bangor at the junction of Route 3 and US-1. Downtown is marked by lots of redbrick buildings and the Riverside Café (151 Main St., 207/667-7220), an upscale retro diner that’s famous for its weekend brunch and fine slices of pie. The rest of Ellsworth is full of malls and discount stores, car lots, chain motels, and gas stations—harsh reminders of the sprawling suburban America many Maine visitors are trying to escape.

Between Ellsworth and Trenton, gateway to Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park, there’s a short but bittersweet six-mile parade of tacky roadside attractions along Route 3. If you’ve got kids with you or are in the mood to act like one, you can consider such questionable pleasures as the Great Maine Lumberjack Show in Trenton, plus go-karts, trading posts, miniature golf courses—even a zoo. Just before the bridge, you pass many lobster pounds on this stretch of highway, the best of which is the Trenton Bridge Lobster Pound (207/667-2977, Mon.-Sat. and holiday weekends May-mid-Oct.), open since 1956; just look for the billowing clouds of steam.