Route: Coopers Mills-Whitefield-Head Tide-Newcastle-Dodge Point
Highway: Routes 218, 194, 215, River Road Distance: 25 miles (one way) Here is an attractive backroads journey starting between Augusta and Rockland that works its way south and east to Newcastle and Damariscotta, and on to the State of Maine's beautiful Dodge Point Reservation on the Damariscotta River. This trip makes its way through rural farm country, past lakes and streams, and over rolling hills, and winds up in a historic area of the midcoast. This route is one that very few travelers from elsewhere see, even though it crosses under, at one point, overbusy US Route 1 and is near a number of popular tourist destinations. Begin this journey at the junction of Routes 17 and 218 in Coopers Mills, about twelve miles east of Augusta. The intersection is marked, but watch carefully, and go southwest on Route 218, where you are immediately in a neighborhood of pleasant old houses and barns. You rise onto a rib of land surrounded by pastures with excellent views westward over
old stone walls and grazing cows. Big hardrock maples line the roadside, with occasional limited views off to the west again. At 2-1/2 miles the road opens out in fields and paddocks, with a marsh and pond visible to the left, the westernmost flowage of Clary Lake. On the right is an old mill. Winding more to the southeast, you come to a T with Route 126 by a restaurant and superette in North Whitefield at just over three miles. Bear left and east here where Routes 218 and 126 run together. After one hundred yards, bear right and south again on Route 218 as the roads separate. Your route now goes by an old farm with a silo and dips and winds southward in broad fields of goldenrod. Wending more southwestward, you go through pretty, undulating country, farmhouses in fields backed by woods, and occasional farther views to westward. Continuing down the ridge in pine and oak growth you pass the entrance to Maine Helicopters at nearly five miles. Attractive barns and old houses are situated along the road at 5-1/2 miles. It is increasingly rare to drive a Maine road and see undisturbed old farms and traditional architecture like this. After cresting another ridge above a junction with Route 194, you enter a settled area - the little village of Whitefield. Pass Head Tide Road and cross a bridge over the Sheepscot River. Go left now on Route 218 (Wiscassett Road) at a junction. Drive south by more pasture and an old cemetery at 8-1/4 miles. Here you'll see more open, rolling countryside with cattle in fields and a small farm pond. The route runs up and down several ridges and goes under power lines at nearly ten miles. Going under that power line again, you drop east and southeast, and soon go left off Route 218 at 12-1/4 miles, taking a little connector road into the village of Head Tide. Pass the dam over the Sheepscot River here on the bend (parking available), and then go over the Sheepscot, arriving amid a cluster of serene old buildings that constitute Head Tide village. Below here the Sheepscot is tidal, with an unusual reversing falls in Sheepscot village downstream. Some of the fine old houses associated with this early settlement still perch on the bend in the road as you pass. You follow the Sheepscot eastward for a bit on Route 194, but the river soon turns away southward. Continuing out of town on Route 194 you pass more of the settlement and come to open fields. Going over a rise at 13 miles, the river comes back to the road below and to the right. You follow it to the east, rolling past the Newscastle-Alna Baptist Church, with its simple, castellated steeple, toward an intersection with Dock Road in Alna. Some excellent Federal-style houses are nearly in the road here. The road dips sharply and pulls left and right on a hill, crossing the Newcastle town line at 14-1/3 miles. Stone walls border the right-of-way, and the heavy woods press in. You descend sharply into a hollow, cross a stream, round the bend by a farm, and then pull northeast. In a short distance you pass the abandoned Dyers Valley School at 16 miles and arrive at a junction with Route 215. You go right and east on Route 215 in more winding, up-and-down terrain. Pass a junction with Route 213, staying right on Route 215 in still more farm country marked by pastures, old barns, and, sometimes, spans of workhorses in the fields to the right in season. Pass West Hamlet Road at 19-1/2 miles by another farmhouse. The route drops leftward and down into a slump and is soon by the southern tip of Damariscotta Lake. Rounding a bend, you are in the attractive, small settlement of Damariscotta Mills. Follow Route 215 past the milldam through town (bed-and-breakfast accommodations) and down to Bayview Road, where you go right. Still on Route 215 and now going south, you have fine views of the mill pond and, over the railroad line, Salt Bay, at the head of the Damariscotta River. Crossing the railroad tracks, you proceed toward Newcastle center at 20-1/4 miles. Expansive views over Salt Bay appear to the left as you come into Newcastle's settled area. Pass Faith Baptist Church, the US Post Office, and some stores, and go under US Route 1. You arrive at the junction of Route 215 and US Route 1B, diagonally opposite the Second Congregational Church. Go straight through this intersection, pass the church, and take a left on River Road at an interchange by the Lincoln County Home and Harborview Inn. There are good views of Damariscotta Harbor and the river on your left as you proceed through a neighborhood of old homes, bed-and-breakfast establishments, and inns at 21-1/2 miles. Continue southward out River Road, going by the Town of Newcastle Offices at 22-1/3 miles. Stay left on River Road at an intersection where US Route 1B goes right at 22-2/3 miles. Pass some old orchards on the ridge, with occasional water views to the Damariscotta River to the left. A lovely stone wall follows the road to the right as you travel by a series of attractive, period homes. More stone walls appear as you continue southward, pass Perkins Point Road, and arrive, in just over 25 miles, at beautiful Dodge Point State Reservation, where this journey ends. This Maine Department of Conservation preserve offers superb forest and shore trails along the Damariscotta River and merits a visit at any time of year. After your drive, you'll find this natural area a pleasant spot to stretch your legs and walk within beautiful coastal woodlands. Food, fuel, and accommodations are available in Newcastle and across the bridge in nearby Damariscotta.