Although you will hear that in order to get from point A (The border of New Hampshire and Southern Maine) and Point B (Down East Maine), the highway is the quickest way to go, I almost always go the coastal route. Stopping into shops and businesses along the way break up the 7 1/2 hour trip for me. But after making the trip dozens of times, I know where every bathroom stop is. This is, by far, a non-inclusive list, but, here are some of my regular stops. While some of the restrooms are in tourist rest areas, many of them are in private businesses. If you need to stop at a business… do everyone a favor and patronize the business while you are there. It will bring good will and cheer (or, at least not icy stares) and you may get to try out some local products. Or, in the case of McDonalds – food and drinks that you know exactly how they will taste – frankly, I love McDonald’s iced coffee – $1 for a medium (no sugar/splash of cream).
1) The Maine Welcome Center in Kittery. On Rt 95 entering Maine, the first stop you will come to is the Maine Welcome Center. Just a bathroom, visitors center and vending machines, it has the feel of a summer camp in a pine forest (If you are coming from a city, make sure you take a deep breath in of the scent of the pine trees). Usually the bathrooms here are clean and very well maintained.
2) A few miles up the road on Highway 95, maybe 20 minutes up the road is the Kennebunk Service Plaza with it’s giant moose guarding the parking lot. Besides rest rooms, there are fast food restaurants and gas. It’s your typical service plaza off of a toll highway, usually very busy. (Shout out: I usually don’t stop to eat at the service plazas, but I was starving once so I got lunch at the Popeyes and the staff was incredibly friendly – I had never been to a Popeye’s before and they encouraged me to sample the different spice levels before I ordered).
3) My number three bathroom spot is the spot that I stop at every single trip to Down East Maine. I always stop at this McDonalds/Lil’ Mart/Shell gas on Rt. 1 in Wicasset. The bathroom and store and restaurant always look and smell sparkling clean. I’m all for ecofriendly products, but, face it…when your traveling and using public restrooms, it’s a plus when they smell like they have been recently sanitized. (Buy this time, I’m usually ready to fill up on gas, too – if you get your gas first, they often have coupons to use inside the store).
4) Belfast public rest rooms. Main Street and Front Street — head down Main Street until you hit the water. Sorry, can’t say many good things about this one. Every time I’ve been there, it’s been dirty and smelly. If you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go. Belfast has a lot of great things going for it — it’s one of my favorite towns in Maine. But the public rest rooms are not one of them.
5) McDonalds in Bucksport. You will go over the impressive Penobscot Narrows Bridge, cross over Verona Island and then hang a right in Bucksport. McDonalds is on your right and you’ll feel like you’re in your parent’s family room circa 1975. But the bathrooms are clean, the coffee is great and the staff is friendly (one time we were heading home and the McDonalds in Ellsworth forgot to put cream in my daughter’s coffee – we stopped at the Bucksport McD’s and they, not only gave her cream, but also thought it was a hoot that my daughter had not even taken a sip during the ride).
6) Ellsworth. If you’re heading Down East and you haven’t stopped yet… make sure that you stop somewhere in Ellsworth. There are quite a few fast food restaurants or other stops to choose from as you drive on through. If you miss a stop here, it might be an hour or more until the next stop.
7) Machias McDonalds. Yes. I love my McDonald’s iced coffee (and, in my personal opinion, their sodas have the right balance of syrup to bubbles). However, the Machias McDonalds bathroom, while convenient, is not necessarily the cleanest all of the time. However, like most McDonalds in Maine, the staff is friendly.
8) The last bathroom stop (and perhaps the only bathroom stop) between Machias and Lubec or Eastport is the International Welcome Center at the Whiting General Store. And I’ve saved the best for last — it’s SPOTLESS. Take some time to browse for brochures of the local area and ask any questions of the helpful staff.
And I did want to note one more Down East rest room:
Roque Bluffs State Park — If you head out for a day at the beach – never fear, because there are facilities at the State Park. Roque Bluffs has several “permanent porta-potties” at the park that I have always found very clean for porta-potties. So don’t let lack of restrooms stop you from a trip to the beach.