Along the shore of Herring Cove, smooth, wave-tossed stones glistened in the sun. Coated with ice, they protruded from a thin coat of fresh snow. Frozen seaweed snapped under our boots. Waves washed over pebbles and dark sand.
My mother and I were the only people on the beach. Winter is a quiet time at Roosevelt Campobello International Park. While wandering the park’s many trails and roads, we didn’t see another visitor all morning.
Located on Campobello Island, the 2,800-acre park is jointly administered and funded by Canada and the United States. Earlier that morning, we’d reached it by driving across the long, arching bridge that spans from the small Maine town of Lubec to the island. And at the end of the bridge, we showed our passports to cross the border into Canada.
It was my first time visiting the park, so we consulted the map frequently as we navigated its gravel roads to picnic areas, beaches and trails.
A few of the park’s highlights, including the Marine Life Interpretation Centre and Roosevelt Cottage, were closed for the winter. But I tend to gravitate toward natural attractions, anyway. So I wasn’t too bummed out.
The island has an interesting history. Back in the late 1800s, Franklin Roosevelt’s parents were among the many wealthy families who summered on the island at grand hotels. They loved Campobello so much that they purchased land and built a cottage, then gifted a neighboring house to their son — the 32nd president of the U.S. He then summered there with his family.
After FDR’s death, the family sold the property to the Hammer brothers from New York. The brothers lobbied senators and congressmen for the land to become the first jointly owned U.S.-Canadian park, which was formed in 1964.
When signing the park agreement, President Lyndon Johnson said of U.S.-Canada relations: “I hope that Campobello Park will live eternally as a symbol of our friendship that cannot be shaken or diverted. President Roosevelt would want it this way.”
During warmer months, the park offers guided tours of the Roosevelts’ restored 34-room summer home and holds an event called Eleanor’s Tea, where you sip tea while learning the story of Eleanor Roosevelt.
According to the park website, one of the Roosevelts’ favorite activities was picnicking. So it’s fitting that the park features some of the most stunning picnic spots I’ve ever seen, with tables perched at the top of ocean cliffs and at the edge of beautiful cobble beaches.
After viewing the Roosevelts’ summer house at a distance, my mother and I drove down the gravel Glensevern Road to the aforementioned beach on Herring Cove. The temperature hovered in the 20s, but the sun warmed my cheeks as we walked along the water to Con Robinson’s Point. Around the bend, we found Raccoon Beach, where we climbed a staircase to a picnic area and a network of trails and carriage roads.
There’s something special about being the first to leave bootprints on a road or trail after snowfall. The forest, blanketed with white, sheltered us from the frigid ocean breeze. And it seemed especially quiet after walking to the music of waves lapping the shore.
For a stretch of road, we followed the distinct tracks of a coyote. And later that day, we noticed an abundance of animal tracks that resembled a human hand. I think they were racoons — which may explain the names of the nearby Raccoon Beach and Raccoon Point.
Returning to our vehicle, we drove down Fox Hill Drive to a hiking trail that traveled through a bog filled with sphagnum moss, stunted spruce trees and sheep laurel bushes. We then drove to Mulholland Point to visit a small red and white lighthouse that I’d been admiring from Lubec waterfront.
Mulholland Point Lighthouse is the only lighthouse shared by Canada and the U.S. The quaint, octagonal, wooden structure was built in 1885 and sees many visitors because it’s so visible and easily accessible. Also, it’s right beside the Marine Life Interpretation Centre, which is a small building containing an exhibit of the area’s marine life.
While the park was an absolutely stunning place to visit in the winter, I’d like to return in the summer to see the planted gardens of annuals, dahlias, begonias and roses. Nearby restaurants and whale watching tours are also open in the summer, when the island is a much busier place.
Also, since visiting, I’ve had a friend tell me how much he loves the park’s Liberty Point. I didn’t make it during my trip. I’m also interested in biking some of the trails to cover more ground.
While we didn’t have my dog Juno with us that day, dogs are permitted in the park if kept on a six-foot leash at all times. Just remember that proof of your dog being vaccinated for rabies is required to cross the border into Canada.
Admission to the park and Roosevelt house is free. For more information and a park map, visit rooseveltcampobello.org.