The Down East Stories You Loved Most This Year

From features on plant biodiversity and Maine wildlife to profiles of professional ponderers and hard-charging restaurateurs, these are our most-read stories of 2023.

The Down East Stories You Loved Most This Year

Over the course of the past year, Down East delved into stories that ran the gamut: small islands, big ideas, long drives, and so much more. Whenever we take stock of what resonates with readers, it always turns out that you share our wide-ranging interests in all things Maine. So the list of 2023’s most-read stories is, completely unsurprisingly, full of the people and places making this state of ours a fun, fascinating, beautiful place to live. Whether you’re finding some of these stories for the first time or maybe taking another spin through a personal favorite, many thanks for reading. And here’s to more great stories in 2024.

Photo by Dorothy Beskind, courtesy of Berry Campbell

10. Lynne Drexler Saw the World Through Kaleidoscope Eyes

By Will Grunewald

The art establishment ignored Lynne Drexler in life and, for more than two decades, also in death. But suddenly, the brilliantly colored canvases she kept piled in her ramshackle Monhegan home are fetching millions. Who was the enigmatic painter, and why is her immense talent only beginning to get its due?

9. Remembering Maine’s Failed 1980s Attempt to Reintroduce Caribou

As told to Ron Joseph

More than 30 years later, the biologist who spearheaded the effort reflects on the challenges — and what might have been.

Caribou on Katahdin illustration by Mark McCollough
Illustration by Mark McCollough
Route 52 from Camden to Lincolnville
Photo by Dave Waddell

8. 8 Scenic (and Undersung) Maine Drives That Are Worth the Detour

By Will Grunewald, Jesse Ellison, Brian Kevin, Kat Englishman, Adrienne Perron, and Sarah Stebbins
Photos by Dave Waddell, Clayton Simoncic, and Benjamin Williamson

They’re not the state’s heralded scenic byways or well-worn tourist routes. They’re not the stuff of epic road trips — in fact, none are more than a few miles long. They’re just a few of our favorite back roads, the stretches we never get tired of traveling, where the traffic thins out and Vacationland becomes Maine.

7. The Maine Coast’s Best Bar Isn’t a Bar At All

By Brian Kevin
Photos by Dave Waddell

Swan’s Island has been legally dry since 1987. That doesn’t stop the proprietors and patrons of Daint’s Place from having more fun than should be legal anywhere.

whitetail deer at Brownville’s Food Pantry for Deer

6. Why Are Tens of Thousands Tuning In to Watch Maine Deer Feeding on YouTube?

By Nora Saks
Photos by Dave Waddell

At last tally, Brownville’s Food Pantry for Deer had almost 100,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 50,000 Facebook followers, with wildlife lovers from 158 countries tuning in.

5. Philosopher Daniel Dennett On the Illusion of Consciousness 

By Rachel Slade
Photos by Tara Rice

The cognitive scientist has written stacks of influential books, but his new one is in an unfamiliar genre: memoir. We visited him on Eggemoggin Reach for a porch chat about consciousness, artificial intelligence, farm tools, and Maine as a lifelong refuge.

Daniel Dennett
red hot dogs slathered i mustard, with onion rings drizzled with ketchup
Photo by Nicole Wolf

4. 24 Maine Restaurants That Have Stood the Test of Time

By Bridget Burns, Will Grunewald, Brian Kevin, Adrienne Perron, and Virginia M. Wright

Restaurants come and restaurants go, but these true Maine classics only get better with age.

3. This Woman Wants to Destroy Your Lawn

By Peter Andrey Smith
Photos by Michael D. Wilson

Why Heather McCargo and the Wild Seed Project want us all to think differently about what we plant (and yeah, to think about it in the winter).

Heather McCargo, founder of the Wild Seed Project

2. A Former Goop Editor, a Maine Island, Two Cafés, and a Lot of Bad Blood

By Lindsay Crudele
Photos by Isabel Butler

Ana Hito came to Vinalhaven last summer with a vision. But when the young, hard-charging restaurateur bucked community expectations, tempers on the island flared.

700 acre island rock

1. A Quiet Maine Island With a Billion-Year-Old Secret

By Laura Poppick
Photos by Jacob Bond Hessler

On its surface, 700 Acre Island is much like vegetated piles of rock all across the Gulf of Maine. When famed Life magazine illustrator Charles Dana Gibson bought a piece of it as a summer getaway, in 1903, he was likely enticed by the classic Maine views and the access to woods, waters, and solitude. But he couldn’t have known that, beneath its surface, this island was unlike most any other island in Maine.

Happy New Year from all of us at Down East!

Down East Magazine, March 2024 cover

Get all of our latest stories delivered straight to your mailbox every month. Subscribe to Down East magazine.