|Roosevelt Campobello Int'l Park|
|The US-Canadian international park in memory of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.|
A Canadian island with an Italian-sounding name on which an American president spent his summers? These little mysteries are not at all as difficult to solve as one might suppose.
You can visit Campobello Island and Roosevelt Campobello International Park in a day-trip by car from Bar Harbor ME, a 105-mile (169-km), 2.5-hour drive (one-way) or, even easier, stay in Lubec, Maine, just over the border from the island—or stay on the island itself.
Bring Your Passport!
Crossing from Lubec to Campobello Island, Canadian Immigration officers will request your passport or passport card to enter Canada and—even more important for US citizens— you will need your passport or card to re-enter the USA. You can't re-enter the USA without your passport or passport card!
You're on Atlantic Time!
After crossing the border into the Canadian province of New Brunswick, you'll be on Atlantic Time, one hour ahead of Eastern Time, so when it's 12:00 noon in Maine it's 1:00 pm in New Brunswick.
All the Way Down East
The coastal highway, US 1, winds east and north from Mount Desert Island, Maine (map). You might want to wander south along ME 186 for views of the scenic Schoodic Peninsula. If not, head ever northeastward to Lubec.
Campobello Island is in New Brunswick, Canada, even though the road access is via Lubec, Maine.
A Bit of History
In 1767 the island, part of Nova Scotia, was granted by Governor William Campbell to Captain William Owen, who added two 'o's to Campbell's surname for exotic flavor and thus named the island in the his benefactor's honor.
The province of New Brunswick was not formed until 1784, when large numbers of United Empire Loyalists fled New England to live in King George III's still-loyal dominions to the north. Campobello is now part of New Brunswick.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt's father, James, bought some land on the island in 1883, at a time when lots of important city people were building large "summer cottages" at Bar Harbor, Passamaquoddy Bay, and other northern coastal locations. Young Franklin—to solve that last little mystery—came here as a child, long before he was President of the United States, and spent many a teenaged summer rowing, paddling, and sailing on the waters, and hiking through the woods.
In 1920 FDR ran for the vice-presidency—and lost. Taking on a banking job instead, he looked forward to a relaxing summer at Campobello in 1921. On the way to the island he stopped at a Boy Scout camp in Bear Mountain, New York and, unbeknownst to him, contracted the poliomyelitis virus.
On August 10th the first signs of illness showed, and two weeks later the doctors diagnosed the crippling disease. When he left the island in September, he had no way of knowing that the few more times he would see the summer cottage and his Campobello friends would be brief weekend visits—as President of the United States.
The Roosevelt Cottage
The day-to-day lives of the great and powerful are fascinating to explore in detail, and a visit to the Roosevelt house on Campobello Island gives one a peek at the early years of this courageous man who went on to become governor of New York and President of the United States after having been crippled by polio.
It is no less intriguing to see how a well-to-do family spent its summers at the turn of the century, with long and leisurely days filled by sports, games, and family fun. Servants saw to the chores, and even they must have enjoyed getting away from the city to such a beautiful spot.
The Roosevelt Cottage is now part of Roosevelt Campobello International Park, a joint American-Canadian effort. The cottage is open from mid-May (the Saturday prior to Memorial Day) through mid-October (including US Columbus Day/Canadian Thanksgiving) from 9am to 5pm Eastern Time (10am to 6pm Atlantic Time).
There is no charge for admission.
The cottage and Visitor Centre close in winter, but the grounds and park remain open all year, from 30 minutes before sunrise until 30 minutes after sunset.
Guides at the Visitor Centre point out the path to the Roosevelt Cottage, show you movies about the island, and map out the various walks and drives in the 2,600-acre (1,052-hectare) nature preserve.
Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission
—by Tom Brosnahan