As a cultural region, Downeast Maine encompasses the rural communities of Hancock and Washington counties. Principal Downeast towns include Calais, Eastport, and Machias. Bar Harbor, Blue Hill, and Ellsworth can also be considered Downeast communities. It also includes Acadia National Park and environs. There are three National Wildlife Refuges (NWR's) in the region: Cross Island National Wildlife Refuge, Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, and Maine Coastal Islands National Wildlife Refuge (formerly Petit Manan NWR).
Contrary to what some non-Mainers may believe, "Down East" can be best described as any point on the coast between Ellsworth and the Canadian border. At times, it is jokingly referred to as any point along the coast, east of the speaker.
The Down East, The Magazine of Maine FAQ explains the origin of the term: "When ships sailed from Boston to ports in Maine (which were to the east of Boston), the wind was at their backs, so they were sailing downwind, hence the term 'Down East.' And it follows that when they returned to Boston they were sailing upwind; many Mainers still speak of going 'up to Boston,' despite the fact that the city lies approximately 50 miles to the south of Maine’s southern border."
The Coastal Plains region of North Carolina is also recognized as "Down East," but this is partially incorrect. The only part of the Coastal Plains that is truly "Down East" is the group of communities east of Beaufort in Carteret County. The residents of Down East Carteret County have referred to their group of communities by this name for many decades, but it is only recently that the media has broadened this term to the entire Coastal Plains region. Many residents of these communities feature a High tider accent, a dialect remnant of Elizabethan English that was once spoken in colonial Carolina. Combined with a slow southern drawl, the dialect is indigenous to the lowland areas of North Carolina. hi