Penobscot Bay. Those words conjure images (or memories) of sweet summer days in Maine. Giant fir trees on rocky shores. Cool mornings, sunny days spent exploring the coastline by kayak, bike or car. Charming small towns, some made for tourists, some simply home to authentic Mainers whose families have lived here for centuries. Off shore islands, lobster pounds, classic old houses — summer living at its best. Small towns and villages scattered up the coast. Come with me now on a ride up Route 1 to discover some of my favorite places and some special events to be found only on the Coast of Maine.
Kennebunkport Famous as the vacation home of President George Bush the first, Kennebunkport has drawn summer visitors for many years. A week-long vacation there once caused us to move to New England shortly afterward. It was a move we never regretted. Consider visiting Kennebunkport in December for its “Christmas Prelude” festivities. It’s an event so special that caused HGTV to name Kennebunkport one of the Top Ten Christmas Towns in America.
Portland The waterfront area of Portland is filled with note-worthy restaurants and unique shops making it a fun place to spend a day or longer. Located a short distance off-shore one of my favorite places, Peaks Island, is an easy ferry ride away. Here you’ll feel like you’ve turned the clock back about 50 years (or more).
Brunswick is less than an hour north of Portland (adjacent to Freeport and you know what that means!). An historic town filled with large 19th century homes, Brunswick is the site of Bowdoin College. It was once home to Gen. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Union Army hero of the Battle of Gettysburg who became president of Bowdoin College. His home is now an interesting museum. Brunswick hosts the annual Saltwater Celtic Music Festival which will be held October 3-5, 2014. You’ll find lobster everywhere in Maine, but for a true Downeast experience, take time for a drive out to Bailey’s Island and Cook’s Lobster House.
Wiscasset As you continue north on Route 1 you’ll pass through the waterside village of Wiscasset which calls itself the “prettiest village in Maine” – a claim that’s probably true. Stop to meander, poke your head into antique shops, and grab a bite to eat at Red’s Eats – listed by “Road Food” for its 5-star lobster roll.
Boothbay Harbor Always my favorite waterfront town, Boothbay Harbor stands out in a lineup of charming places. Click the link above to find a photo collection that may explain why. For two fun-filled days each June windjammers sail into Boothbay Harbor for the annual Windjammer Days Festival that’s been a tradition here for nearly 50 years.
Continuing up the coast you’ll come to Rockland and Camden which will be the subjects of my next two posts.
Rockport, located between Rockland and Camden, has long attracted artists and boaters and those who simply want to enjoy life quietly. Follow the road down the peninsula on the northeast corner of Rockport to Hog Cove, Salt Ledge and Beauchamp Point at the end of a very beautiful fir-tree-lined road. Pure Maine!
Above Camden the towns are a bit farther apart. From Lincolnville you can take a ferry to Isleboro and Seal Harbor. After Northport and Kelly’s Cove you’ll come to the city of Belfast. The largest city along the Coast above Portland, the annual Harbor Fest and National Boat Building Contest provides much fun to visitors each August.
Searsport is an old sea captain’s town possessed of two things I really like: the Penobscot Marine Museum (with of long lists of interesting activities) and one of the most delightful bookstores anywhere, Left Bank Books. Searsport is also a good place for antique shopping, although you’ll find antiques for sale all along the coast of Maine.
Continuing north, make a right turn after Bucksport for Castine, another bit of history you can experience today. These little towns will remind you of a time when life was slower and perhaps make you just a bit envious of the people who live here year round.
Mount Dessert Island is home to two famous places: Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. While you are certain to enjoy both of these, take time to discover Northeast Harbor, Southwest Harbor and Bass Harbor. Catch a ferry out to the Cranberry Islands just off shore. Find more information here.http://www.cranberryisles.com/ferries.html.
If you continue driving north you’ll find yourself at the border with New Brunswick. The top of Maine isn’t on the Atlantic coast but it continues to delight travelers with its forests and small towns to explore.
The State of Maine’s tourist brochure provides 185 pages of tips, events, descriptions and ads. It’s available for downloading here. If you prefer they will mail you one on paper. A long list of events held throughout the state can be found here. Tourism is very important to Maine – you will find a warm welcome wherever you go.
Travel & Leisure’s website just posted a slide show of the “Ten Best Lobster Shacks in Maine.”
P.S. Arthur Frommer is in love with the coast of Maine. This week his blog is about his vacation there. Read it here.