Summer Coasting | Maine

Posted by on August 28, 2005

When the weather is hot and sultry, one could do worse than heading for the coast of Maine, and that’s what we did last week.

Armed with a couple of invitations from friends, (little do they know that we actually take people up on these offers) we set off on a hot Sunday, with visions of lobster rolls dancing in our heads, or at least in mine.

The result was a week of glorious weather, being outdoors and on the water a whole lot of the time. Also included were about 8 lobster rolls and two whole lobsters, (not all on the same day, please note) despite highly advanced prices this year.

I am under strict confidentiality rules about naming a couple of our destinations, due to arm-twisting by friends who want certain things kept as secret as possible. – But it’s a free country and you can seek out such places for yourself, if you have a mind to.

There is no secret to Boothbay Harbor, as it is a tourist-packed destination.  Still there is fun to be had there, such as the wonderful harbor cruises that can take you out to Monhegan Island.   There are also many, many shops, a few of which are actually not just tourist traps.  There is the wonderful Gleason Art Gallery, which I’ve decided has the corner on the market of good contemporary Maine painters.  And just across the street is the venerable House of Logan, for some of the nicest women’s clothing in Maine.  They also have a men’s department, a children’s department, and a whole other store for household goods, lovely bed linens, and good kitchen items.

I have already mentioned the Blue Moon in this column on other occasions, as it is a must when we go to Boothbay Harbor.  It’s great for breakfast or lunch, but I’m not sure it’s open for dinner.  The food is fresh and healthy, and thoroughly delicious.

Boothbay Harbor boasts a few other interesting shops, one of which is called the Saucy Contessa, at 22 McKown Street. Laurie, the proprietress, lives in Culebra in the winter, and brings her hot and spicy condiments to Maine in the summer.  This is the perfect place for a souvenir.

Maine must have thousands and thousands of miles of coastline, and we saw a lot of it, as we were lucky enough to travel by boat to several of the myriad coves and harbors in this part of the coast. Each time the destination was one lobster “shack” or another, and we had a merry week comparing lobsters and lobster rolls, and once in a while, those succulent small Maine shrimp, lightly deep fried, and tasting like the sea.

On one of these forays, we got to Pemaquid, where Fort William Henry was built in 1692, and has been reconstructed as a museum, at the head of the harbor. This is a gorgeous spot for an artist (we saw two at work), or for a picnic, or for one of those aforementioned lobster feasts.  A great attraction to us was an old-fashioned group of seaside cabins, called Ye Olde Forte Cabins. Described as “basic,” these cabins could not have been more charming looking, or any cleaner.  Each little cabin (think 1922) has only a half-bath, and no kitchen.  However, nearby are separate showers for men and women.  The Cook House is just that, a separate cabin, equipped with stove, refrigerator, dishes, utensils, tables and chairs.  It is a most inviting little house, with a front porch furnished with two red rockers.  The brochure states that some people have been coming there for 50 years, and I believe it.  These long time guests have asked the owners NOT to make too many modern changes. What a concept!

We also visited friends in Winter Harbor, who are happily retired to one of those sublime spots of which Maine seems to have quite a few.  Nestled on the rocks, facing Frenchman’s Bay, a couple of unpopulated fir-covered islands, and the sunset, their house is mute testimony as to why anyone in their right mind would retire to Maine.

Nearby is the little known northern section of Acadia National Park at the tip of the Schoodic Peninsula. Less dramatic, but also less “touristy,” it’s well worth a stop off.  The only problem is that if you went down to the end of every peninsula in Maine, you could probably spend a lifetime.

Maine has more than its share of painters as you might imagine. Art is serious business all over the state, a tribute to its natural beauty.  In addition it has some marvelous museums, starting with the Portland Museum of Art, with its share of great American artists like Winslow Homer and Childe Hassam.  There is a Maine Art Museum Trail, which takes in the famous Farnsworth in Rockland, and numerous others, including those at Bates, Bowdoin and Colby Colleges.  You can find the trail at www.mainemuseums.org

We spent most of a day in Portland, which has become a great attraction to young people as a very livable city.  I can certainly see why.  There are dozens of good restaurants, at least a few of which are microbreweries. In addition there are now very good hotels, and many excellent shops down by the Old Port. I didn’t get enough time to seriously scope out all the shops, but the few I managed to get inside were very first class. Of course, LL Bean is not far away, and it is open 24 hours a day.

On our long drive home, we couldn’t resist one more lobster roll, so we stopped on Route 1, between Searsport and Belfast, at a well-located restaurant called The Maine Chowder and Steak House.   We stopped because of the great views of the ocean from this hilltop spot.  What we discovered was the very best lobster roll of all.  What a great way to end our trip. The memory lingers still.

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