The coastal loop of Maine north of Portland but before Acadia National Park can easily be overlooked by many tourists who stick to Interstate 95. Besides, U.S. 1, its principal route, turns into a traffic jam during the summer, which is why we go in the shoulder seasons.
Many of its delights are found along the side roads that reach down its fingers to the sea or inland in the other direction.
Here are a few of the things we enjoy.
- The lighthouses, of course. Pemaquid Point at Bristol is a photographer’s favorite, but there are 20 more. Some are privately owned, and many – including the 11 on islands – are viewed best from the water.
- Ferry rides are one way to get to the islands and a fun trip in their own right. The state runs vessels from Rockport, Bass Harbor, and Lincolnville, and private services add New Harbor and Port Clyde to the points of departure.
- Getting to Morse’s sauerkraut in Waldoboro, leading away from the water, can seem like forever, especially in winter, but when we go, we stock up. This cabbage is nothing like the crap we were force-fed as kids, and the German restaurant and store are treats in their own right.
- Moody’s Diner, back out on U.S. 1, is a classic and where I learned the difference between lowbush blueberries common to Maine and the highbush ones like I grow.
- If you can, pick a town and stay there for a few days. We’ve done B&Bs in Bath, Belfast, Boothbay Harbor, Camden, and Damariscotta – as well as weeklong conferences in Brunswick – and each town is different. We’d go back in a flash to Camden in the depth of February again, if the opportunity arises. Or if it’s in the summer, we definitely want to visit the lavender farm. You have to walk around to really enjoy each town and its people.
- The Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockport emphasizes work by Americans, especially modernists – and its connection to the Wyeths and Alex Katz are strong. The museum even owns the Olson house, made famous in the painting Christina’s World.
- Bay Chamber concerts have been providing classical music each summer out of the old opera house in Rockport and related venues along Penobscot Bay. It began as the summer home of the famed Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and maintains high standards.
- Popham Beach in Phippsburg has to be the loveliest in the Maine. The state park is also the busiest. Get there early, if you can, before the line forms.
- The river herring also known as alewives are a regional treat, especially when they migrate each spring. You can see them up-close in Damariscotta … or dine on them, if you ask around.
- When the herring run, the osprey follow. The big birds rival eagles in their majesty.