The Magic of the
MAINE COAST
By Ann Nelson

 

 

Some of my earliest and happiest memories took place in the little seaside towns of Maine where we often spent summer vacations when I was a young girl. My father loved studying history and archeology in the places we would visit. The rest of us were exclusively interested in the beach. Now that I’m grown, I’m fascinated with both. I’m fascinated too, with the fact there are 4,500 islands dotting the Maine coast!

The beauty of Maine is quiet, simple and fresh, yet stunning. For over 100 years, Maine> has been an inspiration for a remarkable number of artists. As the story goes, the artists traveled to Boston and New York to sell their artwork that was created in Maine. When wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers, Astors, Fords and Vanderbilt’s discovered the beauty of the Maine coast through the eyes of the artist, they started building summer homes and estates in the little towns along the coast.

Rockland, established before 1888, and now “The Lobster Capital of the Universe”, was our first coastal destination. The 145 buildings on the National Historic Register add to the wonderful mix of museums, historic theaters, and restaurants. We visited the Farnsworth Art Museum and the Project Puffin Visitors Center. The Project Puffin has an impressive record of saving a creature that was close to extinction. We watched fascinating live videos of the little ones in their natural habitat on the isolated islands just off the Maine coast.

We didn’t need to worry about picking out a good restaurant. During our frequent downtown walks, the locals gave us some fabulous restaurant recommendations: the Atlantic Baking Company for lunch, In Good Company and Café Rustica for dinner. All the places we visited were located on Main Street, and within easy walking distance from each of the Historic Inns of Rockland.

We stayed at the Berry Manor Inn, a grand old 1898 stately mansion originally built for Charles H. Berry, a prominent merchant. My husband and I spent hours simply relaxing in the drawing room and soaking in the ambience of this wonderful place. In the morning, we couldn’t wait for breakfast, which featured a lobster egg casserole and lemon-blueberry pancakes. The Berry Manor Inn, a Four-Diamond AAA rated B & B is a member of the Historic Inns of Rockland. This distinguished group of inns also includes The Captain Lindsey House and The Lime Rock Inn. These historic inns all exude the warmth and elegance of days gone by, and they collaborate in offering exciting events such as the Inn-to-Inn Pie Tours, the Inn Chocolate March and the Lobsters, Lighthouse and Luxury tour.

Our first morning in Rockland was spent with Captain Jack on his lobster boat. Captain Jack offers guided eco-tours of Penobscot Bay. We actually assisted in pulling the traps, while the captain educated us with his encyclopedic knowledge of the bay and the lobster community. Sixty million pounds of lobster are pulled from these waters each year.

Before leaving Rockland, we headed over to Owls Head Transportation Museum. The museum is home to a fascinating collection of antique aircraft, automobiles, carriages and bicycles. The highlight of our afternoon was taking a bi-plane flight over the ocean and the small farms of Maine. We felt like pioneers on an adventure while we listened to the engine roaring in our ears.

On our way to Acadia, we decided to spend some time on Deer Isle, one of the islands off the rugged rockbound coastline. Many of the little fishing villages here look the same way they did 150 years ago. We stayed in a lovely 12-room B & B, the Pilgrims Inn, built in 1793 and situated on a hill overlooking a tranquil millpond. The restaurant, the Whales Rib Tavern, is located in the old barn, and simply serves the best food on the island. The restaurant specializes in fresh seafood cuisine and is packed with locals.

Spending the next afternoon with Old Quarry Ocean Adventures on Captain Bill Baker’s Ocean-going 23-passenger lobster boat is an afternoon I’ll never forget. Our eyes were filled with the sights of lighthouses, wildlife, and breath-taking hills with surf pounding against 50-foot cliffs. Captain Bill educated us about the waters and the history surrounding Deer Isle and explained that many fish such as cod and mackerel are now extinct in the area due to over-fishing.

The next day we left for Acadia National Park, and I soon realized why it is one of the most photographed places in the world. Gigantic granite cliffs rise from the ocean: the place comes alive with over 500 types of wildflowers, and thousands of birds. Gary and I were lucky enough to spend a morning with photographer William Brehm from Riverside Studio. The award-winning photographer showed us secret places that only a local would know about, and gave us valuable pointers regarding lighting and composition.

Bar Harbor, near Acadia National Park is a “happening spot”, and busy with hip restaurants, shops and boutiques. My husband and I chose to stay on the quiet side of Acadia, a quaint little town called Southwest Harbor. We stayed at The Harbor Cottage Inn, and walked everywhere from the inn with uninterrupted joy. The inn, a casual and elegant 1870’s Victorian B & B is set on top of a hill that overlooks the picturesque waters of Southwest Harbor. We walked to Fiddler’s Green, Red Sky Restaurant and Café 2 for dinner. All came highly recommended and featured locally grown, organic produce and fresh seafood. The food was fabulous, and attention to detail was evident at every level. We walked to Mount Desert Oceanarium, where we had the opportunity to hold live starfish, lobsters and crabs. Holding these creatures in our hands was not only educational, but a moment I will treasure forever.

One of my most memorable mornings was spent in the woods bird watching with Michael Good from Down East Bird Watching and Nature Tours. His special birdcalls attracted Osprey, Great Blue Herons, Pileated Woodpeckers and Wood Warblers. He sadly explained how the effects of global warming are diminishing the number of birds because the treetop canopies are being destroyed.

Our last stop, before heading off to the airport in Bangor was in Searsport, Maine. We stayed at The Inn Britannia located in this lovely old coastal town. The inn, decorated in authentic English décor, is an 1830’s sea captain home and nestled on five acres of gorgeous English gardens. A great place for dinner in Searsport is Foxy’s, a chic, modern establishment located on the water.

The Acadia region of Maine is about four hours northeast of Boston and less than two hours from Portland. When you visit, it will be easy to understand why the artists came here. The beauty of the Maine coast will simply take your breath away.

Ann Nelson is a freelance writer presently residing in San Diego.

 

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

Historic Inn of Rockland: (877) 462-4667, or www.historic-innsofrockland.com

Berry Manor Inn: (800) 774-5692, or www.berrymanorinn.com  Prices start at $115.00.

Captain Jack Lobster Boat Adventure: (207) 594-1048, or www.captainjacklobstertours.com

Project Puffin Visitor Center: (877) 478-3346, or www.projectpuffin.org

Rockport Chamber of Commerce: (207) 236-4404

Pilgrim’s Inn: (888) 778-7505, or innkeeper@pilgrimsinn.com . Prices start at $99.00

Old Quarry Ocean Adventures: (207) 367-8977, or info@oldquarry.com

Harbour Cottage Inn: (888) 843-3022, or www.harbourcottageinn.com  Prices start at $110.00

Mount Desert Oceanarium: (207) 244-7330.

Down East Bird Watching and Nature Tours: (207) 288-8128.

Bar Harbor (Acadia) Chamber of Commerce: (800) 288-5103.

Inn Britannia: (866)  Inn-Brit, or www.Innbritannia.com Rates start at $125.00



 


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