48 Hours in...Portland, Camden, Kennebunkport + Bar Harbor
48 HOURS-February Special Wedding Issue 2012
By Jennifer Hazard
Illustration by Maureen Mansmann
A guide for your out-of-town wedding guests.
I celebrated my wedding day 15 years ago in suburban New Jersey. Our reception was held in a charming Dutch colonial home built circa 1928. The evening was filled with our favorite music, delicious food, free-flowing cocktails, and our closest friends and family. To this day, my wedding is the best party I’ve ever attended, but there’s a small part of me that wonders what the wedding would have been like if it took place in the state I now call home. From Kennebunkport to Bar Harbor, there is no shortage of enchanting places to enjoy during a wedding weekend in Maine—even if you’re not the bride. In fact, the only thing better than being a newly married couple in Maine might just be the fun that comes with being an adventurous (and well-informed) guest.
Photograph by Christine Young
The historic Old Port is a favorite among visitors for its unique shops and restaurants.
If you’re searching for seaside accommodations in close proximity to Portland, try the Inn by the Sea, where a path through manicured gardens leads to Crescent Beach State Park. Guests can choose from beautifully appointed rooms or suites, and their pets are welcomed with L.L.Bean blankets and gourmet treats. There are organized activities for kids, a dreamy LEED-certified spa for adults, and an award-winning restaurant that serves locally sourced fare. Similarly, the historic Black Point Inn on Prouts Neck is a classic Maine getaway. Enjoy sweeping sea vistas, 18 holes of golf, a geothermal-heated pool, and trails for exploring the same rocky landscape that provided inspiration to artist Winslow Homer.
The Danforth is one of the most unique inns I’ve visited. Gracious host Amber Baxter is a delight. Thoughtful decor, working fireplaces, and art works on loan from Gleason Fine Art give each of the 10 guest rooms a distinct personality. I was charmed by the prohibition-era billiards room and a walk up to the cupola that features a ceiling of hand-painted stars and a window overlooking the city.
The lovely little restaurant Bresca is just right for a quiet dinner for two. The menu may change throughout the week, but a flavorful appetizer of chorizo and Gorgonzola-stuffed dates is a signature dish, as is the honey-glazed duck (which was so delicious I felt wistful at the end of my meal). Don’t miss the gorgeously presented desserts, such as the rich chocolate soup with crème fraiche and pear gelato.
The Corner Room is one of my favorite places to bring friends. The menu is focused on homemade pastas (my pick is the seasonally inspired gnocchi), specialty pizzas, and rustic Italian dishes. The restaurant is bustling on weekends, so be prepared to enjoy a cocktail at the bar before you’re seated. For classic Maine fare, visit The Lobster Shack at Two Lights in Cape Elizabeth. I recommend the lobster roll, which includes a dollop of mayonnaise dusted with paprika. But the real star is the location: a patio dotted with picnic tables perched above the Atlantic Ocean.
Portland’s restaurants and chefs have gained national attention on the Food Network and in the pages of the New York Times and Bon Appétit. Experience the local food scene with Maine Foodie Tours. The culinary walking tour begins in the Old Port and takes guests on a two-and-a-half-hour trek to some of the city’s finest food destinations, including K. Horton Specialty Foods, Dean’s Sweets, and the venerable Harbor Fish Market.
Pamper yourself before the wedding by booking some time at Nine Stones Spa, where I had one of the best mani-pedis of my life. And a friend tells me the result of the hot-stone massage is equivalent to a few weeks’ vacation.
The Portland Museum of Art is home to collections dating from the eighteenth century to the present. Look for special exhibitions including Edgar Degas: The Private Impressionist, Making Faces: Photographic Portraits of Actors and Artists, and a Facebook exhibition from photographer Tanja Alexia Hollander called Are You Really My Friend? If you’re able, stop by on Friday evenings from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. when admission is free.
Bustling Camden Harbor is nothing short of spectacular at sunset.
Located in the heart of downtown Camden, the Hartstone Inn is a destination for food lovers. Chef and owner Michael Salmon receives rave reviews for his sumptuous gourmet meals (if you want to read a few, several framed magazine articles are on display in the hallway). The romantic, French-country-inspired rooms and suites invite you to enjoy some serious rest and relaxation. You might want to stay long past the weekend.
The first things you’ll notice about the boutique-style Camden Harbour Inn is the mod lighting on the front porch and the gorgeous view beyond. Inside, the dramatic living room is graced with plush chairs and red floor lamps. The rooms are modern with eclectic flourishes. The suite I visited had velvet flocked wallpaper, leather seating, and a Buddhist sculpture on the coffee table. The inn is also home to Natalie’s—a white-tablecloth restaurant and bar designed to resemble a 100-year-old Parisian brasserie. Ooh la la!
The Grand Harbor Inn is tucked away on a small street that ends at Camden Harbor, where lobster boats, schooners, and sailboats are moored. The sophisticated inn is equal parts classic and comfortable. Several suites have double-sided gas fireplaces and balconies with views of the harbor and Curtis Island. What I like most? A bountiful continental breakfast is served in-suite.
Francine Bistro is popular among visitors to Camden, and it’s easy to see why. The intimate space is aglow in twinkling white lights, and chef/owner Brian Hill’s creative seasonal entrees make for restaurant magic. Dishes like herb-roasted lobster with caramelized garlic, bacon-scallion potatoes, and candied tomatoes will make even the most seasoned diner swoon.
While this may seem odd, the Asian-inspired Long Grain reminds me of my favorite neighborhood Italian restaurant in New Jersey. The space is small and the decor is humble but—oh, the food! I fell for a hearty beef Massaman curry with potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, and a sprig of cilantro. The house-made noodles are also excellent.
Enter 40 Paper and be prepared for a bustling bar scene. Credit goes to bar manager Wind Tracy, who knows a good cocktail when he sees one. I enjoyed the drink special, a lovely cocktail of Pimms, Amaro Montenegro, vodka, lemon juice, and green-tea syrup with fresh thyme. The food is equally satisfying; I recommend sharing the generous cheese and charcuterie plate with friends.
Before the wedding, book an appointment at Beauty Mark Spa. Master aesthetician Jennifer Ross-Boshes offers an impressive menu of options from customized facials to expert makeup application. Plus, the spa is the only one I know of that is located in a beautifully renovated building that was once (but not at the same time) a church, feed and grain store, gas station, and grocery store. After your spa treatment, visit some of Camden’s most memorable shops. Jo Ellen Designs is the place to find vibrant hand-hooked wool rugs, pillows, and stylish ephemera for the home. Chocolatier Blue specializes in artisan chocolates made with the world’s best organic butter. While you’re there, ask owner Maggi Hinsi Blue about the seasonal flavors. Also nearby is Sugar Tools, a design-savvy shop that carries casual clothing, jewelry, letterpress cards, garden supplies, and eclectic gifts. I left with some Grow A Tree seed kits for my kids. After shopping, visit the Merryspring Nature Center, where I had the pleasure of celebrating a friend’s wedding. The 66-acre park features stunning gardens, woodland trails, and quiet places to simply sit and pass the time.
If you’re interested in local wines, treat yourself to the Maine Wine Tour. Visit three gorgeous midcoast wineries: Sweetgrass Farm, Savage Oakes, and Cellardoor. You can learn about wine making in New England, enjoy samples, and take in some of the area’s most beautiful farmland.
Photograph by Richard Wentworth
Kennebunkport is known for its stunning historic buildings and seaside charm.
Guests who want to experience Maine in high summer will love the historic Tides Beach Club on Goose Rocks Beach. Built in 1899, this grand hotel was recently renovated to give it the look of a bright, modern beach house. While you’re there, sip cocktails on the front porch and enjoy the gentle sound of waves.
The award-winning Captain Lord Mansion is within walking distance to Kennebunkport’s downtown, making it a smart choice for first-time visitors to the area. Rick Litchfield and Bev Davis have owned the inn for 35 years, and their experience is evident in every detail. Each lavishly decorated room has a bed fit for a king (or a captain), a gas-burning fireplace, fresh flowers, and luxurious bathrobes. You won’t be disappointed.
The White Barn Inn is the place for a romantic getaway. Guests can choose from traditional or contemporary rooms and suites with plush beds, fireplaces, and thoughtful amenities. The intimate restaurant, which is housed in a beautifully restored barn, is everything you expect five-star dining to be. And the spa? Oh my!
When I asked locals to tell me their favorite casual restaurant in Kennebunkport, nearly everyone recommended Bandaloop. Chef W. Scott Lee mixes world cuisine with local organic ingredients that change with the seasons. A small plate of seasoned shrimp tacos with goat cheese, cranberry hot sauce, butternut squash, and fresh basil made for an irresistible combination of flavors. Vegetarians and vegans will appreciate the accommodating menu. For fine dining in an elegant setting, try On the Marsh Bistro. The seasonal dinner menu has something for every palate, from entrees such as seared sea scallops and lobster risotto to grilled beef tenderloin with fingerling potatoes.
Earth at Hidden Pond is tucked away in a forest of birches and ferns, making the dining experience feel like a fairy tale. James Beard Foundation Award winner Ken Oringer sources ingredients from the restaurant’s organic gardens and local purveyors to create a dreamy menu. Many of the entrees are cooked in Earth’s rustic oven, such as the wood-roasted Maine lobster with green curry butter and grilled lemon.
Goose Rocks Beach is nothing short of spectacular: the pristine white sand, how the sky seems to melt into the ice blue water… It’s heaven. I prefer lounging on the beach with a novel, but if you want to see more and you don’t want to trouble yourself with a parking permit, bike the lovely coastal neighborhood. Rental bikes are available from the knowledgeable folks at Kennebunkport Bicycle.
A few surprising shops have emerged in Kennebunkport. Daytrip Society offers stylish totes, retro-inspired gifts, and Maine-made items such as Swans Island blankets. Daytrip Jr. is also worth checking out to find items for the younger set. Minka carries artwork, handmade jewelry, leather bags, and natural body-care products made by creative duo Christopher and Michelle Larochelle. Spaces is an artful shop filled with sophisticated home accents and furnishings that is run by local interior designers Nicki Bongiorno and Anna Greenglass. For photographs that stray from the traditional, stop by Brad Maushart’s memorable F-8 Gallery.
For a last-minute wedding gift, stop in at The Emporium for a selection of traditional tokens for the bride and groom. Sea Glass Jewelry Studio is the place to shop for lovely earrings or a necklace to wear during your stay. Stop by King’s Wharfe if you’ve forgotten to pack a wardrobe essential. The shop carries men’s and women’s styles by designers from all over the world. You’ll find everything from nautically inspired resort wear to modern silhouettes.
Finally, there’s not an innkeeper in town who wouldn’t suggest a ride on the schooner Eleanor, which is designed to look like a 1930s sailing vessel. Captain Rich Woodman takes guests on a scenic two-hour sailing trip from Cape Arundel to Cape Porpoise.
Photograph by Barbara Stoops
Downtown Bar Harbor is a great place to take a break after exploring Acadia National Park.
The Atlantean Cottage Bed and Breakfast is a charming Tudor-style home located on a residential street. Visitors praise the well-appointed rooms and suites, accommodating hosts, and generous vegetarian breakfasts. For a resort experience, try the Harborside Hotel, Spa, and Marina. As the name implies, the hotel’s nearness to the water makes it a popular choice among visitors. And the gorgeous pool? Count me in. For a more intimate stay, choose the Bass Cottage Inn, where the traditional rooms have a cheerful, cottage-inspired style. Guests say breakfasts are on par with those at a five-star restaurant.
Ah, Mache Bistro. One look at this cozy neighborhood establishment and you’ll want a reservation. The rustic French menu, which the chef changes frequently, ranges from seared New England scallops over creamy polenta to locally raised hanger steak and garlic mashed potatoes topped with smoked blue cheese butter and cabernet jus.
My husband and I celebrated our fifth anniversary with a meal at Havana, and he still talks about the hearty lobster paella. I recall a fabulous mojito (or two) and a pan-seared, yellowfin tuna that was cooked to perfection.
Cafe This Way is a popular choice for breakfast, but I’ve been told the dinners are equally inspired. Fan favorites include the bountiful stuffed butternut squash with quinoa, cinnamon-scented chickpeas, and tofu, and the pecan-crusted halibut with spinach and Cajun tartar sauce.
May through October, the color and beauty of the Mt. Desert Land and Garden Preserve makes you feel as if you’ve landed in an impressionist painting. Parking is limited, so take advantage of the free Island Explorer Bus. Similarly, Sand Beach at Acadia National Park is a beautiful combination of sea, sky, and pink granite. Visit, and you’ll see why the beach is one of the area’s most popular destinations.
Bar Harbor has some fine shops worth perusing. Fiore is where serious home cooks go for artisanal olive oils, aged balsamic vinegars, and specialty foods. At Spruce and Gussy, you’ll find lovely things to dress up both yourself and your home, including the work of many local artisans. For home and garden goods that are stylish and functional, check out Window Panes.
No matter how you spend your time during a wedding weekend in Maine, one thing is certain: you’ll leave already dreaming of a return trip.